Covid-19: vaccines, distrust and lives

(Steven Cornfield: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Mariana Santos Alencastro Figueiredo and Ana Beatriz Silva Ribeiro, two second year medical students from  Universidade Tiradentes, Aracaju-SE, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Smallpox. Black Plague. Tuberculosis. Spanish flu. COVID-19. History has recorded the presence of global epidemics since the mid-500’s, and for a long time the only alternative that existed in the fight against viruses and bacteria was based on stopping contamination by restricting contacts and hunting for probable transmission agents. However, the evolution of science allowed the discovery of vaccines, revolutionizing the methods of protection against future epidemics. Based on this concept, scientists have run out of time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to offer a safe and effective vaccine to the population. Now that it exists, however, challenges such as fake news and the anti-vaccine movement may jeopardize the fight against Sars-CoV-2.

Fake news has been a worldwide reality lately, but in times of pandemic, overtaken by a feeling of uncertainty, many people have become susceptible to believing and trusting any information without checking for reliability. Thanks to the great incentive and unity in search of the vaccine for COVID-19, the emergency use of some immunizers came out in record time -10 months – which opened space for suspicions and the creation of fake news, such as alleged unproven adverse reactions or that data from the vaccine testing phases were manipulated. In desperate despair over the end of the pandemic, searches for quick solutions grew at a dizzying rate, as did the belief that drugs like hydroxychloroquine would be a cure for the disease. The consequence was expected: self-medication and growing negation.

Another huge consequence of this fake news is the creation of the anti-vaccine movement. This movement, which emerged in 1998 with a misleading publication in the scientific journal Lancet on the triple viral vaccine causing autism, persists today using the same arguments from false information. Today, 23 years later, this hitherto small group of those who believe in non-vaccination gained more strength during the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic. Thus, even with all the research and advances in the development of the vaccine, the newest challenge against this disease is to convince all individuals to vaccinate.

Finally, it is clear that once the major milestone of promoting vaccination has been achieved in record time, science now needs to overcome the virus of disinformation and denialism in the search for a definitive resolution to the pandemic. It is, therefore, evident the increasing importance of the role of doctors, scientists and health professionals in educating the population and in promoting comprehensive health around the world. Thus, vaccines will become linked only to life and no longer to distrust.

References

1- Autism and vaccination -the current evidence Autismo e vacinação -a evidência atual. J Spec Pediatr Nurs [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2021 Jan 24];8(4):166–72. Available from: http://apps.einstein.br/revista/arquivos/PDF/1778-EC_V8_N4_p179.pdf

2- bbcnews. Gráfico mostra tempo que humanidade levou para criar vacinas e recorde para covid-19 – BBC News Brasil [Internet]. BBC News Brasil. BBC News Brasil; 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-55232520

3- Corrêa MCDV, Vilarinho L, Barroso WBG. Controvérsias em torno do uso experimental da cloroquina / hidroxicloroquina contra a Covid-19: “no magic bullet.” Physis: Revista de Saúde Coletiva [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 24];30(2). Available from: https://www.scielosp.org/article/physis/2020.v30n2/e300217/pt/

4- Pandemias na História: o que há de semelhante e de novo na Covid-19 – Sanar Medicina [Internet]. Sanar | Medicina. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.sanarmed.com/pandemias-na-historia-comparando-com-a-covid-19

5- Ponte G. Vacinas: as origens, a importância e os novos debates sobre seu uso [Internet]. Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz || Inovação em saúde || Vacinas, kits para diagnósticos e biofármacos. 2016 [cited 2021 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.bio.fiocruz.br/index.php/br/noticias/1263-vacinas-as-origens-a-importancia-e-os-novos-debates-sobre-seu-uso?showall=1&limitstart=

About the author

Mariana Santos Alencastro Figueiredo and Ana Beatriz Silva Ribeiroare second year medical students from  Universidade Tiradentes, Aracaju-SE, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting.

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