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The urgent need for international cooperation to speed up the global vaccination effort debated at the UOC

  global vaccination

There is a huge gap in people's access to vaccination: in some countries, not even health staff have been vaccinated. (Photo: Alena Shekhovtcova, Pexels)

21/07/2021
Coia Sanchez
The pandemic has made it clear that a global health challenge requires the worlds of science and politics to work together

There is a huge gap in people's access to vaccination: in some countries, not even health staff have been vaccinated

The conservation of biodiversity is key to preventing new pandemics

The scientific advances we have achieved will help develop new medical technologies

The variables of the social and health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been analysed from various points of view in a series of talks organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). Over five sessions, representatives from the academic, social, industrial, economic, political and communication spheres discussed these matters in a series of talks aimed at the general public to set out the key aspects of this complex and multidimensional situation that is affecting different parts of the world unequally. Albert Barber, the director of the UOC's digital health research centre, the eHealth Center, acted as academic coordinator of the series and moderator of the talks. 

According to Barber, the reason behind the talks is the conviction that universities are agents of social transformation and must therefore promote settings for critical reflection and debate, providing an open and thoughtful view of complex problems.

Pastora Martnez, Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation at the UOC, agrees. According to her, "this series has taken a broad and critical look at the way the syndemic resulting from COVID-19 and the world's global vaccination challenges is being managed, incorporating the knowledge generated in different sectors and disciplines."

The sessions were streamed live, and participants answered questions from the audience. The videos of the talks are available to watch on the UOC's YouTube channel and already have over 1,250 views. 

 

From Science to Public Health

In the opening talk of the series, Albert Barber put the core matters to be addressed and the objectives involved into context. Salvador Macip, a faculty member and researcher of the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences, and Marta Aymerich, the UOC's Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research, stated that the pandemic must be addressed based on epidemiological and scientific criteria, a global focus and long-term vision. "The pandemic has highlighted some really positive things, such as scientific communication and scientists' ability to generate knowledge and solutions quickly, but it has also highlighted economic and political conflicts and the differences between countries. This makes no sense not just from an ethical point of view, but even less sense from a global point of view that affects all of us," stated Macip. UOC Vice President Marta Aymerich, for her part, highlighted the decisive role of open science and how sharing knowledge has been key to designing strategies not just for vaccination, but also for treatment at the various healthcare centres. 

 

Patents and Global Access to Vaccines

According to Ion Arocena, Managing Director of the Spanish Biotech Industry Association, and Raquel Xalabarder, Dean of the UOC's Faculty of Law and Political Science and Professor of Intellectual Property, waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents would not make them cheaper or easier to produce. Furthermore, emergency compulsory patent licensing mechanisms already exist. Arocena pointed out in this regard some of the bottlenecks hindering global access to COVID-19 vaccines, such as insufficient supplies, failure to achieve the required production capacity, and commercial challenges. In his contributions, Oxfam Intermn CEO Francesc Cortada denounced the huge differences in vaccination rates between countries and called on pharmaceutical companies and governments to take responsibility for speeding up vaccine production and distribution with price reduction and control mechanisms.

 

The Role of Communication in Pandemic Times 

Alexandre Lpez-Borrull, a teaching staff member and researcher at the UOC's Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences, explained how uncertainty has encouraged deniers, particularly early on in the pandemic. Lpez-Borrull pointed out that scientific communication has improved and public interest has increased, with the public starting to follow opinion leaders from the field of science during the pandemic. Imma Aguilar, Director General of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and a UOC alumna, stated that vaccine hesitancy in Spain has fallen significantly in the last year. She also told Roco Benavente, Coordinator of Maldita Ciencia at Maldita.es, that useful journalism is urgently needed and that we must continue to work on fighting fake news and disinformation. According to Benavente, "we are all responsible when it comes to moving and sharing information through channels other than the media (e.g. through WhatsApp, Telegram and others)."

 

Multilateralism and Geopolitics in the COVID-19 World

Xavier Prats Monn, Strategic Initiatives Advisor for the UOC, member of the eHealth Center's Advisory Board and former Director-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, emphasized that the health crisis has shown that the public sector is capable of reacting and has fostered a greater awareness of public matters. Prats Monn highlighted the lack of global governance made evident by the pandemic, as well as the urgent need for multilateral organizations that can intervene in global issues. Jos Antonio Sanahuja, Director of the Carolina Foundation, and Caterina Garca Segura, Full Professor in International Relations at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and coordinator of the Public International Law and International Relations Research Group, agreed that society is facing the challenge of learning from this pandemic and reacting with greater multilateral cooperation

 

COVID-19, Vaccines and Planetary Health: the Importance of the Ecological Footprint

The researchers taking part in the webinar, Fernando Valladares, research professor at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Manolis Kogevinas, researcher at ISGlobal, and Cristina O'Callaghan, faculty member and researcher of the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences and coordinator of the UOC's Master's Degree in Planetary Health, highlighted the links between biodiversity and emerging diseases and warned of the need for governments to work in partnership to improve the environmental situation based on a global and long-term approach.

Although there is still a long way to go, the Director of the eHealth Center and academic coordinator of the series is feeling optimistic, because "we have gained knowledge in many fields. We have made advances in fields such as open science and regarding awareness of important matters such as production capacity, social collaboration and sound health systems."

 

View the talks in the series

You can watch the videos (in Spanish) of the talks in the series by clicking on these links:

COVID-19 Vaccines, from Science to Public Health

Are patents the cause of the COVID-19 vaccine global access problem?

Informing or Disinforming. The Role of Communication in Pandemic Times

Multilateralism and Geopolitics in the COVID-19 World

COVID-19, Vaccines and Planetary Health: the Importance of the Ecological Footprint

#UOCexperts

Photograph of Pastora Martnez

Pastora Martnez Samper

Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation

Expert in: Management and assessment of research, responsible research and innovation, and open science.

Knowledge area: Political science.

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Albert Barber

Albert Barber

UOC's eHealth Center director

Expert in:

Knowledge area: Political science.

Photograph of Marta Aymerich Martnez

Marta Aymerich Martnez

Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research

Expert in: Translating research findings into clinical and/or public health practice; evaluating research.

Knowledge area: Public health and research policy.

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Photograph of Professor Salvador Macip

Salvador Macip i Maresma

Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences

Expert in: Cellular and molecular basis of cancer, ageing, age-related diseases, senescence, bioethics, scientific dissemination.

Knowledge area: Cancer and ageing.

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Photograph of Alexandre Lpez-Borrull

Alexandre Lpez-Borrull

Expert in: Open science, open access, scientific communication, scientific research journals, legal aspects relating to digital information

Knowledge area: Information and documentation.

View file
Photograph of Raquel Xalabarder Plantada

Raquel Xalabarder Plantada

Professor of Intellectual Property

Expert in: Copyright; limits of exclusive rights; online violations; Internet law; private international law.

Knowledge area: Intellectual Property.

View file

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