NEW YORK/GENEVA, NOVEMBER 30 – Speaking ahead of a UN High-Level Special Session on COVID-19 taking place this week in New York, Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), warned that efforts to roll out a potential COVID-19 vaccine could fail unless equally ambitious efforts to counteract rapidly rising levels of mistrust and misinformation are put in place.
“We welcome the news that a viable COVID-19 vaccine may be imminent. However, we caution that a vaccine in-and-of-itself will not be enough to end this pandemic”, said Rocca, stressing that, in order to beat the virus, “we also need to defeat the parallel pandemic of mistrust that has consistently hindered our collective response to this disease, and that could undermine our shared ability to vaccinate against it.”
Recent research has documented a worrying decline in how people view vaccines. A study by Johns Hopkins University in 67 countries found that vaccine acceptance had declined significantly between July and October of this year.
High levels of mistrust have undermined public health efforts to respond to COVID-19 from the outset and have facilitated the spread of the virus in countries around the world. For example, IFRC research in Africa has consistently documented a belief among some that the virus is a “western issue” while in the Western countries many people refuse to follow basic public health advice.
Mr Rocca called on governments to begin putting in place measures to counteract this mistrust and the misinformation that often fuels it. He added that the Federation stands ready to support government efforts to roll out a vaccine, “including by leading and supporting efforts to counteract misinformation and build trust.”
The IFRC has been a vocal support of the importance of equitable access to COVID vaccines and treatments and has warned against the rise of “vaccine nationalism”. Rocca called again on all the governments who have not joined the COVAX facility to consider doing so and to show leadership at the international level. (@OnuItalia)