Challenges facing the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Shreya Datta, a first year medical student at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. 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 COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes and with the recent fevered speculations rife on social media regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines being developed, it’s time we acknowledge the challenges associated with this vaccination drive. We need to simultaneously prepare for large-scale preparation and deployment of vaccines to the properly recognized priority groups as well as combat the general public’s distrust surrounding the newly developed vaccines. In order to successively resist this dangerous virus, a systematic collaboration between government, companies, health-care workers and the public is of the utmost importance.

The major detrimental factor is the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines on such massive scale in a relatively constrained amount of time. We have to ensure the availability of raw materials, transport, shipping and final redistribution to the local health-care setups all the while maintaining that the vaccines are kept stored at an optimally low temperature. Equitable distribution in accordance with the WHO Act Accelerator which allocates for an initial coverage of 20% of the population followed by a second phase expanding to the rest of the population must also be warranted. The daunting task of identifying the priority groups on the basis of age, co-morbidity and occupation also remains to be overcome.

However the mere availability of a vaccine is not sufficient to ensure complete immunological protection as vaccine hesitancy proves to be a major barrier to the achievement of herd immunity against the deadly virus. In fact, recent surveys including 493 and 2200 individuals, suggest that only 3 out of 4 people would get vaccinated if a COVID-19 vaccine were available and only 30% would like to receive the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. Some individuals are always present who have questioned the efficacy of vaccines, their relative safety as well as the immunity from vaccination opposed to immunity developed naturally after surviving  the disease. Also, countries which lack what the WHO calls a well-functioning and integrated medicine regulatory system, may fall prey to theft and illegal hoarding of vaccines. Substandard and falsified vaccines may appear in the market which will further the general public’s distrust and opposition towards getting themselves vaccinated.

All these issues can be addressed in a methodical manner by robust educational campaigns and programmes targeting the general public’s mistrust and ensuring that all their doubts and concerns are dispersed with. Doctors and health-care workers play an integral role in this aspect as positive affirmations on their part can dispel any lingering doubts and also establish a positive attitude within the general public towards the newly developed COVID-19 vaccines. Proper national databases recognising the priority groups must be established along with a national allocation and distribution plan coupled with safeguards placed to protect against theft and diversion to the black market. Only with precise planning, coordination and harmony can humanity collectively overcome this international threat and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 by 2030.



About the author

Ms Shreya Datta is a first year medical student at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

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