As the world continues to move towards life after the pandemic – and as the World Health Organization (WHO) recently predicted COVID-19 ends in 2023 as a public health emergency – Americans may have reached a state of “vaccination fatigue,” data suggests.
A study led by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna, recently published in the journal Nature Medicine, surveyed 6,357 people in Austria and Italy. They found that respondents’ “vaccination readiness” was relatively low on a scale of 0 to 10 – around 5.8 in Italy and 5.3 in Austria.
Participants answered questions about vaccine-related costs, communication, incentives, new variants of the virus, and vaccination requirements.
What is vaccine fatigue?
The American Medical Association defines vaccination fatigue as “unwillingness or inaction to immunization information or directions because of perceived distress or burnout.”
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In the US, evidence of vaccine fatigue is seen in the dwindling number of people receiving booster shots for COVID vaccines.
When vaccines first became available in the summer of 2021, there was a wave of relief – even excitement in some corners – as people queued to get the vaccine. As of September 1, 2022, 79.2% of Americans had received at least one dose of vaccine and 67.8% had completed their full primary immunization course, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, there is a sharp drop in booster counts.
As of March 21, 2023, only 16.4% of Americans were up to date with their updated (bivalent) booster dose, according to CDC data.
Many factors can lead to fatigue
Low trust in medical institutions, governments, and immunizations was a common thread in the study results, particularly in relation to immunization mandates.
“Respondents in both countries reported high levels of pandemic fatigue and showed low to medium trust in parliament and government,” the study authors wrote in a discussion of the findings.
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dr Shana Johnson, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, was not involved with the study but reviewed the results.
“A relevant finding was that vaccination regulations had no visible effect on the likelihood of vaccination, but had a strong negative impact on confidence in vaccines,” she told Fox News Digital.
“According to the study, a more effective strategy to promote immunization is to encourage community spirit while maintaining medical choice,” she added.
People are tired of hearing about new variants, boosters and vaccine updates, a medical director said.
Some simply reject the vaccine because they believe they don’t need it — and in some cases, they might be right, noted Dr. Johnson.
“The virulence, or dangerousness, of the COVID virus varies tremendously based on age and risk factors,” she said. “It’s not the same disease in a 10-year-old, a 40-year-old and a 70-year-old. If you are young and have no underlying medical conditions and your previous COVID infection has caused nasal congestion for two days, you will not see much need for a booster shot.”
On the other hand, for those over 65 with risk factors for serious illness, the need is much clearer, said Dr. Johnson.
dr Norman B. Gaylis, medical director at the Immunotherapy Center of South Florida and an expert on long-COVID, said there are numerous reports and studies indicating that people have not only lost interest in vaccinations, but are tired of to hear about new variants, boosters and vaccine updates.
“I think some people have lost confidence in the protection that vaccines offer for a number of reasons,” he told Fox News Digital.
“For example, they contracted COVID after vaccination, or they heard conflicting viewpoints and controversies about adequate protection or unwanted side effects of vaccination.”
dr Gaylis added, “Unfortunately, many people believe that COVID is no longer a serious health threat to worry about.”
Vaccination fatigue varies by group
The study by the Medical University of Vienna found that certain groups tended to be more exhausted than others.
Those who had never received a COVID vaccine responded that they would refuse the vaccine in almost all scenarios presented, the researchers explained.
Individuals who received at least one or two doses of vaccine seemed much more likely to agree to a booster dose when offered positive incentives.
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Those who had received three or more doses were most open to returning for a booster — when available, easily accessible, and expert-recommended.
Combating COVID Vaccination Fatigue
For patients suffering from COVID fatigue who no longer believe they need vaccinations, Dr. Gaylis that healthcare professionals will help them weigh the pros and cons before recommending an individual treatment or prevention plan.
“They should discuss the medical evidence for vaccination for protection and immunity,” he said.
“Many people believe that COVID is no longer a serious health threat to worry about.”
The results of the Vienna study identified several approaches to counteract vaccination fatigue.
“We recommend offering adapted vaccines at different times of the year, maintaining low-threshold access to vaccinations and ensuring that people take expert opinion into account in order to maintain the high vaccination coverage of the population in the future,” says study leader Tanja Stamm. Professor and Head of the Institute for Outcomes Research at the Medical University of Vienna, in a discussion of the results.
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Communications campaigns aren’t as effective as they used to be, the study also suggests – and positive incentives could be used to persuade certain groups who might be more vaccine-resistant, it also says.
dr Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and medical staffer at Fox News, agreed vaccine fatigue will be an important factor going forward.
“I think the main strategies should be to focus on the group that is already boosted, to spread information about the waning vaccine effects, and to share recent studies showing that boosters reduce the effects of long-COVID,” he said to Fox News Digital.
In addition to providing incentives, Siegel supports minimizing the cost of vaccine procurement and upgrading vaccines to better match the latest variant.
“Vaccination mandates showed no visible effect on the likelihood of being vaccinated.”
Listening to people’s fears is also crucial, said Dr. Johnson.
“Those who haven’t studied medicine in the last 20 years don’t process COVID science in the same way,” she told Fox News Digital. “We need to listen, understand their perspective and meet them there in our discussions.”
The study did not look at natural antibodies
One thing the Vienna Vaccination Fatigue Study failed to address was the presence of COVID antibodies in people who were vaccinated or who had the virus, noted Dr. Gaylis feast.
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“Many of these individuals may have adequate antibody levels and if they do, they may not need additional vaccination,” he said.
“This is a question I, as a medical professional who has treated over 2,000 patients with COVID and long-COVID, cannot answer.”
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“I can say there are groups [of people] who need to seriously consider getting vaccinations and booster shots, such as B. High-risk individuals with diabetes, obesity and immunocompromised individuals,” he added.
Source : www.foxnews.com