Lockdown, social distancing most effective ‘social vaccines’ to fight COVID-19: The Union Health Minister

  • What is Social Vaccine?

  • How can social vaccine be made possible?

  • How effective can be social vaccine during pandemic?

  • How are IEC with targeted SBCC strategies controlling the COVID 19?

GS paper 2 ( Issues related to health, education and Human resources )

What is the context about?

  • The Union Health Minister has recently asserted that lockdowns and social distancing are the most effective “social vaccines” available to fight the pandemic (Covid-19).
  • Given the size of India’s population, coronavirus testing needs to be scaled up in a manner that can be sustained, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said.

What is Social Vaccine?

  • It is a metaphor for a series of social and behavioural measures that governments can use to raise public consciousness about unhealthy situations.
  • A social vaccine addresses barriers and facilitators of behaviour change (attitudinal, social, cultural, or economic) and supplements Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) with targeted Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) strategies.
  • SBCC is the strategic use of communication approaches to promote changes in knowledge, attitudes, norms, beliefs and behaviors.

How can social vaccine be made possible?

  • This is made possible through social mobilisation.
  • Social mobilisation is a process whereby people are organized in order to enable them to collectively think and act upon their development.
  • It can empower populations to resist unhealthy practices, increase resilience, and foster advocacy for change. This can ultimately drive political will to take action in the interests of society.

How effective can be social vaccine during pandemic?

  • When applied to pandemics, the effectiveness of a social vaccine is determined by the extent of dissemination and uptake of accurate information about personal infection risk and methods to reduce the risk.
  • Uganda and Thailand used SBCC strategies effectively during the HIV/AIDS pandemic to bring down the incidence of HIV infection, before Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment (HAART) was introduced in 1995.
  • These countries demonstrated how an effective social vaccine helped “flatten the curve” till effective treatments were discovered that dramatically reduced mortality, viral loads and infection transmission.

How are IEC with targeted SBCC strategies controlling the COVID 19?

Use of Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) with targeted Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) strategies:

  • Maintaining physical distancing in social situations and wearing cloth masks or facial coverings in public by 100% of people is key to preventing infection along with regular disinfection of oneself and one’s surroundings.
  • People are more likely to practise these behaviours if all leaders (without exception) promote them publicly and consistently, the whole community believes in their importance, and if proper information, support, and materials are available and accessible.
  • Building trust is key if government-imposed mitigation strategies are to be embraced by the population.