Understanding the Challenges Surrounding COVID-19 Vaccination Campaigns

(Mika Baumeister, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Vishwajit G.V, a first year medical student in Coimbatore Medical College, Tamil Nadu, 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.


Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or mocha. Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Covaxin. Which is your favourite?

Distrust, depression, anxiety, anger, selfishness and sadness. The flavours of 2020. What appeared as a sojourn of melancholy in one corner of the world has become a perpetual tunnel of hopelessness. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared, with the hopes of a vaccine.

It is true that ‘Well begun is half done’, but there are multiple barriers to overcome, from maintaining the cold chain of the vaccine to the trust chain of the people. Since the start of the pandemic, an infodemic has plagued the general public. Message forwards have spread faster than the disease itself. Most people rely on social media for information rather than official sources, making them susceptible to misinformation.

Earlier, vaccines needed decades for development, but companies have managed to complete trials and dispatch vaccine shots in nearly a year’s time. This has created an air of suspicion and has fuelled rumours. Rumours feed off people’s fear and panic clouts the mind, thus incapacitating proper judgement. Moreover, the fear of getting stuck in the crossfire between vaccine companies and being declared as collateral brings in a cautious attitude. Leaders themselves are at the heart of the infodemic. Drinking vodka, irradiating oneself with UV light and injecting disinfectant – are some wise words of wisdom by public figures. How do you expect the same government who makes such claims, to dispatch a vaccine and expect to be trusted?

Moderna and Pfizer have introduced the new mRNA technology in vaccines, persuading the masses regarding the efficacy and safety is another task to be undertaken. Reading the news about adverse health reactions caused, skipping phases of clinical trials and hastening the process of vaccine manufacture has shaken our beliefs in the vaccine.  “Let them put first and see” is the go to saying.

Dispatching the vaccine to countries around the globe is a logistical nightmare. It is a game of diplomacy and dominance. Certain nations are forced to buy vaccines on the basis of the country of origin, rather than on the basis of safety and efficacy. With the objective of securing economic ties and maintaining cordial relations. This may result in delays, compromise safety and deprive people of the best.

Maintaining optimal storage conditions is another hurdle. Vaccines developed based on mRNA technology require frigid temperatures, which puts further pressure on the already strained healthcare systems of poor and developing countries.

A house that is divided against itself, cannot stand. We cannot salvage people’s fear in the greed for power and wealth. Nations need to be in sync with each other with regard to technological development. Transparency needs to be maintained and health bulletins need to be carefully curated.

I ask you again, which is your favourite flavour? Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Covaxin.

Baffled?

I’m sorry, but you do not choose for yourself anyways.

References

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/vaccine-diplomacy-how-india-is-gaining-edge-over-china-with-supplies-to-neighbours/articleshow/80390314.cms

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/05/01/847812806/when-public-figures-make-questionable-health-claims-do-people-listen

https://www.biospace.com/article/a-timeline-of-covid-19-vaccine-development/

https://www.nature.com/articles/nrd.2017.243

About the author

Vishwajit G.V is a first year medical student in Coimbatore Medical College, Tamil Nadu, India. He is a general member of the Medical Students Association of India.

Staying in a multicultural environment allows him to be a broad thinker and effective communicator.  Volunteering in multiple projects has sensitized him towards global issues and has set him on a path to effect change starting from the grass root level.

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