The COVID-19 vaccine has offered a ray of hope in what has otherwise been a dark and hopeless period. Cycles of lockdowns of various levels of intensity, along with social distancing measures, have gone some way to restrict the spread of the virus. But as of February 2021, infection rates are still through the roof in many of the world's key population centres. It is the clutch of vaccines, currently being rolled out across the world, that will help us to move beyond this pandemic.
It has been estimated that herd immunity will begin to be achieved when 60 to 70 percent of the population are vaccinated. This makes public trust in the vaccine for COVID-19 critical to the efficacy of the program — enough people need to be willing to receive the vaccine in order for it to be broadly effective, and practitioners need to be able to believe wholeheartedly in the vaccine products they are administering.
Counterfeit vaccines do nothing but destroy this all-important trust and belief, and put people at risk. While it may seem like something as high-consequence as a coronavirus vaccine would be something even the most hardened and unscrupulous of counterfeiters would shy away from, this is not the case. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, has warned consumers about the danger of such counterfeit vaccines, and it releases regular COVID vaccine updates to keep the public protected — underlining the clear and present danger that such fraudulent treatments represent.
But digital solutions do provide an answer here. Digital tools and platforms put the power in the hands of the public, keeping them informed and helping to build trust. Here's how that can be achieved.
We live in the information age, a time in which we don't need to wait for the morning newspapers or the evening TV bulletin. We can get the information we need immediately and in real time.
The trouble is, with so much information out there, how can the public connect with the vaccine data they really need? Dedicated, registered applications and digital platforms help to achieve this, and they can completely change the game when it comes to verifying pharmaceuticals.
Both the general public and medical practitioners can download a trusted app or connect with a trusted digital platform, and receive COVID vaccine updates in real time — from a source they truly believe in. This will help to cut through distrust and confusion and deliver wholesale understanding and belief in the companies providing the vaccine, the health services rolling the vaccine out, and the process as a whole.
When we think of vaccines, we may think of a passive process — a doctor giving us a shot back at school, for example, or giving us the jabs we need before we go abroad for work or travel. However, like with many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the game significantly.
The stakes are now so high — and public participation is now so important — that the process has to become a transparent, collaborative one. Governments across the world need medical personnel to buy into the vaccination program — and to instil this belief in the general public. There is no room for distrust or rumour.
A digital tool like the engage™ app can support this. With engage™, government agencies and trusted vaccine producers and administrators are able to register verified vaccine products. A user can then open the app and scan a barcode or QR code to receive immediate verification that the vaccine is indeed a legitimate one. Medical staff should be willing to let users scan these codes, reflecting the transparent and collaborative atmosphere that is necessary if the vaccine program is to be successful.
Misinformation flags and warnings are now very familiar indeed to social media users. Social media platforms have found themselves under increasing pressure to take responsibility for the content they host or the links published by their users. While the big social media players have stopped short of actively censoring content in most cases, they do provide fact check warnings to users, lessening the impact of this potentially harmful content.
This is going to be increasingly important as vaccines are rolled out across the world. There is still a significant minority of people who do not believe in the vaccine, and, although their claims are not corroborated by the scientific community, the misinformation they spread can still be damaging.
Algorithms can be programmed to recognise when information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine is being shared online, either via social media or elsewhere. A warning message can then be triggered. The warning message does not need to make a value judgement regarding the information in order to be effective — it simply needs to recommend that users double-check the information before sharing or acting on it. More sophisticated digital tools may be able to deploy warning messages that provide further scientifically-backed information to users.
Helping the general public to verify the COVID vaccine is, in a sense, a marketing exercise, and can be approached in the same way. With platforms like engage™, organisations can gain crucial user data, gauging public opinion and developing an understanding of how to support those who might have concerns.
Winning the "hearts and minds" of the general public is key to getting through this pandemic. If the general public has concerns or doubts regarding the veracity of vaccines or regarding their properties or possible risks, organisations need to be able to quickly recognise this and deploy the educational content and support required to put it right.
In short, both medical practitioners and the general public at large need to be "on side" with the vaccine rollout. This will create a ripple effect throughout society, as word of mouth spreads and the public warms to the idea of trusting these newly developed vaccine products.
The COVID-19 vaccine is just part of the wider ecosystem of treatments and protections that are being used to fight the pandemic. Everything from specialised personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals to hand sanitisers for home and business use is being manufactured and distributed at a high volume in order to keep the public safe.
Unfortunately, these items are also being counterfeited at a high volume, both in the United States and elsewhere. The public needs to be protected from such counterfeiting, and they can use the engage™ app to do so. This is one way that digital tools and platforms can extend the protection to encompass all aspects of the fight against COVID and help us to put this sad chapter of history behind us once and for all.
We hope that digital platforms like engage™ can help us move beyond the COVID era. Reach out to our team to learn more, and request a free demo of engage™ to see for yourself what it can do.