Vaccination: understanding the challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Shubham Gupta, a medical student from D.Y Patil Medical College, Kolhapur, Maharashtra , India. 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 proverbial light at the end of the dark tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to come into sight. The scientific community has made tremendous strides in getting candidate vaccines through clinical development at unprecedented speed to meet the urgent public health need. But vaccines are only useful if people take them. Amid the fevered speculation about which COVID-19 vaccine will be successful and when it will hit the market, there has been much less focus on a critical aspect of the equation: ensuring the right people get the right vaccine at the right time. Failure to do so will allow COVID-19 to remain at large, with those most in need living in low- and middle-income countries likely to lose out.Countries need to start preparing to distribute a vaccine to the right populations at an unprecedented pace. Whilst most vaccines have little street value, initial limited supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine — compounded by a likely high demand from anxious populations will make it a target for theft and diversion.

    When it comes to public acceptance, we want to ensure that all who are eligible can get the vaccine, including high-risk populations, front-line and essential workers, and the young and healthy that transmit the disease to others.To do that, we need to ensure that there is a safe and effective vaccine and enough doses to give to everyone that needs it; that people see the value of being vaccinated; that they trust those who are providing the vaccine; and they have a way to get it. Second, there will likely be insufficient quantities to give to everyone initially and the public will need to trust the authorities who decide who gets it first. Explaining the rationale for allocations will be a challenge. Convincing the people most at risk that they should get the vaccine may be another challenge if the vaccine doesn’t work as well as we hope, if people don’t trust the safety of the vaccine or the government or system that has perhaps let them down in the past. Younger adults or otherwise healthy people may not see the need for a vaccine and we will need to ask them to do something they might not otherwise do to help others.

Finally, accessing the vaccine may also be a challenge for some. They may have work or family responsibilities that don’t enable them to take time off to be vaccinated—possibly twice if it requires 2 doses—or have other reasons that make it difficult to access vaccination services such as lack of transportation, perceptions about costs, their family members or the community are also suspicious of the vaccine, fear of deportation, being treated poorly, or other types of discrimination.

  Although early results are promising, we still don’t know what a vaccine will look like and how effective and safe it will be in certain populations. We will likely still need to be vigilant about washing our hands and isolating when testing positive or showing symptoms as no vaccine is 100% effective and certain people will still be susceptible. People should also get other vaccines including influenza or other recommended immunizations and should continue to take steps to prevent other health issues.

Preventing excess death, long hospital stays, and persistent effects that leave patients weakened and more susceptible to other diseases will help reduce hundreds of billions of dollars in direct medical cost due the pandemic alone, free up hundreds of millions of hospital beds that may be needed for other diseases, and help prevent the potentially catastrophic economic impact of long-term illness to families and society.

About the author

Shubnam Gupta is dedicated, hardworking and approachable person with a passion of doing something great and helping people succeed. He is highly enthusiastic and focused with great work ethic and strong communication skills. He has the right attitude, a relevant academic background. He is a creative and strategic thinker with a solid ability in developing innovative strategies to generate new ideas. He has worked on the topic COLOUR & COGNITION (Indian Council of Medical Research (Short term student fellowship program),3T-IBHSc (Train, teach and transfer program)-Integrated Bioethics for Health Sciences, International Course in Bioethics for Medical, Dental & Health Sciences, Teaching faculties of Health Sciences University at Kolhapur& India. Working on Sex and Reproductive Health including HIV & AIDS and Human Public Rights, MSAI (Medical Students’ Associations India), Presently conducting research on drug Dependence in adults, Environment health, Antimicrobial Resistance, Member of Steering Committee of India Bioethics Unit, UNESCO Haifa & Head of “KOLHAPUR INDIA – BIOETHICS UNIT, UNESCO Haifa ”. Was Student Reporter at The Times of India ( NIE), Mumbai. Recently completed courses from WHO, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Harvard Medical School Master of Medical Sciences in Global Health Delivery, Coventry University & Accenture 

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