Understanding the challenge surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine campaign

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gautam Araya, a medical student who has studied in Manila Central University and Nepal Institute of Science and Management. She is 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 writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The world has seen a pandemic threatening economy and health, in all the seven continents.  This ripple effect has been augmented and intensified in the poorer regions. Now, that vaccines are being manufactured, one cannot help but wonder when poorer countries will be able to receive access to them.

A lot of countries cannot even afford the vaccine. An Oxfam study revealed that industrialized countries have already secured more than 5 billion vaccines. This in fact raises the question if sufficient doses will be left for the marginalized countries since pharmaceutical companies have already said that the supply cannot exceed the demand.

In poor, tropical areas like Africa or the Philippines another challenging aspect is the storage. The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine used in Britain, for example, has to be cooled at minus 70 degrees Celsius. With already limited funding, these countries are struggling to even store them, since electricity fridges are quite expensive, not forgetting to mention the power cuts that lurk them.

Health expert Yap Boum sees another challenge. “We anticipate some resistance from people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine because of the debate around the vaccines.’ A Pulse Asia survey conducted last year showed that nearly half or 47 percent of Filipinos will not have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 due to safety concerns. With an already devastating death toll these poorer nations cannot afford to give in to such dangerous myths.

Nepal, a country with difficult geography and terrains with almost no roads connecting the villages in the mountains, getting inoculated seems unreal. No health worker nor a single doctor has been to the area, nonetheless reports stating infections have been recorded by the locals. This makes inoculation to be a Herculean task.

In India with the world’s largest population there lies another hurdle of making sure each and every one is vaccinated as India’s rural population is immense.

Latest findings from Gaon Connection Insights stated that, 26% of households surveyed have confirmed that their family members were tested positive for the virus. Among that statistics, 59% reported that at least one person in their household had tested positive. The government should make sure every individual can avail to the vaccine, since there is such deep infiltration of the virus in the society. It looks dreary and grim, nonetheless.

A pitiable attempt to curb the smuggling of vaccines was noted in the Philippines. According to the military, PSG members were the ones who had been administered with the said vaccine, eliciting criticisms from the public who questioned the prioritization. If such happens, in more countries we might get into the hierarchical system where the rich are safer, and the poor with no means die of the disease; A moral conundrum, indeed.

With that being said, one must never forget that we are in this together and as rich nations get ahead with the vaccines a small helping hand to the poorer nations can always result in better outcomes.

About the author

The writer is a medical student who has studied in Manila Central University and Nepal Institute of Science and Management, an avid learner, passionate writer and a public advocate of community health rationally established by conducting seminars, participating and having a direct conversation with the patients. Araya’s strength lies on developing a consistent and trusting relationship with the patients in the hospital as well in the community.

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