Moving Forward in a Post-COVID World
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken countless lives, crippled our economy, our health systems and revealed the ugly truth of inequity in healthcare. At the beginning of 2020, none of us could have imagined that we would be in the grips of a global pandemic. However, nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals and all other essential workers have responded fearlessly to meet this pandemic head-on. As we prepare for a new administration and legislative sessions, now is the time to learn from the lessons of this pandemic. It is imperative that we begin to address a system that has failed the American people through the loss of jobs, health, and life. I would like to raise some points that I think need to be addressed by the new administration and Congress as it pertains to immediately tackling the Covid-19 vaccine problem.
Tackling the COVID-19 VACCINE PROBLEM
When President-elect Biden is sworn in on January 20th, the pandemic and all its impact will still be prevalent. Both federal and state agencies have coordinated plans to begin a massive vaccination program to bring this crisis under control once vaccine approval has been received. Even the best made plans may fail if the public does not have the trust and confidence in the federal and state government. There are three things that I think are imperative to have tackle the COVID-19 vaccine problem.
First, it is imperative that there is a steady flow of accurate information and education that is from trusted sources. Nurses and other healthcare professionals must be educated regarding all aspects of the M-RNA vaccine and how they work. Why? When nurses are informed, they can help share reliable information with their patients, dispute widespread misinformation, and influence opinions about COVID-19 vaccines amongst the public and increase the likelihood of public acceptance and vaccination. I am already hearing rumors that the vaccine contains a chip which will allow the federal government to monitor the movement of citizens. Another rumor that is likely to go viral is that the new vaccines will alter your DNA. Nothing could be further from the truth. Additionally, we must make sure that public education is accessible and able to reach everyone, including individuals with English as a foreign language.
Second, equitable distribution of the vaccines is key to stemming the spread of the COVID-19. Given the mistrust of the government and the vaccines in communities of color, I strongly urge that leaders in these communities assist with the distribution and vaccination by their willingness to be publicly vaccinated to ease public apprehension. It is essential that all barriers and roadblocks be identified and eradicated now, so that the public has timely access to vaccines and lifesaving treatments. One of the major roadblocks to overcome is to pay homage to and admit that unauthorized experiments were conducted on members of the Black and brown community in many forms. Today, we can point to a system of checks and balances that came about because of those unauthorized experiments (IRBs, Informed Consent, FDA approval, etc.) that has been put in place to ensure that such experiments never happen again. Additionally, the Biden administration must also be prepared for unintentional consequences such as weather and power delays that may create logistical hurdles in safe storage and supply chain distribution. It is also imperative that the public understand the need for the second injection of the vaccine for the campaign to be successful. There must be accurate record keeping and an identified process for follow-up of individuals who may not return for the second injection.
Third, there is an urgent need to increase diversity in the on-going clinical trials. Every effort must be made to recruit and maintain clinical trial participants that are reflective of society. Even though we have approval of two vaccines, others will be needed to help meet the demand of a global vaccination campaign. There are three phase three clinical trials that are in dire need of volunteers from diverse populations. Now is the time for health care professional to demonstrate trust in the development of vaccines and role model preventative behaviors to stem the spread of COVID 19 by volunteering to participate in these trials. They can also actively recruit clinical trial participants from diverse population by having one-on-one discussions with them to help alleviate concerns, suspicions, and reservations they may have about participating.
Combating the challenge of Covid-19 will require all of us to work together. Even though we have two vaccines approved to help in this fight, we still must remember to protect our fellow citizens by wearing a mask, waiting at least six feet apart and washing our hands. Working together as one, we will overcome this crisis.