A presentation of the study “COVID-19 and Vaccination: Key Factors Influencing the COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake among Young People” was held at the initiative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Country Office. Ms Lela Bakradze, Head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Country Office, made opening remarks. The study was presented by Dr Bidzina Kulumbegov, allergist-immunologist, Dr Ana Kasradze, Head of the Public Health Preparedness and Response Division, National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, Dr Marina Topuridze, Head of the Working Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Communication, NCDC, Ms Ketevan Gomelauri, Expert in Behavioural Science, and Ms Natalia Zakareishvili, Programme Analyst, UNFPA.
The study was initiated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and conducted in close cooperation with the Youth Agency of Georgia, in five regions of Georgia: Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Imereti and Tbilisi. The purpose of the study is to explore and analyse the challenges, barriers, and factors facilitating COVID-19 vaccine uptake. The study aimed to assess determinants of COVID-19 vaccine uptake and barriers to being vaccinated among young people aged 18-29; in addition, the aspects that influence the formation of their attitudes and perceptions and, consequently, decision-making regarding vaccination were revealed.
Among the deterrent factors identified as part of the study are:
Vaccine myths – Conspiracy theories have a significant impact on the COVID-19 vaccine uptake among young people. It is noteworthy that not only the myths associated with vaccines, but also directly related to the virus influence the vaccine uptake. One of the most common myths related to COVID-19 vaccine – that vaccination can affect reproductive health – is responsible for hesitancy among women and men of reproductive age.
Safety issues – The safety and efficacy of vaccines are still subject to doubt, including in the already vaccinated study population. Securing trust in the competence of vaccine suppliers as well as that of the medical staff involved remains a challenge.
Inconsistent approaches and changing policies – this, on the one hand, causes dissatisfaction among vaccinated people, which may doubt the appropriateness of receiving further doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and, on the other hand, reinforces the distrust towards the system among the unvaccinated study population.
Access to information – which remains a challenge for rural people and national minorities. Lack of information in this target population provides a solid ground for disseminating myths.
According to (January) 2022 data, 35 percent of 18-19 year olds and 38 percent of 20-29 year olds had been given a double-dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Georgia is facing a serious challenge, the vaccination process in the country has slowed down, and vaccine doses remain unused, which is a cause for concern because the immunization targets have not been met. In order to reach herd immunity, it is critically important to increase the share of the vaccinated population. Statistics show that continuous interventions such as using general communication strategies, as well as tightening measures, have some impact on the process of vaccination, although progress has been negligible, including among young people.
The study showed that in the process of developing targeted and integrated communication strategies to facilitate vaccination among young people, both their needs and capabilities, as well as key characteristics of individual behavior, should be considered.