Coia Sánchez and Anna Sánchez-Juárez
Experts will be discussing the worldwide challenges of vaccination and how to meet them from an interdisciplinary and global perspective
This series of online talks will deal with the challenges associated with creating, producing and distributing vaccines
Universal access to vaccines against COVID-19 represents a global challenge in putting an end to the pandemic. In response, the UOC is embarking upon a series of five online talks analysing the links required between science, healthcare, business and politics to guarantee equitable access to vaccines. Experts will be taking part in this series starting on 14 June, with the aim of providing information about and explaining this complex situation from an interdisciplinary perspective.
The pandemic has made it clear that scientists and politicians need to work together. Science policies formulated on the basis of open science have proven essential in tackling what some experts have begun calling the COVID-19 syndemic, in which a combination of social and health aspects gives rise a complex situation. COVID-19 is an infectious disease that mainly affects the respiratory system and also interacts with other illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular conditions. Moreover, it has appeared in a globalized world characterized by social inequalities that endanger and increase the vulnerability of a significant tranche of the world's population. The interaction of these factors has led experts to replace the term pandemic with syndemic.
Why have different countries been rolling out vaccination programmes at different speeds? Why do some regions still not have any vaccines? Might it have something to do with distribution difficulties, production costs or patents? Academics and professionals from the public administrations, NGOs, and international institutions and organizations will come together to debate these and other issues.
"Given the challenges raised by this global crisis, we at the University feel that there is an urgent need to start this public debate on fair access to vaccinations against COVID-19. This series of talks has the goal of spreading evidence-based knowledge on a matter of great complexity, under the guidance of experts”, explains Pastora Martínez, UOC Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation.
Science and technology, of key importance to public health
Each of the talks will take place on Monday, and will be open to all and free of charge. The first is entitled “Vaccines against COVID-19: from science to public health”. It can be followed live on the UOC's YouTube channel from 5 to 6 p.m. on 14 June. The talk will provide a framework for the rest of the series and for the public health policies around the world and will highlight the key role played by science and technology in establishing vaccination strategies.
Vaccination strategies are the latest challenge to highlight the need to improve public health as a means of strengthening the healthcare systems and thereby guarantee the distribution of vaccines. Wealthier nations have taken the lead and have a faster vaccination rate than others. Against this backdrop, we shall be analysing inequalities in geographic distribution and will talk about how this two-speed world has come about.
The speakers will be Marta Aymerich, UOC Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research, and Salvador Macip, professor at the University's Faculty of Health Sciences and researcher at the University of Leicester. This talk shall, like the others, be moderated by Albert Barberà, Director of the UOC's eHealth Center. For the first half hour, the speakers will give their talk and, for the second, they will open the virtual floor for questions from the connected public.
The role of patents, (dis)information, geopolitics and planetary health
The second talk, to be held on 21 June, will deal with patents and universal access to the vaccines against COVID-19. The speakers will consider which model can guarantee a global supply of vaccines. Current suggestions and their implications will be debated: agreeing voluntary licences and technology transfer, patent suspension and new models of international cooperation will all be scrutinized. They will also consider the role that multilateral trade organizations can play and the future repercussions of the exemption of intellectual property rights.
Ion Arocena Vélez, Director General of the Spanish Bioindustry Association Francesc Cortada, Director General of Oxfam Intermón, and Raquel Xalabarder, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Science and UOC Professor of Intellectual Property, will be in charge of analysing the issue.
In the third talk, which you can follow on 28 June, the focus will be on the role of communication in information or disinformation in times of pandemic. Against the backdrop of a polarization of opinions on issues like vaccination or the use of face masks, Imma Aguilar, CEO of the Spanish Foundation for Science and UOC alumna, and Alexandre López-Borrull, professor and researcher at the UOC's Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences, will discuss how science reaches the media.
Multilateralism and geopolitics in the world of COVID-19 will be the topic of debate in the fourth talk, to be held on 5 July. The impact of globalization and commercialization has once again hammered poorer countries. The speakers will be analysing the factors that have led to a situation in which India, the world's largest producer of generic pharmaceutical products and the country with the greatest capacity to manufacture vaccines, also has a deficient health system and is unable allocate its production of vaccine doses for domestic use. They will also talk about the impact of vaccination rates on economic recovery.
José Antonio Sanahuja, Director of the Carolina Foundation, and Xavier Prats Monné, strategic initiatives advisor for the UOC and former Director-General for Education and Culture at the European Commission, will be responsible for analysing the issue.
To wrap the series up, 12 July will be the date for the talk “COVID-19, vaccines and planetary health: the importance of the environmental footprint”. The concept of planetary health pursues the greatest possible level of health for humankind within the natural limits of the planet, that is, also looking out for Earth's health. Is the pandemic a consequence of our abuse of natural resources? Cristina O'Callaghan, professor and researcher at the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences will, together with other experts, examine the impact of the current model for development on our planet and its relationship with the appearance of new infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health. Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).
The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu. #UOC25years