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      The ethical–political dimension of social and community praxis: The case of Ecuador's early response to COVID‐19


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          Around the globe, millions of people have experienced suffering and death related to COVID‐19, an infectious disease caused by the SARS‐CoV2 virus. In Ecuador,the painful impact of the pandemic elicited early responses by the government and by local communities. This critical, positioned and exploratory case study analyses such responses, underscoring the fundamental ethical–political dimension of any academic and professional praxis aimed at the construction of healthier societies worldwide. While critical traditions are familiar with this stance, the inequalities and ideological mechanisms made visible by COVID‐19 responses may enable the wider community of researchers and practitioners to join ongoing collective ethical–political efforts. Findings from Ecuador underline the potentially harmful role of neoliberalism and issues of democratic legitimacy, significant problems before and during the pandemic shock and official discourses, which blame communities for their own suffering and death. Neutrality and depoliticized notions of scientific evidence are notoriously insufficient in these scenarios. We need to engage more deeply with diverse forms of global and local community resistance, in times of COVID‐19, and beyond. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.

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          Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response

          The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behaviour change and places significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences can be used to help align human behaviour with the recommendations of epidemiologists and public health experts. Here we discuss evidence from a selection of research topics relevant to pandemics, including work on navigating threats, social and cultural influences on behaviour, science communication, moral decision-making, leadership, and stress and coping. In each section, we note the nature and quality of prior research, including uncertainty and unsettled issues. We identify several insights for effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight important gaps researchers should move quickly to fill in the coming weeks and months.
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            Culture and health.

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              The COVID-19 vaccines rush: participatory community engagement matters more than ever

              The announcement of effective and safe vaccines for COVID-19 has been greeted with enthusiasm. Discussions continue about the ethical challenges of ensuring fair access to COVID-19 vaccines within and across countries, and which groups should be prioritised.1, 2 There are concerns about equity in access to COVID-19 vaccines. Estimates as of Dec 2, 2020, suggest direct purchase agreements have allowed high-income countries to secure nearly 4 billion confirmed COVID-19 vaccine doses, compared with 2·7 billion secured by upper and lower middle-income countries. 3 Without such agreements, low-income countries would probably have to rely on COVAX, which would achieve only 20% vaccination coverage. 3 States such as the UK, Russia, and Germany have promised or begun rapid access to vaccines, some early this month. 4 While COVID-19 vaccines bring potential hope for a return to some kind of normality, vaccine-based protection is contingent on sufficient population coverage and requires effective governance, organisational, and logistical measures within a wider COVID-19 control strategy that includes continued surveillance and appropriate countermeasures. 5 In this new phase of the COVID-19 response, successful vaccine roll-out will only be achieved by ensuring effective community engagement, building local vaccine acceptability and confidence, and overcoming cultural, socioeconomic, and political barriers 6 that lead to mistrust and hinder uptake of vaccines. From the outset it is important to distinguish between people wholly opposed to vaccination (anti-vaxxers) and individuals with limited or inaccurate health information or who have genuine concerns and questions about any given vaccine, its safety, and the extent to which it is being deployed in their interests before accepting it (vaccine hesitancy). 7 In conflating and problematising the spectrum of those who do not accept vaccination, authorities might further erode trust and confidence, thereby exacerbating rather than resolving the factors underlying vaccine hesitancy. COVID-19 vaccines arrive as the social contract between some governments and their populations is being eroded 8 and when many people, especially those in vulnerable groups, have little confidence that their government will protect them. In the UK, for example, a parliamentary report highlighted that more than 60% of Black people do not believe that their health is protected by the National Health Service to the same extent as White people. 9 Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further marginalised historically oppressed and excluded groups, including people with disabilities and growing numbers living in precarity. 10 These groups have suffered disproportionate economic and health consequences, and have been largely excluded from social protection and resources needed to minimise their contracting the virus. The widespread impacts of the pandemic have illuminated the structural violence embedded in society. 11 Now these communities are being asked to trust the same structures that have contributed to their experiences of discrimination, abuse, trauma, and marginalisation in order to access vaccines and to benefit the wider population. Given such realities, it is instructive to reflect on the complex history of mass drug administration (MDA) and vertical immunisation programmes globally, which remind us that there are no magic bullets. For example, Sudan's Blue Nile Health Project (1980–90), a programme designed to control malaria, schistosomiasis, and other diseases via MDA and other ecological methods, had limited success; in some cases, transmission rates were higher after the campaign had ended than before it. 12 Uptake of immunisation programmes, such as human papillomavirus and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines, has been influenced by wide-reaching historical socioeconomic inequalities within countries like the UK and across other communities of difference. 13 In Nigeria, polio eradication campaigns in 2003 were slowed down due to valid concerns about the motives of sponsors, inadequate testing, and consent procedures, and unsatisfactory engagement with local knowledge about health and illness. 14 Efforts for Nigeria's polio eradication campaigns were eventually turned around through widespread community dialogues, which helped to foster social learning, establish equity, and generate and restore trust and participation in the programme. 14 Examples of successful immunisation campaigns, such as India's polio eradication efforts and rubella in the Americas, are rooted in wide-scale social mobilisation and systems strengthening.15, 16 A modelling study suggests that weaknesses in implementation of a wide-scale COVID-19 vaccination strategy will reduce the efficacy of the vaccine as reported in clinical trials and underlines the need for investment to promote public confidence in vaccines and maintain other COVID-19 mitigation measures. 17 The public is not a homogeneous entity. It is complex, composed of individuals, families, and other groups shaped by contexts, experiences, and desires in a constellation of communities with different patterns of health literacy, values, and expectations. 18 A top–down, one-size-fits-all approach has derailed countless well meaning global health solutions, and in the context of vaccine implementation risks leaving many groups behind, again. Policy makers need to understand this diversity and adopt comprehensive local approaches that give communities a voice, and the necessary resources to put ideas into action. Such community-led strategies can ensure diverse local voices are heard, map local concerns and alliances, and codesign programmes to maximise vaccine uptake from the ground up. Policy makers must accelerate dialogue and support the development of community networks, leveraging and supporting existing local channels that influence decision making, such as community and faith leaders, teachers, sports and youth clubs, and online communities and networks. In this way, the public health community can gain deeper understandings of intersecting local challenges and opportunities, while establishing trust with communities and building effective communication and public health messaging. Such efforts must be paired with investment in structures that enable people to contribute to this process, including global financing to ensure low-income countries can implement similar schemes. Participatory community engagement is cost-effective, increases uptake of vaccines, and substantially reduces health-care resources needed to achieve high vaccination coverage. 19 We outline recommendations to achieve meaningful engagement with diverse communities in preparation for the COVID-19 vaccines roll-out (table ). This proposed bottom–up approach devolves the power of design and implementation of communication strategies to local actors, supported by evidence syntheses, enabling them to mobilise local expertise that can engage with and shift attitudes on vaccines and wider government handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Table A pathway to enabling community engagement in COVID-19 response and vaccine roll-out Local level (boroughs, towns, villages) Regional level (municipalities, regions, counties) National level Primary aim Establish community COVID-19 vaccine task forces Coordinate and facilitate actions of local COVID-19 vaccine task forces Coordinate and release funding; coordinate and deliver national messaging Key actors Community leaders across multiple categories (eg, faith groups, ethnic or cultural identities, teachers, family networks, expert patient groups); third-sector organisations working locally (eg, youth organisations, NGOs); and general practice and community clinics Regional and public health hospital trusts or consortiumsPrimary health-care networks Departments and ministries linked to: health, local government, community, and civil society Responsibilities Map networks of relationships, trust, and social power; identify at-risk groups; map local influencers; identify trusted communication channels; define content for locally meaningful communication campaigns and make available in diverse formats; and work with regional public health and community services to implement and monitor vaccination programmes phased by priority groups, enabling locally driven expertise and processes Work with local community leaders to implement locally defined communication strategies; develop and strengthen regional networks to access resources for at-risk groups to enable uptake; share information and experience that is transferable across other regional settings; and provide data monitoring and logistical support, liaising with local trusts and service sectors to ensure easy access to local communities and resources are targeting the right groups effectively Provide funding and infrastructure support to allow joined up working across related systems and structures to enable a systems-wide approach to vaccine uptake; fund and deliver wide-scale multiple platform mass media of positive and routine experiences of diverse individuals, families, and communities receiving the vaccine Mechanisms for delivery Focus group discussions, community codesign forums, online surveys, direct outreach (online, telephone, face to face), peer-to-peer engagements, social media campaign Wide-ranging large and small public forums (including online delivery); production of educational materials; coordinate delivery of vaccines; set up knowledge fairs, where community leaders and local health coordinators can exchange perspectives; establish new paid posts to maintain community involvement at local level Micro grants to community task forces and community groups (including young people) to promote vaccines and vaccination programmes in meaningful ways Mistakes now risk cementing mistrust in the ability of science and governments to manage the pandemic. Listening to those who have the most at stake will pave the way for much needed change and widespread engagement with and support for COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

                Author and article information

                J Community Appl Soc Psychol
                J Community Appl Soc Psychol
                Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology
                John Wiley and Sons Inc. (Hoboken )
                11 July 2021
                11 July 2021
                : 10.1002/casp.2557
                [ 1 ] Faculty of Psychological Sciences University of Guayaquil Guayaquil Ecuador
                Author notes
                [*] [* ] Correspondence

                Manuel Capella, University of Guayaquil, Guayaquil, Ecuador.

                Email: manuel.capellap@ 123456ug.edu.ec

                Author information
                © 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

                This article is being made freely available through PubMed Central as part of the COVID-19 public health emergency response. It can be used for unrestricted research re-use and analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source, for the duration of the public health emergency.

                : 03 April 2021
                : 30 November 2020
                : 26 May 2021
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Pages: 13, Words: 8102
                Research Article
                Research Articles
                Custom metadata
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_JATSPMC version:6.0.7 mode:remove_FC converted:09.09.2021

                covid‐19,critical community psychology,ecuador,latin america,liberation psychology


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