UNITED NATIONS: Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), warned that efforts to roll out a potential COVID-19 vaccine could fail unless equally ambitious efforts to counteract rapidly rising levels of mistrust and misinformation were put in place.
Speaking ahead of a high-level UN special session on the pandemic to be held this week in New York, Rocca, told reporters at a virtual press conference on Monday that "we welcome the news that a viable COVID-19 vaccine may be imminent", Xinhua news agency reported.
"However, we caution that a vaccine in-and-of-itself will not be enough to end this pandemic," he added.
"To beat COVID-19, we also need to defeat the parallel pandemic of mistrust that has consistently hindered our collective response to this disease, and that could undermine our shared ability to vaccinate against it."
Recent research has documented a worrying decline in how people view vaccines. A study by the Washington-based Johns Hopkins University found that vaccine acceptance had declined significantly between July and October of this year.
Also, an IFRC research in Africa has consistently documented a belief among some that the virus is a "western issue" while in the Western countries many people refuse to follow basic public health advice. Rocca called on governments to begin putting in place measures to counteract this mistrust and the misinformation that often fuels it.
So far, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with IFRC support, have reached 243 million people through COVID-19-related community engagement activities.
Such measures include tracking community perception of the disease and the response; responding to and acting on peoples' questions, suggestions and capacities; and providing accurate and timely information in local languages through diverse channels. (IANS)