In a previous column, I proposed an analysis of the positions of leaders around the world who, in the context of the pandemic, have ignored, distorted or manipulated the findings of scientific research on the health emergency, on the origin of the SARS-CoV virus. 2 and on the measures necessary to safeguard the life and integrity of their populations, putting their political and economic interests first.
In addition to having leaders who are aware and committed to the assertive treatment of the pandemic, the media and educational processes in general play a decisive role in achieving a broad understanding of citizens regarding the disease and in particular about the vaccines that constitute an essential tool to save lives.
According to figures reported by the WHO, to date, COVID-19 has left more than 2.5 million fatalities around the world, has put the health systems of countries in check and has forced governments to carry out closures of different economic sectors, as well as total and partial confinements of their populations, in order to reduce the speed of spread of the virus. To this extent, since the beginning of the health emergency, the richest countries, their academics and different pharmaceutical multinationals have invested enormous efforts in research that results in the development of vaccines that, when supplied, generate the production of necessary antibodies in the body. to combat the development of the virus, generate immunity and, therefore, prevent the progress of the disease.
To this day, different types of vaccines have been built and many others continue to be developed. At the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, the existence of 14 vaccines that were in phase 3 of the clinical trials was reported; Some have already successfully passed this stage and have been authorized by WHO for distribution, others continue in the process. On December 31, 2020, the WHO issued an Emergency Use List (EUL) for the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 (BNT162b2) vaccine, making it the first to receive this validation since the outbreak began a year ago. Subsequently, on February 15, 2021, the EUL was issued for two versions of the AstraZeneca / Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and SKBio. Consequently, several countries around the world have begun their mass vaccination program, the WHO has called for each government to accelerate its own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine, as well as to facilitate equitable global access to the vaccine. herself. These authorizations also allow UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization to purchase the vaccine for distribution to countries that need it.
Issues related to this are frequently disclosed by the media and addressed on social networks; in the latter, all kinds of content circulate and are widely disseminated. Thus, an avalanche of misinformation has been unfolded about risks related to vaccines, their lack of security, conspiracy theories and domination strategies that present apparently qualified arguments against the vaccination processes. These anti-vaccine movements are several years old, but have reached their peak due to the pandemic and focus their activity on the dissemination of information that is not verified and difficult to verify from a scientific point of view, however, depending on its scope, it can affect countries' vaccination coverage and, in the case of COVID-19, prolonging the imminent risk of contagion for much longer.
Although it is important to recognize that scientific and technological developments have limitations and do not constitute in themselves the definitive and miraculous answer to the problems of humanity and to that extent there is still uncertainty about the course of the health emergency and the effectiveness of vaccines For your attention, it is also necessary to highlight the efforts of the scientific community in this matter and understand the mechanisms of action and characteristics of each vaccine to know its risks and efficacy, in order to have elements that allow evaluating the statements disseminated by different media and its veracity.
When it comes to the safety of vaccines, the first thing to understand is that vaccines are intended to develop a natural immune response by the body in which it is administered to the virus. There are different types, according to their mechanism of action and to that extent their effectiveness may vary. Among the COVID-19 vaccines already approved or still in development, we can find from classic vaccine proposals that inoculate inactivated whole virus or viral proteins, to more innovative proposals that introduce a gene sequence so that it is our own organism that synthesizes the viral protein in question, and generate antibodies. This sequence can be introduced directly into the cell by messenger RNA-based vaccines, such as those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, or by a viral vector that infects the cell, but does not replicate like those from Oxford / AstraZeneca, the Sputnik of the Gamaleya Institute, or that of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
The second thing that must be taken into account is that for a vaccine or drug to be released on the market, it must undergo clinical trial phases that provide information on its reliability and effectiveness in treating diseases in the human body. There are three phases that this process comprises once the risks that can be determined without testing in humans have been ruled out; The first stage contemplates the administration of doses to carefully selected healthy subjects. In this phase, it is intended to rule out adverse health consequences due to the vaccine for the general population. Once it has been proven that it has no adverse incidence in healthy subjects, the second phase carries out trials in carefully selected sick people; finally, the third and final phase administers doses in selected patients with less strict criteria, to evaluate their effects. Once these 3 phases have been overcome and if the results are satisfactory, it is administered in all types of patients.
One of the conflicts related to vaccines against COVID-19 is their short testing time and their rapid issuance, since, in the development of most drugs and vaccines, the time interval that lasts only phase 3, For example, it is between 1 and 5 years. One of the main difficulties of these processes is the willingness of patients to carry out the tests, since not all diseases or vaccines are of common interest worldwide because they affect geographic sectors and / or very specific populations. In the case of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, advances in other coronaviruses were used and in clinical tests, being a situation that involves all the nations of the planet, it was possible to find volunteer patients to carry out the trials required in each phase, there was even participation of subjects in whose populations this type of tests are hardly performed. To date, all of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution have been tested in thousands of people for safety and efficacy throughout all three phases of clinical trials.
Other myths associated with vaccines, particularly against COVID-19, are related to the possibility of changing the genetic information of the person to whom it is administered, the insertion of a technological device that allows tracking and monitoring, the intention of decimating the population. worldwide, among many others. As we have already seen, each of these claims could easily be disputed and refuted based on the existing data. On the other hand, the myths exposed are paradoxical in a scenario like the Colombian one, in which there is no certainty about the availability and access to vaccines for the entire population, which contradicts the arguments that weigh it as a strategy of domination.
The economic factor associated with the development of vaccines, the incursions of the pharmaceutical industries to monopolize the market and the supply limitations that afflict them is undeniable. On the other hand, as mentioned previously, vaccines constitute an alternative for the care and overcoming of the health emergency, however, their effectiveness in the management of the emergency is still a great question, not only because of their effectiveness for mutations that may arise, but because of the difficulties of immediate access for non-industrialized countries. To that extent, countries should continue to encourage self-care of their populations to control the rates of infection of the virus.
That is why education assumes a great challenge and a relevant role, not only to elucidate those arguments that have the evidence to be disseminated from those that do not, but to contribute to the formation of a culture of care in all citizens.