Vaccination: understanding the challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Varnika Bhadoriya, a second year medical student currently studying at Baroda Medical College, 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 fight against COVID-19 is possibly entering its final stages, however, there will be initial hiccups in carrying out this task. A vaccine has to pass the three stages to be successful, i.e. quality, ease of delivery and public acceptance. Quality again has three components, i.e. safety, efficacy and duration of protection.

The problems in carrying out vaccination on this massive scale are apparent, but not intractable:-

  1. Transportation : Getting vaccines to where they’re needed can be tricky  and sometimes dangerous. Many health workers go to great risks by land, water, and air to transport vaccines. To make things more difficult, vaccines need to be cool in order to work properly. This makes portable cold-chain equipment a must. However, innovations are taking place such as delivery by drone which can make it easier to transport vaccines and remove some of the risk to the health workers and the vaccines they carry.
  2. Resources : Different things can cause shortages for each vaccine, from increased uptake to bottleneck issues. Hence, we need more of the COVID-19 vaccines in circulation so that people can access these life-saving tools.
  3. Infrastructure challenges : Temperature of storage for COVID-19 vaccine should be -60°C to -90°C. Poor infrastructure often means roads are treacherous and electricity is sporadic for the refrigerators vital to preserving vaccines.
  4. Staffing : Many health organizations are already dealing with staffing shortages due to COVID-19 surges. To meet the demand for immunizations, there may be a need to transfer staff and hire additional personnel.
  5. Vaccine hesitancy : It is a complex issue. Hesitancy towards vaccines creates reluctance towards or refusal of vaccines, even when available, as the result of complacency, inconvenience, or doubt about their effectiveness. It could result from views used to justify non-action, such as the misconception that vaccination reduces natural immunity or can cause diseases such as cancer. Furthermore, health-care providers do not have the technical knowledge to answer questions and concerns that parents have about vaccination, which is one of the most important factors that creates mistrust between parents and health-care providers. This justifies the need for more educational materials for health-care workers and contextualisation of vaccination strategies.
  6. Wars and insurgencies : Wars and insurgencies in some parts of the world endanger vaccinators. Corruption can siphon away funds, and vaccination campaign planners must sometimes navigate through multiple armed factions. “The most challenging areas … are conflict settings, where outbreaks of violence hinder vaccinations, and areas where misinformation is circulating, which discourages community participation, said UNICEF’s deputy chief of global immunization, Benjamin Schreiber.

Altogether, as COVID-19 vaccination programme is one of the most ambitious vaccination efforts in history; seamless leadership, coordination, and cooperation are vital to assure a smooth rollout.

References

  1.  Methods to overcome vaccine hesitancy – The Lancet
  2. https://www.cerner.com/perspectives/managing-the-biggest-covid-19-vaccine-challenges
  3. https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/covid-19-vaccination-challenges/
  4. https://www.one.org/international/blog/5-vaccination-challenges/
  5. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/wars-instability-pose-vaccine-challenges-in-poor-nations/article33429910.ece
  6. Overcoming the initial challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout | News | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

About the author

Varnika Bhadoriya is a second year medical student currently studying at Baroda Medical College, India. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. She is constantly curious about discussing and finding ways that could make healthcare affordable and accessible.

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