IFMSA’s reflections on COVID-19 vaccination

IFMSA’s reflections on COVID-19 vaccination

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world and continues to pose huge financial and social burdens every day. The recent breakthroughs in the development and release of safe and effective vaccines has brought sparks of hope towards the end of this pandemic.

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) recognises the crucial role of vaccination in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. IFMSA also highlights that equitable and wide access to affordable, effective, and safe vaccines is a human right and is essential to control the pandemic. Hence,  necessity of equitable vaccine allocation, reasonable prioritising and efficient tackling of vaccine hesitancy. 

So far, 3 vaccines have been approved for full and 7 for limited use, all over the world. In addition, about 63 vaccine candidates are currently tested in clinical trials including 21 that have already reached the final stages of testing [1][2]. Of the vaccines approved for usage, some have achieved over 90% effectiveness in preventing the development of COVID-19 symptoms, while no significant adverse effects have been reported so far, thus ensuring their efficiency and safety [3]. However, research should continue intensively to further assess the safety and efficacy of the already approved vaccines on the long term as well as to also seek more affordable and efficient vaccine candidates, under fast track procedures by the regulatory bodies. 

On the other hand, with the limited supply of doses, transparent and vulnerability-based prioritization of population groups is key to impactful vaccination, with zero tolerance for personal, financial or political conflict of interest, as well as for gender-based differentiations in priority groups. Priority groups should be decided while engaging the community in the decision making process and according to the epidemiological situation, ensuring coverage to vulnerable groups in lower socioeconomic environments as well as fragile and crowded settings, such as refugee camps and conflict affected areas [4]. Healthcare and social care professionals (according to their level of risk exposure), the elderly, as well as people with underlying health conditions, should be prioritised during the early phases of vaccination programs [4]. Access for all countries should be guaranteed and vaccine nationalism should be eliminated, ensuring transparent decision making and allocation by global initiatives, such as the COVAX. Last but not least, vaccine acceptance and uptake should be increased through creating an enabling environment for vaccinations, harnessing social influences and increasing motivation, corresponding to the communities’ perspectives, concerns and expectations [5]. 

„No one is safe until everyone is safe!”

Resources:

  1. The COVID-19 candidate vaccine landscape (2021, January 6). World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/draft-landscape-of-covid-19-candidate-vaccines
  2. Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker (2021, January 6). The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html
  3. Covid vaccine update: When will others be ready? (2021, January 6).  BBC. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51665497
  4. WHO SAGE Roadmap For Prioritizing Uses Of COVID-19 Vaccines In The Context Of Limited Supply. World Health Organization. 13 November 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/who-sage-roadmap-for-prioritizing-uses-of-covid-19-vaccines-in-the-context-of-limited-supply 
  5. Behavioural considerations for acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines. World Health Organization. 15 October 2020. Retrieved from:https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/337335/9789240016927-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y