COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and their challenges

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. João Felipe Pissolito is a second-year medical student at the University Center Padre Albino (UNIFIPA), Catanduva, SP, Brazil. He 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 history of vaccines begins in the 18th century with Edward Jenner, in the English city of Berkeley, a region where cattle were affected by a disease known as cowpox, which was similar to human smallpox. In 1796, Jenner carried out an experiment, considered the genesis of vaccines: the lymph accumulated in a pustule in the hand of a woman, who had contracted cowpox by milking sick cows, was removed and inoculated in the arm of a healthy boy; the boy had a local erythemato-pustulous reaction, but with no other general symptoms. After 6 weeks, Jenner inoculated the pus of human smallpox in the boy, and the boy did not acquire the disease. The first vaccine in history was discovered1,2.

            From that discovery to the present day, vaccines have been improved and mass vaccination has been implemented as a public health policy in various regions of the globe. Perhaps, there has never been so much talk about vaccines as in the present moment, marked by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, classified as SARS-CoV-2 4 and assessed by WHO in March 2020 as a pandemic 5. In this context, there was a race for the development of vaccines against COVID-19, enabling the production of immunizers proven to be efficient and safe in a record time.

            As a result of this scenario, challenges emerge surrounding vaccination campaigns: scientific challenges; medical challenges; socioeconomic challenges; and challenges against disinformation.

            Regarding scientific challenges, these seem to be being faced in an exemplary manner by the international community, involving: research; preclinical, clinical and regulatory study; pharmacovigilance; health record and production of immunizing doses 6. With regard to medical challenges, the need for the vaccine to be effective, safe and available to society in an accessible, equitable and universal manner is highlighted, with, for example, logistical planning and attention to the “cold chain” 7. Regarding socioeconomic challenges, they are related to tackling economic disparities and social injustices, significant marks of the contemporary world, which unfolds, in practice, in the absence of adequate technologies to offer treatment to all individuals, especially in the most remote places and for the most vulnerable populations 6. Finally, we discuss the challenges involved in combating disinformation, Fake News and personal beliefs, which have a negative impact on vaccination campaigns; the dissemination of fake news about the health area, especially about vaccination, has become increasingly common with the advent of social media and the devaluation of science, opening space for the spread of movements, such as the anti-vaccine movement 8.

            Currently, more than 200 years have passed since the discovery of the first vaccine, it can be said that vaccines are somewhat very safe and responsible for a revolution in the fight against diseases. However, there are still challenges inherent to vaccination campaigns, which are evident in contemporary COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, requiring a political, economic and social effort so that the challenges are overcome and, as a result, the greatest number of people in the shortest time possible to be immunized.

References:

1. REZENDE, J. M. À sombra do plátano: crônicas de história da medicina [online]. São Paulo: Editora Unifesp, 2009. Varíola: uma doença extinta. p. 227-230. ISBN 978-85-61673-63-5. Available from SciELO Books.

2. LACAZ, C.S. História das vacinações. Rev. Med., São Paulo, v.99, n.1, p.32-35, jan/fev 2000.

3. SAYURI, S.A.P. Pandemic and vaccine coverage: challenges of returning to schools. Rev. Saúde Pública [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 23]; 54: 115. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-89102020000100612&lng=en.  Epub Nov 09, 2020.  http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/s1518-8787.2020054003142.

4. SANTOS, D.C.M.A. Desafios para a realização da campanha de vacinação contra a COVID-19 no Brasil. Cad. Saúde Pública [Internet]. 2021 [citado 2021 Jan 23]; 37(1): e00344620. Disponível em: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0102-311X2021000100101&lng=pt. Epub 11-Jan-2021.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0102-311×00344620.

5.  World Health Organization. Timeline: WHO response COVID-19. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/interactive-timeline (Access on 21. jan. 2021)

6. Desafios da vacina: Entenda as principais etapas para o desenvolvimento das vacinas, como a da COVID-19 [Internet].; 2020 Nov 19 [cited 2021 Jan 22]. Available from: https://coronavirus.msf.org.br/desafios-da-vacina/.

7. A busca por uma “vacina para todos” destaca a importância da coordenação e transparência em pesquisa e desenvolvimento para COVID-19 [Internet].; 2020 Oct 20 [cited 2021 Jan 21]. Available from: https://www.msf.org.br/opiniao/busca-por-uma-vacina-para-todos-destaca-importancia-da-coordenacao-e-transparencia-em

8. SARAIVA, L. J. C; DE FARIA, J. F. A Ciência e a Mídia: A propagação de Fake News e sua relação com o movimento anti-vacina no Brasil. Intercom [Internet]. 2019 Sep 07 [cited 2021 Jan 21]:1-15. Available from: https://portalintercom.org.br/anais/nacional2019/resumos/R14-1653-1.pdf.

About the author

João Felipe Pissolito is a second-year medical student at the University Center Padre Albino (UNIFIPA), Catanduva, SP, Brazil. He is the scientific director of the academic league of vascular surgery and angiology, and the Political Director of the Emílio Ribas Academic Center (CAER). In addiction, he is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and believes that if we aim for a better future, it will only be achieved by ensuring quality education for all.

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