Our response to COVID-19 cannot be one size fits all | Coronavirus pandemic

Today, we can say that we are entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries most affected by the virus (such as the United Kingdom) have vaccinated enough of their vulnerable patients and health workers to avoid Their health systems cause the most severe stress, even if the virus continues to spread widely. More than 1 billion vaccines are produced every month, which should theoretically be enough for everyone to use.

However, there are problems with the distribution of vaccines-some people who urgently need vaccines, such as medical staff or people at risk of serious illness due to age or other diseases, cannot access them.

However, the solution proposed by the United Nations requires that “40% of all people in all countries be vaccinated by the end of this year, and 70% of the population should be vaccinated by the middle of 2022.” This solution is too simplistic. A one-size-fits-all solution that ignores local epidemiology and political conditions is wrong, and it may even shift work to where it is most needed.

What we need to see are methods that adapt to local conditions, which are related to the unique characteristics of each outbreak and the population threatened by it. They also need to think about all the tools we can use now-this means more than just vaccines.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) has been committed to responding to COVID-19 in one way or another in almost all 80 countries where we work. In some countries/regions where we are engaged in case management and vaccination, we are now stopping the response. This is either because, as in France, the current vaccination coverage is very high; or, as is the case in Peru, because the authorities can manage the response despite the continued outbreak in the country. In other countries, we never really started, such as in Niger, because there are few serious cases of the virus in that country.

However, in some areas where we work, we still see waves of COVID-19. The incidence of severe forms of the disease is very high, the vaccination rate is very low, and the local capacity to manage the outbreak is very small. This is especially true in certain parts of Asia and the Middle East: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen continue to be severely affected, and here we continue to treat patients who have developed the most serious diseases. Many of them are dying because the health care systems in these countries are severely degraded and it is difficult to get the right type of care in time.

Even if we solve the problem of vaccine supply, it is difficult to obtain a high level of vaccination coverage in these countries because of the lack of an effective healthcare system, conflict-related insecurity, and the refusal of vaccination in some countries. population. However, it is precisely because of these challenges that we need to focus our efforts on these countries. The United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations need to take urgent action and take overall response measures.

This means ensuring that wealthy countries with spare doses have large and predictable vaccine donation plans that do not approach their expiration dates; invest in vaccination by building permanent vaccine centers and funding staff training and salaries Infrastructure; Fund a large-scale expansion of testing so that people know when they are sick; Ensure that new antiviral treatments currently on the market are widely available at an affordable price, and fund the widespread use of oxygen therapy-and pay medical staff salaries Manage these treatments-provide funding for those with severe viruses.

The daunting challenge of putting these packages in place—the challenge that MSF itself is struggling to tackle—is exactly why global vaccination efforts aimed at achieving a uniform level of vaccine coverage will involve a lot of wasted effort and resources. Everyone who wants a vaccine should have access to it-but there is a huge difference between ensuring vaccine supplies in all countries and launching large-scale campaigns in all countries. Taking too many of the latter may lead us to misallocate time and resources in countries that are relatively unaffected by the pandemic, preventing us from using them where they are needed most to combat COVID-19 and other pressing health issues.

The development of vaccines that we can use to fight COVID-19 is one of the fastest vaccines in medical history, but we need to be clear about what we can achieve with them: they are very good at preventing serious illness and death, but the distance is not very good at stopping spread. We will not use the vaccines we currently have to eradicate this disease. This is why we need to focus on vaccinating those who are most at risk of serious illness or death in the areas most affected by the virus, rather than pursuing the unattainable global eradication concept.

In order to save the most lives, what we need is not an empty slogan that promises unachievable goals, but a series of wise measures that adapt to local conditions. Only in this way can we solve the uneven development of the global pandemic, the countless different epidemics experienced by different people in different regions, and the inequality that continues to hinder poorer countries’ ability to save people’s lives.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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