Thomas B. Cueni
Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA)
Trust in vaccines remains a problem, especially for the upcoming COVID-19 ones. To combat mistrust, healthcare professionals will become essential sources of information for their patients.
Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective interventions to safeguard public health, and yet during this pandemic, we have seen a decrease in public confidence. According to the latest World Economic Forum/Ipsos survey, the number of people willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine dropped to 73 percent from 77 percent. We cannot achieve a global herd immunity if too many people opt out of receiving the vaccine due to mistrust. COVID-19 anywhere remains a threat everywhere, and so a global concerted effort is a prerequisite to overcoming the pandemic.
The biggest vaccine confidence concerns among responders were around side effects and fears that clinical trials were moving too fast. Responding to the concerns highlights the importance of trusted voices to explain how vaccines work, how the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines are just as thorough as for other vaccines, and how regulatory agencies are scrutinizing all the data and sharing them when possible.
Since the start of the pandemic, vaccine makers have voiced their strong commitment to rigorous scientific and regulatory standards for approval of COVID-19 vaccines and have committed to publish all the clinical trials in peer reviewed publications, releasing details, good or bad, to an extent like never before. By doing this, we hope to address concerns of people who are vaccine hesitant. No one gains from vaccine manufacturers or regulators cutting corners. Doing so can only undermine the efforts of all involved.
The importance of healthcare
COVID-19 has made us realize the critical role that healthcare professionals (HCPs) play to tackle the global pandemic while still providing essential health services. They are the backbone of any health system. Without them, hospitals, primary care centers, and outpatient facilities would stop to a grinding halt. It is paramount that HCPs also feel confident about COVID-19 vaccines, first as individuals and as buffers for patients themselves. Pillars in their communities, they are a trusted platform to quell fears or worries patients may have surrounding the vaccine.
Controlling this pandemic is ultimately about vaccinations, not vaccines, and we need to start planning vaccination campaigns now. When COVID-19 vaccines will start deployment, we must respect that some people might be anxious about getting them. It is important that we can answer all their concerns and demonstrate that safety and effectiveness has never been compromised. As countries take on the huge task of rolling out immunization programs, HCP will be called upon again. We thank them; we applaud them; and, we want to support them in helping answer those questions that we can. Vaccine makers and the biopharmaceutical industry will be on the front foot, explaining how vaccines are produced, distributed, and monitored. It is in all of our best interests.