16 February 2021
Five opportunities for children we must seize now
History and science tell us vaccines are the best hope we have of ending this virus and rebuilding our lives and our livelihoods. Yet, as Ridhi reminds us, there is a real risk the What you need to know about a COVID-19 vaccine COVID-19 vaccines will not reach all who need it. Vaccine hesitancy will have a profound effect on our ability to overcome COVID-19. A study of nearly 20,000 adults from 27 countries found that roughly 1 in 4 of them would decline a COVID-19 vaccine. A similar study of Americans showed that unclear and inconsistent messaging from public health officials and politicians could reduce vaccine use. Meanwhile, vaccine misinformation has become a big and growing business. Anti-vaccination entrepreneurs have increased their online following by at least 20 per cent during the pandemic. According to Avaaz, the top 10 websites identified by researchers as spreading health misinformation had almost four times as many views on Facebook as information from established health sites. In short, we are losing serious ground in the fight for trust. And without trust, any COVID-19 vaccine will be useless. But with the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, we now have the opportunity to truly reach every child with life-saving immunizations. The light at the end of the tunnel needs to shine for all. What needs to be done: Now that the world has developed multiple COVID-19 vaccines, we can turn our attention to the long and difficult fight to eliminate this virus from the planet with equity and fairness, reaching everyone including the poorest and most excluded. Work is already being done to prepare for that day. UNICEF is a committed partner of the Advance Market Commitment Engagement Group of the COVAX information centre COVAX Facility , a global collaboration to guarantee fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world. Our goal is to ensure that no country and no family is pushed to the back of the line as vaccines become available. We will do this by leading efforts to procure and supply COVID-19 vaccines and using our existing infrastructure to help facilitate their logistically demanding delivery, even to the most remote areas. Governments must work together to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are affordable and accessible to all countries. But just as critically, because the most important ingredient to any vaccine is trust, UNICEF is rolling out a global digital campaign to build public support and raise local awareness about the value and effectiveness of all vaccines. Technology companies have a huge role to play and have taken important initial steps to address the spread of dangerous misinformation on their platforms. In October 2020, Facebook announced a global policy to prohibit ads that discourage vaccinations. Soon after, YouTube announced a crackdown on anti-vaccination content, removing videos that include misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines. But more can be done. Social media platforms must take steps to flag and remove content that distorts the truth. Vaccine hesitancy goes far beyond COVID-19 vaccines. In 2019, WHO said vaccine hesitancy was one of the top 10 threats to global health and without trust, vaccines are just expensive vials in a doctor’s cabinet.