By: B. Schwartzman Lucio
A pandemic can come at any time. It is unpredictable and we know it. WHO says that is likely that the next pandemic is caused by influenza, which is a threat to society. Not to mention that we are still facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, knowing the paths to managing a pandemic is very important.
Managing a pandemic also involves planning before it happens. This embraces the organization of health sectors and local governments, for example. The plan might concern the preparation and availability of pharmaceutical laboratories for the research and development of vaccines. With the start of the coronavirus in Brazil, Fiocruz was readily available for the immediate research of the new disease.
Having a contingency plan relying solely on the discovery of vaccines is not an option, as it takes time to formulate and test before being applied to living beings. And although vaccination seems to be a permanent solution to a pandemic, most times it is not. Pandemics may be relieved by vaccines, and these diseases might even disappear, but if vaccination is not widespread, these diseases may appear again, such as Polio. After a vaccination campaign, Polio was declared to be extinct in Brazil in 1994. However, with the fall in vaccination rates from 96% in 2012 to 67% in 2021, Polio might be a threat to the population again.
There comes the importance of having strong communication. In most cases, the government is responsible for spreading instructions on how to deal with the pandemic and vaccination campaigns. Generally, these communication channels must be well established before a pandemic happens. These channels include TV Channels, social media, and city banners, to name a few.
And what if a society is against vaccination? Although Brazil has a high vaccination rate mostly for all types of diseases and especially considering COVID vaccinations (86% of the population has at least one dose of vaccine), many countries struggle when vaccinating their people. Some countries may lack resources such as funds and infrastructure to deliver the vaccine, therefore allocating funds for unexpected health crisis are necessary as well as having partnerships, such as being part of the UN, where foreign aid may be allocated to solve a health crisis. Sometimes supply is not the issue, but distribution might be. Of the 36 countries with the lowest vaccination rates, some of the issues include the lack of vaccination posts and the population being sparsely divided. Less than 2% of Yemen’s population is fully vaccinated. People living in the north of Yemen must travel around 20 hours to get to the south of Yemen, where the vaccine is available. And even after crossing the war zone, these people might still not have the certainty of receiving a dose. In order words, many people don’t have easy and guaranteed access to vaccination.
However, other countries struggle to achieve high vaccination rates as their population refuses to take vaccines. Countries like France have imposed policies which aimed to increase the vaccination rate. For example, people who were not vaccinated could not enter restaurants, encouraging them to get the vaccine so they could live their normal lives.
The management of a pandemic does not depend only on governmental actions, but also on the individual action of each citizen. A country may be helped by other organizations such as WHO, which may provide instructions or aid, but if each citizen does not act for themselves, they will not be contributing to the end of a pandemic. Social distancing is one example of an action that could be taken to minimize the impacts and duration of a pandemic.
Hopefully, as we approach the end of the COVID-19 pandemic we have learned something from it, whether it is how to deal with a pandemic or to value our health, so that we can avoid or at least cope with future pandemics.