Background: The global effort to end the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - Coronavirus 2 pandemic will depend on our ability to achieve a high uptake of the highly efficacious vaccines in all countries. India recently experienced an unprecedented transmission surge, likely fueled by a premature reopening, the highly transmissible delta variant, and low vaccination rates. Indian media have reported high degrees of vaccine hesitancy, which could interfere with efforts to prevent future surges, making it crucial to better understand the reasons for such reluctance in vulnerable populations, such as people living with HIV.
Methods: We conducted telephone interviews with 438 people living with HIV who were participants in a longitudinal cohort, designed to examine and validate novel antiretroviral therapy ART adherence measures. Interviews were conducted in January and February 2021 and covered COVID-19-related questions on confidence in vaccine safety and efficacy, worries of vaccine side effects, trust in COVID-19 information from specific sources, and intent to get vaccinated.
Results: Over one-third of participants (38.4%, n = 168) met our definition of "vaccine hesitant" by reporting being either unlikely to get vaccinated at all or wanting to wait. Vaccine hesitancy was associated with lack of confidence in vaccine safety, concerns about side effects and efficacy, and distrust in common sources of vaccine-related information.
Discussion: These results highlight several challenges for vaccination efforts. Campaigns may benefit from using trusted sources, including antiretroviral therapy center staff, providing clear information about safety and efficacy and emphasizing the role of vaccines in preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and death, and the reduction of forward transmission to unvaccinated household members.
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