Anti-immunization Propaganda [UPSC Notes for GS I]

This article will describe in detail the importance of curbing anti-immunization propaganda in India.

These UPSC Notes on the anti-immunization propaganda are aligned with the UPSC Syllabus and aspirants should prepare this topic for General Studies Paper I.

Vaccinations are important for the healthy development of children; related news items are often seen in the news, and hence the topic’s relevance for the UPSC Mains.

IAS Exam aspirants can find more notes for UPSC Mains General Studies topics from the links given at the end of the article.

Find notes on similar topics that are important for the IAS Preparation in the linked articles below:

  1. Immunization Drive in India
  2. Types of Vaccines
  3. DPT Vaccines
  4. DNA Vaccine
  5. Mission COVID Suraksha
  6. Measles and Rubella Campaign

Anti-immunization Propaganda


  • COVID-19 Anti-Vaxxers – Amid the vaccination drive to curb novel coronavirus, the anti-vaxxers remain in the news. Learn about Anti-Vaxxer below. In India, people are worried about the side effects of the vaccines to which the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published an answer stating that as true for other vaccines, covid-19 vaccines has common side effects of mild fever, pain etc.
  • Facebook recently launched a massive drive against groups who are critical of vaccinations, popularly known as anti-vaxxers. 
  • Rising spread of anti-vaccine misinformation after cases of Vaccine derived Polio were detected in India. 


  • Vaccinations have played a critical role in bringing down mortality both among children and adults. 
  • Pulse Polio mission helped India eradicate Polio. World over, smallpox, measles etc were eradicated with the help of similar concerted efforts. 
  • Vaccines, in economic theory, carry a network effect. This means that the benefit of taking vaccines is not just limited to the people who take the vaccine. It also spreads to others as well. 
  • However, there are a group of small yet potent sceptics who actively spread false information about vaccination. 
  • William Tebb was a British anti-vaccine activist whose works were popularised in the U.S. Though his works were debunked his anti-vaccine propaganda survived and spread across the globe. This is the origin of the modern anti-vaxxer movement. 
  • Social media has accelerated the spread of such anti-vaxxer news. 
  • This has led to the resurgence of diseases like measles, in many parts of U.S and Europe, which were once thought to be under control/ eradicated. 
  • The danger of anti-vaccine propaganda is magnified by the shrinking of boundaries and increased movement of people across continents. 


  • Even in India there are superstitions about vaccines that are prevalent which puts Public Health under grave risk. 
  • For example, Jacob Vadakkanchery, a man who calls himself a naturopath routinely spreads a lot of misinformation regarding vaccines. 
  • “Herd immunity” ensures that even if a few people are unvaccinated they are also protected from a particular communicable disease. Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination.
  • However, repeated misinformation risks the lowering of herd immunity and might cause spread of diseases that we fought hard to cure and contain. 
  • The cases of paralysis due to Vaccine-derived Polio virus (VDPV) are rare as the virus has to circulate for a long time in the community of under-immunised population before it can infect and cause paralysis in someone. However, these isolated incidents also fuelled anti-vaccine campaign movement in India.

Aspirants can check out the following links to prepare comprehensively for the upcoming UPSC examination –

Global Immunization Agenda 2030  National Immunisation Day 
Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0 Overview of mRNA Vaccine
COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access]  World Health Organization (WHO)

Vaccination Hesitancy in India

The Background:

The smallpox vaccine first arrived in India in 1802. The vaccine was not easily accepted in Indian society due to various reasons:

  1. The fee payment was an issue.
  2. Inoculation was not trusted by society.
  3. Small Pox was taken as the wrath of the Goddess.
  4. The opposition of Tikadaars (Who used to carry variolation).  In fear of losing their jobs as tikadaars, they opposed the vaccines.
  5. The post-vaccination deaths, post-operative complications or unsuccessful vaccine take led to programmatic difficulties.
  6. Religious barriers – It was believed that the vaccine was coming from a cow, which is a sacred animal for the Hindu community.
  7. Low coverage in rural areas – As the licensed vaccinations used to charge a fee for providing vaccines to the beneficiaries, it resulted in lower coverage in rural areas or among poverty-stricken people.

Compulsory vaccination acts were passed in several parts of the country from the late 1870s onwards, with imprisonment or fines as penalties for evasion.


This is a segment of people who are against vaccination drive. There was a movement led by anti-vaxxer in the US around the 18th century. The Lancet Journal also published a study by Andrew Wakefield, a former medical doctor who linked MMR vaccines with autism. However, it took off the study in 2004 due to the presence of several flaws in

Why do people oppose vaccines?

As per the World Health Organization, people have following misconception about vaccines:

  1. The rate of infection from the disease already declines before vaccination.
  2. Even after vaccination, most people get diseases.
  3. There is a safety comparison between sets of vaccines.
  4. There are harmful effects of the vaccination.
  5. The vaccination is not needed once the disease is no more prevalent.
  6. Multiple vaccines if given to children can produce harmful effects.

Aspirants can refer the UPSC Mains Syllabus at the linked article.

Action taken and Way Forward

The coronavirus vaccination drive has been introduced among sections of society in different age groups. However, vaccination has not been made compulsory. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has answered various questions related to COVID-19 vaccines:

  1. Is there a registration needed for the COVID-19 vaccine? – It is mandatory to register to get the vaccine.
  2. Is the vaccine compulsory for all? – The vaccine is made voluntary.
  3. Can after getting vaccinated, mask be avoided? – Masks and social distancing still need to be maintained even after vaccination.
  4. Can one dose of vaccine suffice? – Two doses of covid-19 vaccines are needed to complete the vaccination schedule.

The other actions and suggestions are as below:

  • Vaccines have been made compulsory for school admission in Kerala. Similar demands are rising in other parts of the country as well and should be made a permanent feature using appropriate legislation.
  • In 2019, Facebook announced that it would “reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations” and “reject ads” that include misinformation about vaccinations.
  • As a part of its resolve to eliminate measles and control rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020, Indian government has undertaken a massive campaign promoting vaccinations. Indian government made efforts to create awareness about the value of vaccines and managing misinformation, particularly on social media. Regular briefings have been conducted where WHONPSP experts and government officials have jointly addressed queries from journalists. 
  • In addition, a strong Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) Surveillance program is in place to address community concerns and maintain public confidence. 
  • The detection of VDPV in Hyderabad and other places has intensified the discussion on replacing oral polio vaccine (OPV) with inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) as advocated by WHO.
  • We have successfully eradicated polio and other deadly diseases by effectively utilizing vaccinations. The gains made possible through consistent medical research should not be squandered away under the influence of certain anti-social elements.

Anti-immunization Propaganda (UPSC Notes – GS 1) – Download PDF Here

Frequently asked Questions about Anti-immunization Propaganda


What is Vaccine-Hesitancy?

Vaccine hesitancy is loosely defined as the phenomenon of people refusing to get inoculated despite the presence of a safe and effective vaccine. It is complex and driven by several factors such as cultural norms and lack of knowledge.

Why are vaccines viwed with suspicion at times?

The extraordinary circumstances and the crunched timelines under which the vaccines were developed makes people more apprehensive about how vaccines are made.

Aspirants can check BYJU’S UPSC Notes page for free GS1, GS2, and GS 3 notes.

Related Links:

UPSC Books UPSC 2021 UPSC Current Affairs
UPSC Mains NCERT Notes For UPSC Daily News Analysis
Science and Technology Questions from UPSC Mains GS 3 UPSC Monthly Current Affairs Magazine Governance Questions from UPSC Mains GS 2


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