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COVID-19: Need for a Social Vaccine

  • IASbaba
  • April 20, 2020
  • 0
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GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY/ ETHICS

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 
  • Behavioural Economics

COVID-19: Need for a Social Vaccine

What is a social vaccine? 

  • A social vaccine is a metaphor for a series of social and behavioural measures that governments can use to raise public consciousness about unhealthy situations through social mobilisation
  • A social vaccine addresses barriers and facilitators of behaviour change, whether attitudinal, social, cultural, or economic.
  • Social Vaccine supplements information, education, and communication (IEC) with targeted social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) strategies.

Advantages of Social Vaccine achieved through Social Mobilization

  • Empowers populations to resist unhealthy practices 
  • Increase resilience 
  • Foster advocacy for change
  • Drive political will to take action in the interests of society 
  • Hold governments accountable

Lessons from HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) Pandemic

  • HIV that causes AIDS is believed to have made the zoonotic jump from monkeys through chimpanzees to humans in Africa as early as the 1920s
  • However, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was detected in 1981 & was a pandemic by 1985.
  • Extent of Pandemic: From 1981 to 2018, around 74.9 million people worldwide were HIV-infected, and around 32.0 million died from AIDS-related illnesses.
  • Social vaccine helped “flatten the curve” till effective treatments were discovered that dramatically reduced mortality, viral loads and infection transmission.

How Social Vaccine was used in HIV/AIDS pandemic?

  • There were widespread information campaigns stating that infection occurred predominantly through sexual transmission and intravenous drug use.
  • IEC and SBCC activities targeted (and partnered) individuals, community networks, leaders, social & health systems to change attitudes and behaviours.
  • The core preventive messages involved 
    • Being faithful to one sexual partner 
    • 100% condom use during sexual intercourse outside stable relationships
    • Resisting peer-pressure for risky behaviours like intravenous drug use
  • Religious and community leaders were key change agents
    • For example, the Catholic Church in Uganda did not initially support promoting condoms since its use prevents life. 
    • However, later they acknowledged that their religion did not preclude the use of condoms to prevent deaths – which was an important turning point

How Social Vaccine can be adapted for current pandemic?

  • Effective IEC and SBCC strategies should contain the persuasive messages of
    • Maintaining physical distancing in social situations 
    • Wearing cloth masks in public by 100% of people (and 100% of the time) 
    • Regular disinfection of oneself and one’s surroundings.
  • Leading by Example: People are more likely to practise these behaviours if all leaders promote them publicly and consistently
  • Proper information, support, and materials should be made available and accessible. 
  • Re-purposing and funding relevant industries and small and medium businesses to produce materials such as PPE, hand sanitisers and medical equipment

Challenges Ahead

  • The components of the social vaccine should be in place before relaxing or lifting the lockdown.
  • A social vaccine also requires people to hold leaders accountable to
    • Invest in rapidly scaling-up testing
    • Meet the basic and economic needs of vulnerable sections
    • Providing psychological support where needed 
    • Not communalising or politicising the pandemic
    • Not compromising the privacy and dignity of infected individuals and their families in the interest of public health

Connecting the dots:

  • Persuasive VS Coercive methods – which is better suited for India? And why?
  • Nudge Economics – Example: Give It Up Campaign, Swachh Bharat Mission 

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