Anti-Covid-19 vaccination: the bet is won

For more than three years, the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world, causing several million deaths across the planet. Despite disinformation campaigns on the pandemic and in particular on RNA vaccines against Covid-19, vaccination would have made it possible, according to scientific modeling studies, to reduce the burden of this pathology, in terms of human lives and the economy. world.

Vaccination is undeniably one of the most important scientific revolutions in human history, having contributed to the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and rinderpest in 2010, and to the control of many infectious diseases such as rubella , diphtheria and poliomyelitis in the world. For many pathologies, the success of this strategy depends, in large part, on the acceptance of vaccination by the public. While the latter has proven to be highly effective in reducing the global burden of disease outbreaks, infectious diseases and deaths associated with those said to be vaccine-preventable, doubts that plague vaccine acceptance persist. This skepticism, along with erroneous and misleading propaganda, alone poses a significant risk of resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases due to delays, disruptions and rejections in development, delivery, availability and vaccine research. This was (partially) the case with the coronavirus pandemic which has shaken the planet for more than three years. Indeed, since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in 2019, various conspiracy theories, conspiracy rumors and whimsical ideas have emerged, spreading an epidemic wave of misinformation (dubbed “infodemic” by the World Health Organization) , questioning the origin and nature of the virus, but also the safety and effectiveness of anti-Covid-19 vaccines. However, these have made it possible, against all odds, to lead the world’s population safely, thus taking up a major challenge.

simulation model

In the two years since the start of the anti-Covid-19 vaccination campaign in North America on December 14, 2020, said vaccines have averted 18 million hospitalizations and 3 million deaths in the United States. United. This is shown by a new modeling analysis conducted by a researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Meagan C. Fitzpatrick, and her colleagues and made public in December 2022. This study, based on a model of computer simulation, aimed to assess the transmission of the infection according to different scenarios and thus to estimate the number of hospitalizations and deaths that could be prevented in the United States, since the launch of the vaccination campaign, that is to say between December 12, 2020 and November 30, 2022. According to the results obtained, these are 3,255,656 deaths, 18,585,131 hospitalizations and 119,851,779 infections avoided thanks to the generalization of vaccination in the United States where more than 655 million doses were administered during the aforementioned period. Thus, 80% of the American population received at least one dose of the vaccine. The vaccination campaign would also have saved the United States $1.15 trillion in medical costs that would otherwise have been incurred, according to this study.

Global concern

If the year 2022 has witnessed the resounding victory of anti-Covid-19 vaccines in containing or at least stabilizing the pandemic, the massive outbreak of contaminations in China, for almost a month, has aroused the concern of the world. The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, had declared, during a weekly press conference, that “WHO is very concerned about the evolution of the situation in China” while by calling on the latter to “focus its efforts on vaccinating those most at risk”. Indeed, the National Health Commission (NHC) in China announced last November that only 65.8% of Chinese people over the age of 80 have been fully vaccinated (at least two doses of the vaccine). A much lower percentage among those over the age of 60, which would reach “30 or 35%”, according to a statement by Jean-Louis Rocca, researcher at the Center for International Research (CERI), for Radio France, November 28, 2022 This would be due, according to him, to the lack of “confidence in the vaccine and in its effectiveness”. Moreover, according to a study published on May 10, 2022, in Nature Medicine, if a new wave of Covid-19, caused by a variant of Omicron, spreads out of control in mainland China (which is currently the case), 1.10 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants are expected over a period of 6 months . The authors of this study estimate that about 77% of the number of deaths in China would occur in unvaccinated people, the majority of whom would be aged 60 or over. These results highlight “the key role of increasing the vaccination rate among the elderly” in limiting the burden of such a wave and thus avoiding overwhelming the health system.

Reluctance and consequences

In 2019, the WHO ranked vaccine hesitancy among the top ten global health threats. This hesitation is linked to various socio-economic and demographic factors. Concerns about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are said to be the most common causes in high-income countries, while for low- and middle-income countries it is mainly due to cultural and religious beliefs, experiences negative history with foreign medicine and vaccination campaigns. For example, the media in France had, in 2009, a critical influence on the rise in vaccine hesitancy which coincided with the public controversy over the vaccination campaign against influenza A/H1N1. Thus, the French government, which planned to vaccinate 70% of the general population, would have spent nearly a billion euros to fight against this virus. However, before the start of the vaccination, strong tensions had exploded in the media around the vaccination policy, the expenses incurred and the safety of the vaccine. In the end, only 8% of French people had been vaccinated. Since then, the topic of vaccine safety has been in the headlines almost constantly, with the media expressing (often unfounded) concerns about the human papillomavirus vaccine, multivalent vaccines and the use of aluminum additives.

In addition, in 2003 and 2004, a polio vaccination boycott took place in five Muslim-majority states in northern Nigeria (Kano, Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and Bauchi) following rumors from religious and political leaders, that said oral vaccine was part of an American plot to spread the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and cause infertility. Although the veracity of these rumors has never been proven, the general public in northern Nigeria has remained skeptical of Western medicine. The same is true for Pakistan, which had almost eradicated poliomyelitis by the mid-2000s. However, in 2005, 28 new cases (corresponding to 1.4% of global poliomyelitis cases) were reported. In addition, the fake Hepatitis B vaccination campaign, organized in 2011 by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to collect DNA from relatives of Osama bin Laden (founder of the terrorist group al-Qaeda) in order to identify his whereabouts before Operation Neptune Spear (the operation in which he was killed), had dramatic long-term consequences in northwestern Pakistan. This operation had thus raised concerns about the motives of the vaccination campaigns, including that of poliomyelitis, leading to an outbreak of polio cases which rose from 198 in 2011 to 306 in 2014, representing 85% of the total number of cases in the world. At least 70 members of vaccination teams have been killed in Pakistan since 2012. The Taliban then claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the vaccination campaigns were a cover for espionage or intelligence missions. Public health organizations around the world then criticized the CIA campaign for the negative impact it had on Pakistan’s public health initiatives.

Far from any political, religious or social quarrel and debate, vaccination remains a safe and effective weapon in the fight against epidemics, including Covid-19. Epidemiological data and scientific results have proven that anti-Covid-19 vaccines and RNA vaccine biotechnology are powerful tools in the response to the pandemic.

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