Gui Freitas is a columnist for the Jornal de Toronto
Health Canada approved the much-awaited vaccine that is expected to immunize people against severe Covid-19 disease. Yet, the challenges are far from over. With all the discussion around this topic, I invite you to reflect on the issue of social equity.
According to the dictionary, equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. Equity is the foundation of both SUS in Brazil and Medicare in Canada. It’s treating everyone equally by respecting their specific characteristics and needs. So, what is the relationship between equity and the Covid-19 vaccine?
When it comes to public health, our plans must provide equity to all populations, thereby observing the needs of each social group. Thus, we need to be prepared to make changes and to adapt to meet the needs of each group. Can the same vaccine be used for all ages, at the same dose and interval between doses? How can we be prepared to deal with patients who have allergic reactions to the vaccine? What if a patient has an immunologic disease, such as HIV? How can the population access immunization centres regardless of their economic situation? And if they live in a rural area, far from urban centres, how can the quality of the vaccine be guaranteed and proper storage and transportation be ensured? Are there different vaccine responses according to ethnic groups?
These questions remind us that while vaccine approval is a big step in the fight against this pandemic, it won’t solve all of our problems if it cannot be rolled out in a fair manner for everyone. Making a good plan to ensure even distribution, priorities, access, and follow-up are the next steps and might be as challenging as developing the vaccine itself. Ensuring that each person has the same opportunity to avoid this disease is no easy task.
A special thanks to Jananda Lima, Nilson Peixoto, and Betty Lagogianes.