Health News Coronavirus The World

How creativity and community encourage people to get vaccinated around the world

Do you know someone who is hesitating to take the Covid-19 vaccine? You are not alone. Many people, especially the elderly, are concerned about the efficiency of Covid-19 vaccines and the possible side effects. Governments, hospitals, and vaccination centers around the world are using creative campaigns to put fears to rest and to encourage everyone to get the shot

In Mexico City, Mexico, it was a common sight to see the elderly scared at vaccination centers. They were worried about getting sick after the shot or of being scammed and injected with air. The officials at the vaccination centers felt the need to put the seniors’ minds at ease. 

Cue the dancing! There are now wheelchair yoga classes, dance sessions, young men doing football tricks, and other performances intended to ‘inject’ (not at all sorry about the pun!) some fun into the proceedings. Wouldn’t you love to see Lucha Libre (professional Mexican freestyle) wrestlers dancing to celebrate your vaccination? Beatriz Esquivel, a vaccination site coordinator in Mexico City, told the New York Times that although it is not clear if the performances are encouraging more people to take the vaccine, they do comfort those who have already come to get their shots. 

Over in Singapore, the government has decided to use the powerful combination of comedy and disco to get its message across. In a public health video, comedian Gurmit Singh, playing one of his famous characters Phua Chu Kang, raps about how it is safe to take the vaccine, and perhaps more importantly, how dangerous it could be to stay complacent. This last point is significant because Singapore was recently declared the best place to be during the pandemic. The number of cases is very low and experts are worried that Singaporeans will try to delay taking the shot. The song also dispels rumors about the vaccine being unsafe for senior citizens or people with certain medical conditions. “Get your shot, steady pom pi pi,” is the catchy refrain in Singlish, pom pi pi meaning “be calm”. The use of Singlish is an effective way to appeal to the nation’s sense of community. 

Another country has followed this principle. This country has been declared the second-best place to be during the pandemic – New Zealand. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health released a video called ‘Ka Kite, Covid’, which essentially means ‘See you later, Covid’ in Maori. It features regular New Zealanders excited to get back to life and make plans after getting vaccinated. I personally loved the shot where a healthcare worker says he’s opening the door to the future, and then opens a door to a vaccination center.


Although getting vaccinated in no way means that things will magically go back to what they were pre-pandemic, it is a step forward. We’ve been isolated from each other for a long time, but it’s stories like these that remind me how important a sense of community is, and how it can go a long way in helping people feel safe and protected. As the last screen of ‘Ka Kite, Covid’ reads, “Do it for each other.”


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India is gasping for breath as the second Covid-19 wave hits the country

On the eve of 14th April 2021, in a small town in India, a very close family member of mine tested positive for COVID-19. The events that followed left a devastating scar on our family. Aged 67, my mom’s aunt kept fighting for her life till her last breath. As soon as she was tested positive, she needed to be admitted into the hospital, but there were no beds available across the city. It took one whole day to find a hospital bed in a government hospital. It took another day to find a bed with ventilator support.

On the morning of 18th April 2021, she passed away. Her daughter, also tested positive, was admitted in a private hospital on the opposite side of the city, completely unaware of her mother’s death. In between, her distressed husband was desperately trying to procure a dose of Remdesivir injection while tending to the needs of his family who were fighting for their life.

This is the story of countless Indians who are experiencing the devastating second wave of COVID-19. As of 28th April 2021, India is recording the highest number (379,308) of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases and the highest number (3645) of daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths. There is a major shortage of oxygen supply and hospital beds. The healthcare system is coming to a collapse and the medical staff is being pushed to their limits. There is a sense of panic and extreme grief across India.

[Image description: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. ] via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
[Image description: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. ] via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
“I work in a private medical college and a 500 bed hospital. During the first wave, the hospital had allocated 250 beds (5 wards) to the COVID-19 patients. Now, the second wave has seen an influx of 300+ patients everyday. From 250 beds, our hospital has now dedicated all of the wards including 5 ICUs towards fighting COVID.” said Dr. Avijit Misra, a medical intern at Bharati Hospital and Medical College Pune when I spoke to him. “Government hospitals are also full. There is an increase in makeshift hospitals by the government which has helped a lot, but it is still not enough”, he added.

How did it become so bad?

The government of India had one year to prepare for a catastrophe like this. Ever since the start of the pandemic, the government was supposed to set up 150 oxygen plants but only started bidding for it after 8 months of delay. As of April, only 33 out of the 162 government-sanctioned oxygen plants are functioning.

Along with the shortage of oxygen supply, the transportation of the oxygen from the factories to the patients is a big hurdle that is contributing towards the crisis. India cannot ensure 24/7 road supply of oxygen due to the shortage of cryogenic oxygen tankers. The travel time for the transportation of the oxygen from the factories to the patients has increased from 3-5 business days to 6-8 business days, and the duration is much longer for the remote and rural parts of India.

This comes after a claim made by the National Executive of BJP (the ruling party) in February that the battle against Covid-19 has been triumphantly won. While praising the leadership, the party declared “with pride” that India has “not only defeated Covid-19 under the able, sensitive, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, but also infused in all its citizens the confidence to build an ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat ‘(Self -reliant India)’.”

After the declaration, mass gatherings and crowd events became a normalcy. Events such as election rallies and religious events were sanctioned by the government. The rallies and the religious events were seen as an attempt by the ruling party to please and secure its vote bank, as their policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions. The government led by PM Narendra Modi, has also been constantly downplaying the extent of the crisis and shutting down voices which have been instrumental in raising awareness and providing help to those affected.

[Image description: Amit Shah at an election rally] via Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
[Image description: Amit Shah at an election rally] via via Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The price is being paid by the common man

While patients are affected on one side, helpless relatives running around in search of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and medications are also being forced to put themselves at risk. Families are being admitted to the hospital together but not all of them are going back home healthy and recovered.

The medical costs are only increasing. A middle-class person cannot afford a bed in a private hospital. Those who can, are being charged Rs. 15 thousand – Rs. 20 thousand ($2011 – $2682) just for the bed. The injections, oxygen cylinders and medication prescribed by the doctors are also in short supply and are being sold at 10 times the price in black markets.

[Image description: Table showing the comparison of prices of COVID-19 medications and oxygen cylinders in India] via BBC
[Image description: Table showing the comparison of prices of COVID-19 medications and oxygen cylinders in India] via BBC
People coming from rural parts of India to bigger cities to get help are being turned back. Families are fighting in the hospitals for bed space. “Phrases such as ‘my patient is younger than yours. At least, give them a chance to live’ can be heard across India,” said Dr. Misra.

In the midst of this tragedy, it is easy to feel helpless right now, but there are ways in which we can help:

1. Amplify

The best thing you can do right now is to use your influence to amplify and share the SOS alerts from those in need on your socials. One share can help save a life.

Instagram accounts to follow that are spreading awareness and amplifying SOS alerts:


Websites & Google Docs:

2. Donate

There are a number of organizations that have come forward and directly purchased resources for the front-line workers, donated supplies, or helped amplify the needs of vulnerable patients. Here are a few:

Local Agencies:

  • Ketto (Mission Oxygen- Helping Hospitals Save Lives) – You can donate to their efforts directly on their website
  • Hemkunt Foundation – Oxygen Suppliers. Donate here 
  • Khalsa Aid – Donate here
  • Milaap – Individual crowdfunding website. Donate here
  • Youth Feed India x Helping Hands Charitable Trust – Food Packages. Donate here
  • Care India – PPE Kits. Donate here

International Agencies:

  • United Nations agencies (UNICEF and WHO). Donate here
  • American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin – Oxygen Machines. Donate here
  • Care India – PPE Kits. Donate here
  • The Association for India’s Development – Protective equipment and food packages. Donate here

As I look back, I think that my family members were among the luckier ones to have at least gotten a hospital bed and oxygen support. We don’t know when this calamity will end. The road to the finish line looks too far ahead. The battle against COVID-19 continues with our healthcare workers on the front line. We cannot be spectators anymore. We need to step in and help those in need. 

In retrospect, the second wave of COVID-19 did push India to become Atma Nirbhar

Coronavirus Race Science Now + Beyond

How the US government can encourage the Black community to trust the COVID-19 vaccine

It’s now been almost a year since the pandemic hit the US, and it has been well documented that the coronavirus is disproportionately impacting Black Americans. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black people are almost 4 times as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications and almost 3 times more likely to succumb in severe cases. Considering the harm the Black community has endured throughout the course of the pandemic, Black people should ideally be hopeful at the announcement of a vaccine, as it would mark a possible end to the widespread suffering.

In December, a vaccine was approved in the United Kingdom, and the UK government began slowly testing the vaccine on its citizens. Correspondingly, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had also approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, shortly after, which planned to enable millions of highly vulnerable Americans to receive emergency vaccinations within a few days. For some, vaccination approvals and distributions in the US, UK, and Canada was good news as it possibly signals some kind of return to normalcy in the future. However, vaccine rollout in America has been rather unsuccessful. The US federal government left decisions up to each state regarding how vaccine distributions would be handled, but many states are not equipped with the resources needed to be effective in medically treating their citizens.

On the other hand, many Black Americans have openly expressed skepticism on social media regarding whether they trust the newly developed COVID vaccine. Notably, these conversations of doubt in the vaccine were sparked after Letitia Wright’s exit from Twitter in December after she shared a conspiracy video attempting to “debunk” the legitimacy of the COVID-19 vaccine as well as Tiffany Haddish spreading misinformation about the vaccine recently on a social media app called Clubhouse.

Many people have rightfully criticized Wright’s and Haddish’s misuse of their large social media platforms in sharing misleading videos or information about the vaccine, as the two are seemingly encouraging their followers to mistrust science. At the same time, others empathized with the two women’s flawed logic, highlighting the need to finally address whatever skepticism Black people have towards the vaccine, why Black people are even skeptical, to begin with, and what can be done to ensure the Black community can eventually trust the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine.

many Black people’s skepticism in the vaccine is justified given what we’ve endured at the hands of white governments.

As a response to people’s skepticism, public figures like Dr. Fauci and former president Obama pledged to take the vaccine in hopes the American populace could be confident in the government’s efforts toward combatting COVID. However, there must be more specific ways the US government can begin to ease distrust of science and medicine within the Black community, who are already an at-risk demographic, as a result of longtime systematic mistreatment towards our community; starting with an acknowledgment of the inherent and historical anti-Blackness within the American healthcare system.

For example, medical racism has proved to have life-threatening consequences for many of us, especially for Black women. The Black community has historically been used as test subjects without our consent, been experimented on, and experienced exploitation within the medical industry to further progress for vaccinations and other disease control methods. 

I don’t believe Black people are wrong to distrust science or medicine; in fact, I believe many Black people’s skepticism in the vaccine is justified given what we’ve endured at the hands of white governments. However, I also believe spreading misinformation is unethical. There are more effective ways we can have conversations surrounding science, medicine, and the trust-ability of white governments in a way that is not harmful. We can and should acknowledge the abuse our community has suffered, hold our individual beliefs (within good reason), and question the efforts or intentions of historically oppressive governments. But, at the same time, we should use logic when deciding if and when something is potentially harmful or not. 

In the same ways we can question our government’s intentions, we can also conduct research utilizing trusted and fact-checked sources and research the individuals who are confidently and publicly backing the COVID-19 vaccination. 

A vaccine announcement doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

Furthermore, governments must prioritize restoring trust within the Black community to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine has a chance of effectiveness. The American Medical Association (AMA) suggests that “(1) All elected officials affirm evidence-based science and factual data at every turn. (2) The media, including social media platforms, to consistently convey factual information from credible sources while challenging and rejecting misinformation.”

If there is consistency and solidarity amongst American government officials in expressing the severity of this virus without perpetuating right-wing or religious conspiracy theories, it might encourage the more vulnerable communities to trust government-backed COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, the medical community and prominent figures in science and medicine should specifically acknowledge and validate Black people’s skepticism. There needs to be an earnest acknowledgment that governments have failed the Black community and an expression of commitment towards restoring any lost trust going forward.

Notably, a vaccine announcement doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Rather, a vaccine is just the first step toward combating the coronavirus. In addition, while waiting for the vaccine to be distributed, whether you plan on taking the vaccine or not, we can do our individual responsibility of wearing a mask, social distancing, and continuing to wash our hands. While it’s true that there have been systemic failures on behalf of many of our governments, we can also do our part while this pandemic persists by staying on top of coronavirus updates as well as spreading awareness and accurate, research-backed information within our own communities.

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Here is everything we know about the much-awaited COVID-19 vaccine

Other than our constant question as to when the world would get rid of the pandemic, one question that keeps crossing everyone’s mind is when the COVID-19 vaccine will be available.

The answer is not as simple as giving a date for the availability of the vaccine. Developing a vaccine is not a day’s job or cannot be developed overnight with a magic spell. Developing a vaccine is also not one person or one company’s job. It involves a lot of testing and an improvement phase, before the vaccine actually makes it to the market for people to use.

As of November 2020, more than 150 COVID-19 vaccines have made it to the development cut around the world with high hopes to be able to bring THE ONE to the market. Countries across the globe, including the US, India, and UK to name a few have initiated campaigns and several efforts to help make the development of such a vaccine possible.

The U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative has pledged $10 billion and aims to develop and deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. The project is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense to help develop, make, and distribute millions of vaccine doses for COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

However, getting a vaccine made is not a task that can be achieved overnight. In usual circumstances, it takes about 15 years for a vaccine to actually make it to the market while being available for people to make use of it. There is a whole lot of trial and approval procedure involved before the testing phase. The testing procedure is a lengthy process in itself that can take up to years before the final product gets approval.

On November 23, AstraZeneca announced interim results from two of its phase three clinical trials being conducted on the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. The one trial that was conducted in the UK showed that the vaccine was 90% effective in making sure that people are protected from the virus, only by getting half a dose of the formula which will be followed by the other half a month later. However, in an experiment conducted in Brazil in the second phase of the trial, the effectiveness of the vaccine dropped to 62%. As per the staff working on the development of this vaccine, the formula can be used under an emergency use listing by the WHO that plans to distribute the vaccine to underdeveloped countries. Around three billion doses of this vaccine by AstraZeneca is expected to be produced in 2021.

On November 20, Pfizer and BioNTech released a statement by saying that they were filing an emergency authorization from the FDA. The statement came just two days after having completed their three phase trials of the vaccine. According to the pharmaceuticals, they have met their targeted outcomes in developing a vaccine for the virus. According to their trials, the vaccine in scrutiny showed 95% effectiveness in helping recover serious COVID-19 cases. There has been a vaccine delivery pilot program launched under the supervision of Pfizer in four US states, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, and Rhode Island, to help with the deployment process of the vaccine as soon as possible. However on December 2, the UK became the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for widespread use, with getting 40 million doses in due course. On December 8, a 90 year old woman, Margaret Keenan became the first COVID-19 affected patient to receive the vaccine at the University Hospital in Coventry.

As per the FDA, if and when the first vaccine gets an approval to be available in the markets, there will be a limited supply of available, especially in the US. This obviously means that not everyone, even in the four states listed above will be able to have complete access to it. Getting access to the vaccine also highly depends on which countries and communities groups are at more risk from the virus. Age, for instance, is COVID-19’s biggest enemy.

This is one of the reasons why the FDA had started investing in select vaccine manufacturers external icon to be able to increase the ability of the distribution of the much-awaited vaccine. The idea is to increase the supply so that most demands are met. With more companies developing the vaccine and getting through with the three-stage trial process, this is possible.

Trials play a huge role in getting the vaccine approved by the regulators which should not be avoided at any cost. There is still limited research to prove the actual outcomes of the vaccine that has passed the test. According to the World Health Organization’s recent data, at least 70% of the entire world’s population must be immune to help get rid of this pandemic.


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