Fighting Anti-Vaxxers Through Digital Healthcare Tools

picture Fighting Anti-Vaxxers Through Digital Healthcare Tools

The coronavirus has now been in our lives for over a year, having swept across the globe and taken millions of lives in such a short amount of time. According to the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine coronavirus resource center, there have been over 124 million COVID-19 cases around the world and has resulted in over 2.7 million deaths.

The devastating nature of the coronavirus led to countries and regions pooling together their resources to find a vaccine. What normally takes an average of ten years to develop was shockingly and thankfully done in less than a year.

Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 have now been developed, passed clinical trials, have undergone manufacturing and been delivered to populations everywhere. Each country and region have their own methods and plans for administering these vaccines of course, but with every dose administered, the world gets closer to returning to a semblance of normalcy.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccines fall into one of nine different product categories, notably DNA-based, RNA-based, inactivated virus, live attenuated virus, protein subunit, replicating viral vector, non-replicating viral vector, virus-like particle and other vaccines.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now authorized three coronavirus vaccines for emergency use. These vaccines are notably:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech
    • RNA-based
    • Authorized for use in the United States
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 95% after two doses
    • Currently in use in Argentina, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Bahrain, U.S., U.K., and used by the European Commission
  • Moderna
    • RNA-based
    • Authorized for use in the United States
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 94.1% after two doses
    • Currently in use in Canada, Israel, Switzerland, and the E.U., U.S., and U.K.
  • Janssen
    • Non-replicating viral vector
    • Authorized for use in the United States
    • Requires a single dose
    • Efficacy rate of 66% against moderate to severe COVID infection
    • Efficacy rate of 85% against severe disease
    • Authorized for emergency use in the U.S.

Although these three vaccines are currently being distributed and administered in the United States, other vaccines have also been approved in other countries as well. In fact, at the moment of writing this article, there are 251 vaccines in development, 61 of these are in clinical testing and a total of 11 are currently in use, which include, along with the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen vaccines:

  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
    • Non-replicating viral vector
    • Authorized for use
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 79%
    • Currently in use in Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Canada, El Salvador, India, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, and the U.K.
  • Gamaleya Research Institute
    • Non-replicating viral vector
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 91.6%
    • Currently in use in Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Hungary, Palestine, Paraguay, Serbia, Turkmenistan, UAE, and Venezuela, and “registered” in Belarus and Russia.
  • CanSino Biologics
    • Non-replicating viral vector
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires a single dose
    • Efficacy rate of 65.7%
    • Currently in use for “the military” by China’s Central Military Commission and authorized for emergency use in Hungary as well as approved in China, Mexico and Pakistan.
  • Wuhan Institute/Sinopharm
    • Inactivated virus
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 79.3%
    • Authorized for emergency use in China and the UAE.
  • Beijing Institute/Sinopharm
    • Inactivated virus
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 79%
    • Currently in use in Bahrain, China, Pakistan, and the UAE.
  • Sinovac/Instituto Butantan
    • Inactivated virus
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires a single dose
    • Efficacy rate of 78% (results from trial in Turkey showed 83.5%)
    • Authorized for emergency use in Brazil, China, Turkey and Indonesia.
  • Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems – QazCovid-in
    • Inactivated virus
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires two doses
    • Currently in use through “temporary registration” in Kazakhstan
  • Bharat Biotech
    • Inactivated virus
    • In Phase III clinical trials
    • Requires two doses
    • Efficacy rate of 81%
    • Approved for emergency use in India

Furthermore, the Novavax vaccine, which is part of the protein subunit vaccine category, is also far along in its Phase III clinical trials and is a frontrunner among the next vaccines to be potentially approved for use. Its clinical trial results show 96 percent effectiveness against COVID-19 and 86 percent effectiveness against the U.K. variant.

As the world pushes and shoves to get their hands on these coveted vaccine doses, there are still many who are choosing to forego vaccination against the coronavirus. Even with many options, findings and positive results, some refuse to be vaccinated. Of course, this is a personal choice, but is putting the rest of the world at risk of possible outbreaks, whether that be in a few months or even years.

Resistance to COVID-19 Vaccines

Much like any other vaccine that is currently available to the general public, some of which have been around for decades, there will always be a small proportion of the population that are skeptical of them. Whether it be for personal or religious reasons or maybe even fear, anti-vaxxers are here to stay and have been quite active during the coronavirus pandemic.

In January of 2021, a vaccination site located at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles was forced to close for over an hour due to anti-vaccine protestors stalling motorists. The 50 or so protestors present at the site were carrying signs protesting everything from COVID-19 itself to masks, vaccines, china, digital tracking and more.

The anti-vaccination movement has been growing stronger and reaching wider audiences over the years thanks to social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others. According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in December of 2020, 27% of Americans stated they probably would not get the COVID-19 vaccine, even if it were free and deemed safe by scientists. This hesitancy was due to reasons such as worries about possible side effects, lack of trust in the government to ensure safety and effectiveness of vaccine, concerns that the vaccine is too new and concerns over the role of politics in the development process.

It is no surprise that anti-vaccination movements impede possible herd immunity for many communities and puts many more at risk of outbreaks. As the coronavirus is so new, a form of sensationalism is growing from heightened skepticism around the current vaccines. With the rampant conspiracy theories on social media, misinformation is spreading faster than the vaccination effort. What can healthcare professionals, governments, companies and others do to stop the spread of anti-vaccination movements and protect their populations?

How Can Digital Healthcare Tools Help Vaccinations?

As much as social media platforms have been the trigger and force behind many anti-vax groups, messages, and activities, they could also be used to restrict such behavior.

In fact, Facebook has been fighting anti-vaxxers for years. They have recently announced plans to remove posts with false vaccination claims but have unfortunately failed to include Instagram in this plan.

Instead, these sophisticated platforms could use algorithms to recommend tailored, relevant content around vaccinations and health applications. The American Medical Association even went on to support this possible notion and stated that social media companies should “share timely, transparent and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines from public health institutions like the FDA and CDC that are rooted in science and evidence.”

Furthermore, health technology can do even more to fight anti-vaxxers. According to the Medical Futurist, algorithms, artificial intelligence and innovation could all play an important role in addressing vaccine hesitancy. He mentions that health systems could use artificial intelligence to screen patient report patterns around the COVID-19 vaccines and determine side effects experienced by patients and by vaccine type or company. In doing so, this would provide better statistics, raise actual side effect awareness and diminish or eliminate false claims.

Another method he mentions is by using SMS alerts and reminders from dedicated health apps that would inform certain people who are more at risk that they should be vaccinated. These alerts could also help in informing people of new vaccination sites or other ways they can increase their access to vaccines and ultimately, protection against the coronavirus.

The fight against the coronavirus, or any other virus or disease for that matter, will always be met with some resistance. No plan is perfect and not everyone believes in modern medicine. Even so, experts have now developed, manufactured and shipped a vaccine across the world in less than a year. The current fight is getting as many people vaccinated as possible given the resources available and to educate as much of the public as possible on the importance and safety of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

[“source=hellohealth”]