Governments will have to make coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all as anti-vax propaganda rises, say experts
An expert suggested that if the vaccine hesitancy trend continues to grow, there will be 'just too much to lose'
With nearly 2.6 million of the world population (according to Johns Hopkins University dashboard) infected with the novel coronavirus and thousands dying every day, there's mounting pressure on scientists to formulate an effective vaccine to curb the deadly infection. However, amid a global consolidated effort of vaccine development, a parallel sentiment of vaccine hesitancy has also been rapidly surging on multiple online platforms.
The predominance of anti-vaccination groups on certain influential platforms and declining confidence in world health authorities have raised questions on whether these groups could hinder success a vaccine could have. Concerns are justified considering the high contagion rate of the virus. The growing concerns have left experts to believe that governments across the world may have to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory, but the feat will not be an easy one.
"People seem to be hardwired to oppose anything mandated by their governments, it is just human nature," Paulo H Verardi, PhD, associate professor of Virology, University of Connecticut told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). "Once again, people will need to be educated to the fact that to slow or stop the outbreaks and resume our normal lives, economic prosperity, we will need to have achieved what is called herd immunity in the population."
Herd immunity means that a certain level of the population needs to have acquired immunity to Covid-19, either by natural infection or by vaccination to slow or curb the transmission cycles of the virus. The virology professor said that for the new coronavirus, at least "two-thirds of the population have to be immune to achieve protective levels of herd immunity".
"Each individual country, and sometimes individual states or provinces within a country, will need to make an assessment to determine how to achieve and maintain protective herd immunity levels. And for some (and perhaps most), mandatory vaccination campaigns may be the fastest and most effective way to accomplish it," Dr Verardi added.
A report released by The Washington Post on Tuesday, April 21, claimed that websites of the World Health Organization (WHO), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health — all playing crucial roles in leading the Covid-19 vaccination battle worldwide — were hacked and thousands of email addresses and passwords of people working at these institutions were released by anonymous activists. Some have speculated anti-vaccination groups' involvement in the attacks.
The hack came shortly after President Donald Trump temporarily froze sizable funding to the WHO pending an investigation into the coronavirus response, accusing the organization of being "China-centric". Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, has also been under consistent attacks from anti-vaccination groups over debunked coronavirus conspiracy theory. The Microsoft founder is reportedly spending billions of dollars building factories to develop a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus.
The expert added that if the vaccine hesitancy trend continues to grow, there will be "just too much to lose". "Sadly, the spread of misinformation is at 'pandemic levels' these days, and I do not expect it to go away once vaccination campaigns start," he said. People need to be reminded to look up information from reliable sources, such as the World Health Organization, and not from viral videos circulating in social media."
The novel coronavirus cases, as of Wednesday, April 22, stand at 2,593,129, while nearly 180,000 people have succumbed to the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University data.