December 17, 2020 -- An opinion piece published today online in BMJ by Nina Schwalbe in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, calls for a national vaccine strategy now that COVID-19 vaccines are available. Schwalbe writes that a lack of clarity on a distribution plan sets unrealistic expectations among the public and could undermine public trust. But even with a clearly defined strategy in place, vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans will not be easy. Read the full article here.
Vaccines don't deliver themselves," notes Schwalbe, who is also a Principal Visiting Fellow at the United Nations University International Institute of Global Health. "Vaccines require a safe, trusted and accessible immunization system."
To address the high covid-19 death rates in the medium to long term, Schwalbe recommends the following:
Set realistic expectations on the role of vaccines in the COVID-19 response and communicate those clearly. For example, given limited supply, the immediate focus seem to be to reduce mortality of individuals in high-risk groups and transmission in health care settings. It is not to reach herd immunity.
Call upon the Biden administration to enact a parallel commitment to universal health coverage to help protect those people vulnerable to underlying conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, that put them at risk of severe covid-19 disease in the first place.
Work directly with communities to devise a plan that addresses their fears, and engages them to figure out the logistical challenges.
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the seventh largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its nearly 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change and health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with more than 1,300 graduate students from 55 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.