Modelling the impact of vaccine hesitancy in prolonging the need for Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to control the COVID-19 pandemic

Commun Med (Lond). 2022 Feb 10;2:14. doi: 10.1038/s43856-022-00075-x. eCollection 2022.


Background: Vaccine hesitancy - a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability - has the potential to threaten the successful roll-out of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines globally. In this study, we aim to understand the likely impact of vaccine hesitancy on the control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: We modelled the potential impact of vaccine hesitancy on the control of the pandemic and the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) by combining an epidemiological model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission with data on vaccine hesitancy from population surveys.

Results: Our simulations suggest that the mortality over a 2-year period could be up to 7.6 times higher in countries with high vaccine hesitancy compared to an ideal vaccination uptake if NPIs are relaxed. Alternatively, high vaccine hesitancy could prolong the need for NPIs to remain in place.

Conclusions: While vaccination is an individual choice, vaccine-hesitant individuals have a substantial impact on the pandemic trajectory, which may challenge current efforts to control COVID-19. In order to prevent such outcomes, addressing vaccine hesitancy with behavioural interventions is an important priority in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Infectious diseases; Vaccines.