The World Health Professions Alliance speaks for more than 41 million health professionals worldwide, assembling essential knowledge and experience from the key health professions in more than 130 countries.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic kills more than 12,000 people per day and there is no effective therapeutic strategy. The infection spread is cryptic, so that containment can only be reached by strict isolation. However, even complete isolation would not eradicate the virus in a reasonable time to allow the world to survive economically.
Health professionals and care personnel continue to be on the front line of the fight against this virus. Race, ethnicity, underlying health conditions, occupation type, and job setting can contribute to health professional’s risk of acquiring COVID-19 and experiencing severe outcomes, including death. By providing critical care to those who are or might be infected with the virus, health professionals have a high risk of being exposed to and getting sick with COVID-19. Early vaccine access is critical to ensuring the health and safety of this essential workforce, protecting not only them but also their patients, families, communities, and the broader health of countries.
The vaccines which are currently being rolled out internationally are highly effective, by all standards. The unprecedented development, approval and roll-out of the vaccines has unsurprisingly raised some questions amongst health professionals.
It took 330 days from the identification of the unknown virus until the first vaccine was approved. The global scientific effort that took place in 2020, at the same time as the corona pandemic was raging, is unparalleled in the history of medicine. The explanation? The most important thing is that everyone has worked together.
WHPA’s member, FIP, organised a webinar on "Communicating vaccine safety, building vaccine confidence" that addressed some of these points.
The health professional community have been asking for an acceleration of these medicine development procedures long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the administrations have applied these and governments have put money into the process to reduced economic-related delays, we should not criticize now what we have been asking for.
The rapid authorization resulted from several factors including:
The WHO also played a role in this in various ways:
The WHO Emergency Use Listing procedure for vaccines against COVID-19 has also contributed to accelerating registration processes worldwide and has supported countries with less robust regulatory agencies in regulating the use of these vaccines (and tests and treatments) in their countries:
The WHO issued its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine on 31 December (for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine)
“Personally, I cannot speak for the emergency authorizations in the UK, Israel, Russia and China, because I don’t know them. But I trust the FDA recommendations in the US and I know that the expedited process by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) cuts no corners when it comes to ethics, safety and effectiveness. I know these people and I trust their integrity.” Otmar Kloiber, WMA.
Based on the published scientific evidence from clinical trials of the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines, these have demonstrated to be safe. COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Many people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offers protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions.
There are currently no robust grounds to suggest that vaccines may present long-term safety problems. However, as with all vaccines and medicines, safety will continue to be monitored over time in the context of "real life" use, and any adverse events will be monitored and analysed at national, regional and global level. The long-term significance of these effects is not yet known but the regulators will continue active investigation and provide updates as new data emerge, which can inform COVID-19 clinical care as well as the public health response to COVID-19.
“Rejecting the vaccination for a very hypothetical reason, is like rushing out with the emergency car to an accident site and then denying the wounded to bring them to the hospital, because one may have a traffic accident on the way.” Otmar Kloiber, WMA
It is also important to remember that uncertainty is true for all new therapeutic strategies. However, what is certain, is the thousands of people dying every day from this virus.
©2019 World Health Professions Alliance