Vaccine experts from around the world spoke about the challenges of the COVID-19 global rollout at a special webinar event.
Imperial's Professor Azra Ghani was joined by Professor Anthony Harnden, Professor Heidi Larson and Professor Julio Croda for a special webinar hosted by the Jameel Institute and the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis.
Opening remarks from Professor Ghani, Chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, and the panel, outlined some the key successes and challenges of the vaccine rollout, particularly focusing on the UK and Brazil.
The panel spoke about safety concerns raised from the Astra Zeneca vaccine, however were all supportive of its continued use. Current data shows that vaccines are still very effective against severe disease and against the variant originated in India.
The panel recognised the importance of vaccine equity and commented that “limited supply threatens people”.
In Brazil, where 10% of the population have been vaccinated, the second wave came at a time when most of the population were not protected. In addition, there have been delays in receiving vaccines via COVAX.
The panel discussed misinformation which created further vaccine hesitancy. They spoke about the role of social media and how through working with religious leaders and indigenous populations, in the case of Brazil, there may be a better uptake in vaccines.
Lessons from the pandemic
The experts also discussed the future and the lessons we can take from this pandemic. Professor Heidi Larson spoke about the need for better preparedness, at a local level, to equip local leaders to enable them to respond and not wait for national government for guidance.
Professor Julio Croda spoke about how we can use the platforms created for COVID-19 to combat disease burdens such as TB and malaria. Could this be the time where we develop new vaccines for old diseases?
Professor Antony Harnden spoke about the end game and commented that we are unlikely to completely eliminate the virus and populations will need to come to terms with living the managing risk.
Vaccine rollout programmes
Professor Julio Croda, Former Chief, Department of Communicable Diseases at the Secretary of Health Surveillance spoke about the building surge capacity in Brazil to vaccinate more people.
He said, “We need to accelerate tech transfers. The problem isn’t patenting, because there is support from US and China. [We] need to build tech support in the Southern Hemisphere to build capacity."
Professor Heidi Larson, Founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project said: “We’ve seen a knock-on effect of tension between nationalism and some of it is politically driven, but instinctive”.
Professor Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), UK said “I think it’s fair to say the UK is widely recognised as having a very successful vaccination programme – 21million people have now received two doses, so we’re doing very well”
A recording of the event will be available shortly.
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