Information about the free coronavirus vaccine to be supplied to Ukraine first emerged about a month ago. It was then that the global COVID-19 vaccine access facility (COVAX) offered guarantees to the Ministry of Health. According to the ministry, the number of vaccine shots set to be supplied should be sufficient to vaccinate (as early as the first half of 2021) some 4 million Ukrainians.
Discussions on mass vaccination have been on top agenda recently. According to chairman of the commission on biosafety and biological protection at the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine, Academician with the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Serhiy Komisarenko, it will be possible to start it not earlier than the middle of next year. After all, all the infrastructure and logistics must be prepared to this end.
Vaccination is a simple and effective way to protect people from infectious diseases
However, it turned out that not all Ukrainians are open to such prospects. According to a survey conducted by the Rating Sociological Group in late November, even if the vaccine against coronavirus is free, some 40% of citizens are unwilling to get the shot. If they have to pay for the vaccine, 57% of respondents say they'll oppose vaccination…
In fact, vaccination is a simple and effective way to protect people from infectious diseases. And this protection is active even before people come into contact with various infections. Our immune system responds to the vaccine and develops immunity against the pathogen. Are all people fully protected? Of course, not. But if most people are vaccinated, collective immunity is formed. This protects those who can't get vaccinated due to other health conditions.
In Ukraine, vaccination is carried out according to the vaccination calendar for children, while adults are vaccinated as well. Everyone can be vaccinated against the flu every year because the strains keep altering, so the immunity is short-lived.
Thanks to vaccinations, we have many infections under the vaccine control, while the number of severe infections has decreased.
But what about vaccines for COVID-19? At the moment, they are being developed and tested, but I think they will arrive in Ukraine no sooner than the end of spring or summer next year. And more likely, they will be supplied in the fall of 2021. So by the time the first doses are offered to Ukrainians, many other people beyond Ukraine will have already gotten the vaccine.
Are these vaccines safe? Like any vaccine, it will have indications and contraindications. Before the start of mass vaccination, the drug is thoroughly researched and tested. Therefore, no one will use the vaccine forcibly, especially if risks persist.
If most people are vaccinated, collective immunity is formed
Is a single dose enough? If the immunity is short-lived, the risk of re-infection remains high. After all, at present there are repeated cases of reinfection. Besides, coronavirus mutation can't be ruled out under the influence of various factors. Therefore, there is a high probability that vaccination will be required, as with the flu.
It's for the government to decide on whether or not to administer the vaccine and which plan should be implemented. Here, each country has its own rules. Until now, no one has been forced to get vaccinated Ukraine, I think nothing will change in this regard. Therefore, citizens, together with their family doctors, are free to choose their path – to get vaccinated or play Russian roulette.
No matter what, we will no longer go back to pre-quarantine times. The world has changed. Priorities, visions, attitudes to health have changed as well. We must remain vigilant and realize that more infections could emerge in the future, so it's better to have under control at least the familiar ones. So, if there is a chance to get protection, why not use it?
Lesia Radkovska is a Ukrainian health expert specializing on infectious diseases, family doctor