Covid-19 vaccines: understanding and taking up challenges

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Audrey Geoffroy, a final year medical student in the University of Bordeaux, France. 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.

A year ago, the world awakened while a new odd virus from China had hardly started its worldwide spread. Today, all eyes are watching over what seems to be the unique solution to such an unprecedented crisis in the 21st century: vaccines.

 Even before their commercialization, developed countries booked millions of vaccines from several pharmaceutical companies. Prices are yet officially unknown but intellectual property monopolies may prevent generic factories  from making more vaccines. Access to the vaccine by low and middle income countries is at stake while negotiations are ongoing with the different countries (eg. China, Russia, USA, UK).

Campaign strategies flourished nationally. They generally consist of vaccinating the elderly, healthcare professionals at risk and patients with comorbidities. They may face logistic issues, especially in setting up the campaign as quickly as it should to save lives and providing enough dosis everywhere. While we suspect children to well-spread the virus, who are not eligible to receive the vaccines, the targeted patients may not be able to receive the vaccines soon enough. Will these vaccines show efficiency and effectiveness against the uprising of new variants too? As new information pops up regularly, strategies should adapt swiftly.                                                                                                      It is largely discussed whether to deliver the second dosis within 28 days after the first one or to hang on and  deliver more doses beforehand instead.

On another hand, pharmacovigilance plays  a key role. As the vaccines safety was assessed only on short-term clinical trials, a sharp follow-up is necessary. Each adverse event is analysed and recorded in the national and the world databases. An imputability assessment is made, although comorbidities, concurrent medications frail may be confusing factors. A patient with mild or severe adverse events, allergic-related or not, may be eligible to receive the second dose. There is no consensus and it is to be decided by the doctor in charge.

Such vaccines made in only a few months raise suspicions. The lack of data, understanding and feedback weaken trust in the vaccine. Uncertainty shared through social media highlights the key role of health literacy to debunk common preconceptions. Reading articles and not only the titles, citing established facts and making the information understandable and well-explained to a large audience should be priorities.  In order not to connect two facts as causal relationship when it’s not proved, for instance, an individual deceased a few days after receiving the vaccine is not necessarily dead because the vaccine killed the person.

This public health duty is asked  not only to protect ourselves but immune depressive (people, children, pregnant women who can’t access the vaccine without the evidence of its safety and effectiveness.

This unique health and socioeconomic crisis should be the opportunity to choose cooperation over competition, to stand together and triumph over this pandemic.

About the author

Audrey Geoffroy is a final year medical student in the University of Bordeaux, France. She is currently working in the pharmacovigilance department of Bordeaux and follows the adverse events related to the covid-19 vaccines. She is also a member of the students’ association Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM).

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