Opposing vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic – A critical commentary and united statement of an international osteopathic research community
Journal: International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented impact on the social, mental and physical health of the global population.
It is only now, more than a year since the beginning of the pandemic, that through remarkable medical and scientific innovation there are several safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19, and more are being developed.
COVID-19 vaccines have now been authorised by regulators across the world and much hope rests on these to bring a return to a degree of pre-pandemic life, saving lives by preventing the illness in the most vulnerable and speeding up the course of the pandemic until large proportions of the population are immunised.
Research has confirmed that healthcare professionals (HCPs), such as osteopaths, will make an important contribution to patients’ decision-making regarding the uptake of vaccination, and that osteopaths’ own beliefs, confidence and behaviours with respect to vaccination will influence their recommendations to others, are keen to get vaccinated, and where local regulations permit, even assist to administer COVID-19 vaccines and there are examples of DOs in the USA organising other healthcare professional organisations in the endeavour. However, we are concerned with the negative sentiments, ill-formed views and in some cases frank scepticism regarding vaccines amongst what appears to be small sections of the osteopathic profession. There is global concern at the growing ‘anti vax’ sentiment that is expressed on social media and within other intra-health professional groups and settings.
Anecdotal evidence in the form of intraprofessional discourse and posts on social media suggest that a majority of osteopaths support the public health messages delivered and recommended [.
To our knowledge, there is no published research on osteopaths’ beliefs and attitudes towards vaccines, and this should be a research priority given the profession’s role in health promotion. Research is needed to better understand the breadth of views and beliefs of osteopaths’ in regard to vaccination and to develop deeper insights into the beliefs which inform osteopaths’ behaviour with respect to vaccination uptake and advice. However, as will be outlined below, research into vaccine hesitancy amongst the public and HCPs, plus osteopathy’s professional emergence, theory and principles, may facilitate vaccine hesitant views amongst clinicians, and ultimately be detrimental to their patients’ and the wider public health efforts during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, concerns have been raised by some members of the osteopathic [ and chiropractic professions regarding pseudoscientific claims and misinformation promoted by clinicians and researchers alike, regarding the role that these professions’ interventions may have on the prevention and morbidity of COVID-19 infections. Our paper continues in a similar vein, but with a specific focus on the concept of vaccine hesitancy amongst osteopaths and their patients. We aim to highlight the issue of vaccine hesitancy and illuminate why osteopaths and/or patients may hold hesitant views towards vaccines to enhance collaborative practice, shared decision-making and stimulate a discourse. Strategies to support health should be informed by an appropriate level of evidence, to facilitate fair debate and transparent decision-making. This allows the public to have confidence in the veracity of the information presented to them by professionals and make informed autonomous choices, based on accurate information.