Every day, for the past couple of months, the news feed has been filled with the brutality of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, highlighting the number of increasing infections and deaths. 

Currently, with supportive treatment available for COVID-19, vaccination appears to be the only reliable strategy against this pandemic and its devastating consequences.

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020 and many countries across the globe started developing a vaccine. The development and authorization of COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year is undoubtedly a remarkable and unparalleled achievement.

India launched its vaccination drive in mid-January 2021. With millions being inoculated across the country and with mass vaccination being the only way to help end this pandemic, reports of vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19 have been pouring in from different pockets of the country. 

Interestingly, however, vaccine hesitancy has taken a tectonic shift from the time of vaccine roll-out in India to the recent times during the second wave. But what changed and how? Read on!

What is Vaccine Hesitancy?

Vaccines are one of the greatest medical innovations of all time and have protected humans against several deadly diseases earlier. However, vaccine hesitancy has existed for as long as vaccines have. 

Vaccine hesitancy is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services”. 

It is proving to be a hindrance in achieving vaccination coverage against COVID-19 among populations globally and in India.

COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Late 2020 And Early 2021 in India

Last year, when the news cycle caught up on the development of vaccines against COVID-19 in India as well as globally, the general consensus seemed to be of distrust. 

People expressed their inhibitions about vaccines that were being developed and authorized at a lightning speed in India. They also appeared to put more trust in vaccines being rolled out by countries such as the US and UK, over the vaccines being developed domestically. 

Further, since the number of infections and deaths were comparatively low during the first wave of Coronavirus pandemic, people thought they could wait out the pandemic instead of placing their trust in vaccines. 

During that stage, the major reasons behind the hesitancy with COVID-19 vaccines can be pinned to factors such as:

  • Obtaining incomplete or insufficient knowledge about the vaccine, its ingredients, the development process, and clinical trial reports. 

  • Falling prey to fake news, misconceptions and wrong or incorrect information circulated from untrusted internet sources and social media platforms.

  • Exhibiting a lack of confidence in the benefits of vaccination, owing to a lack of widespread awareness.

  • Doubting the efficiency and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, owing to the speed with which the vaccines have been developed and approved. It usually takes a few years for a vaccine to be developed and available for the public. 

  • Worrying too much about the possible and adverse side-effects of the vaccines, which may not be reported immediately.

  • Having a casual attitude about the disease, and thinking of it as regular flu-like symptoms, which does not necessitate the need for vaccination.

  • Being anxious and fearful of contracting the COVID-19 infection in medical settings (clinics or hospitals) or vaccination centers, while going to get the vaccine or while waiting in lines. 

  • Dreading the inconvenience of registering, waiting in lines for, getting the vaccine and completing the course (by taking two doses).

Effect of The Second Wave: Shift in Attitude Towards COVID-19 Vaccines In India

The ongoing second wave of COVID-19 pandemic appears to have changed the perception of the majority of people towards vaccines. The number of infections and deaths are at an all-time high. 

With experts repeatedly suggesting that vaccination can help reduce hospitalization and deaths, and with the dire need to protect themselves, there is a reduction towards vaccine hesitancy in India.

Citizens are now seen scrambling to get a vaccination slot for themselves, either for the first dose or to complete the course by taking the second shot. But what fuelled this shift in attitude? 

It’s simple! The fear of the deadly second wave has made people realize the power of vaccines and rekindled their trust in this vehicle. With the hope that getting vaccinated to protect themselves from a severe illness due to COVID-19 and prevent the country from witnessing another serious wave of the pandemic, citizens are now longing to take the jab. 

With more COVID-19 vaccines being approved worldwide and with India trying to get some of the best and most effective vaccines from other countries, there is more reason to get vaccinated. However, vaccine hesitancy still exists, especially in the rural areas of India.

How to Address Vaccine Hesitancy in India?

Here’s how we can come together  to tackle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in India:

Remember, vaccination for everybody is the only way out of this pandemic and the sooner we act, the faster we get back to pre-pandemic times!


1. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. 2021. How to Talk to Someone About Vaccine Hesitancy. [online] Available at: <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-talk-to-someone-about-vaccine-hesitancy/> [Accessed 17 May 2021].

2. Kpwashingtonresearch.org. 2021. Vaccine hesitancy in the time of COVID-19. [online] Available at: <https://www.kpwashingtonresearch.org/news-and-events/blog/2020/vaccine-hesitancy-time-covid-19> [Accessed 17 May 2021].

Disclaimer: This article is written by Practo for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.