Today we can say that we are entering a new phase of the COVID-19 epidemic, where many countries most affected by the virus – such as the United Kingdom – have received adequate vaccines for at-risk patients and health workers. avoid the worst stress of their health systems, even though the virus continues to spread. With over one billion vaccines produced every month, there should be enough for everyone.
However, there is a problem with the distribution of vaccines – some people who urgently need them, such as health workers or people who are at risk of contracting a serious disease because of their age or other illnesses, say. they have no access to them.
Yet the response from the UN, which calls for “vaccination in the hands of 40 percent of the population in all countries by the end of this year – and 70 percent by mid-2022,” is simple. A single solution that ignores local epidemics and politics is flawed and threatens to disrupt efforts from where it is most needed.
What we need to see are local reforms that are tailored to the specific characteristics of each epidemic and the people who are most at risk. They should also consider all the equipment we have – which is not just a vaccine.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontiers, or MSF) have been working to respond to COVID-19 in some way in almost every 80 countries in which we operate. In some countries where we used to work with case management and vaccination, we are now suspending our responses. This is probably because, as in France, vaccination rates have skyrocketed; or as is the case in Peru, because government officials can monitor the response even though the unrest continues in the country. In some countries, we have not really started, such as in Niger, because the country sees so few people living with the virus.
In some areas where we are working, we are still experiencing high levels of COVID-19, with high levels of dangerous strains of the disease, very low vaccines, and limited local capacity to combat epidemics. This is especially true in other parts of Asia and the Middle East: Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen all continue to be affected, and here we continue to treat patients who have developed the most dangerous forms of the disease. Many of them die as a result of inadequate access to quality medical care due to severe damage to health systems in these countries.
It will be difficult to get vaccination in these countries, even if we fix the vaccine issue, due to lack of medical care, insecurity associated with disputes, and vaccination resistance is another area. people. In view of these challenges, however, we must focus on our efforts in these countries, and take urgent action with the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations that need to establish comprehensive solutions.
This means ensuring that the wealthier nations with lower rates have developed larger and more comprehensive immunization programs that are on the verge of collapse; investing in vaccine funding by building permanent vaccination centers and providing tuition fees and staff salaries; supporting the expansion of blood tests for people to know when they are sick; ensuring that new antimicrobial drugs coming to market are widely available at affordable prices, as well as providing access to oxygen – and paying medical staff to support them – for people living with HIV.
The biggest problem with packaging – a problem that MSF is struggling with – is why the global vaccine work that needs to be vaccinated could include costly and financial losses. Anyone who wants a vaccine should get one – but there is a big difference between making sure the vaccine is available in all countries and doing a lot of campaigns in all of them. The onset of most of these symptoms puts us at risk of wasting time and resources in countries that have not been affected by the epidemic, and thereby failing to take basic precautionary measures against COVID-19 and other health risks.
The development of vaccines that we can use against COVID-19 has been one of the fastest in the medical history, but we need to be clear about what we can achieve: they are very effective in preventing serious illness and death, but so far. they do not do well to stop the spread. We will not eradicate this disease with the current vaccine. This is why we need to focus on finding vaccines for people who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying in the areas most affected by the virus, rather than following the improbable notion of an end to the world.
To save the many lives we need is not just an empty promise that promises an impossible goal but a list of smart and innovative things locally. Only if this will help us to deal with the global epidemic, the many different plagues that people face in various places, and the inequalities that continue to prevent poor countries from saving their lives.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al Jazeera.
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