Misinformation, selfishness hurting COVID-19 vaccine push

STAKEHOLDERS in the global health sector have suggested that a great use of policies and technology is needed to encourage the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in countries across the world.

The stakeholders made the suggestion during a ‘Catalyst Health Innovation Forum’ on Wednesday last week.

The forum was organised by founder and managing director of global health care company Novamed, Dr David Walcott, and founding partner of Novamed Kirk-Anthony Hamilton.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Director of Health Dr Aboubacar Kampo told the forum that there is a high level of vaccine hesitancy among people, which is caused by a spread of misinformation in the virtual space.

“With technology and social media playing big roles in our communities, people are getting a lot of information from their social media platforms — which can be good and bad information. That is something that we really need to tackle,” said Dr Kampo as he pointed out that technology could be used to track fake vaccines.

“There are also bad forces out there who are selling their own vaccines, which might be fake vaccines, and we need to track those medications as well — particularly in low-income countries where you have quite a number of fake medicines.”

According to Dr Junaid Nabi, senior researcher at Harvard Business School, there is a poor element of trust among patients in some countries, as they do not receive proper care in the health systems.

“The governments have not always taken care of the populations and that often leads to the bad deficit of trust,” said Dr Nabi.

“That is an element that we must address and work towards. It’s going to be a challenge with misinformation, especially with social media. Health systems and health ministries have to invest a lot of resources in developing and fostering that trust. It is not just a matter of supply and demand, but it is also an issue of how many people believe in the health systems and the leaders,” added Dr Nabi.

Explaining that the COVID-19 vaccine is the only hope for the world to resort to a state of normality, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett told the forum: “We are well aware, based on the clinical conditions of guidance, that the vaccine doesn’t give you 100 per cent immunity; it creates a possibility for you to be less vulnerable. What countries all over the world are seeking to do is to get that vital fluid so that they can reduce the level of vulnerability and get back to normalcy.”

Adding that research indicates that the world will need 75 per cent of vaccination coverage for normality, Bartlett said there will be dire implications as some countries will be left behind.

“Larger countries with greater resources have literally cornered the market for vaccines. Some numbers I received suggest that 75 per cent of the vaccines are already taken over by 10 of the big countries. What that means is that the other countries that are going to be left behind will face discriminations, because rules are going to be made on a domestic basis in terms of how nationals will travel.

“The discussion then for tourism is, how do we create the ambition globally to have a more equitable distribution of vaccines so that trade can go on in a reasonable way and that tourism, which has done so much for world growth and development can have a chance to move forward,” said Bartlett.


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