[Answered] Evaluate the role of international health institutions like WHO in handling the crisis of vaccine side effects during a pandemic. What are the ethical dilemmas faced in such scenarios?

Introduction: Give a brief context to the question

Body: Highlight role of WHO in handling vaccine side effects & ethical dilemma

Conclusion: Way forward

The recent case where Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine was linked to a rare adverse side effect — thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) has once again highlighted the role of WHO in handling the crisis of vaccine side effects.

Role of International Health Institutions

  • Monitoring and Data Gathering: During a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other organizations are vital in actively monitoring vaccine safety. They compile information on unfavorable incidents from different nations, examine patterns, and pinpoint possible threats.
  • Risk Communication and Transparency: They are open and honest about the nature of the side effects that have been reported, how serious they are, and the ongoing investigation. This supports the fight against vaccine hesitancy and preserves public trust.
  • Coordination and Advice: They advise national health authorities on how to manage side effects, including how to treat them and how to report them. This guarantees a uniform methodology throughout nations.
  • Research and Development: To create safer vaccines for use in the future and to better understand the causes of side effects, international institutions support research in these areas.

Ethical Dilemmas

  • Weighing the Potential Benefits vs. Risks: In the event of a pandemic, the risk of infrequent but severe side effects must be considered in addition to the possible benefit of widespread vaccination to contain the outbreak. This poses a challenging ethical problem.
  • Allocating Resources: Managing side effects and ensuring fair access to vaccines demand a large amount of resources, which can become scarce during a pandemic, particularly in low- and middle-income nations.
  • Public Trust and Vaccine Hesitancy: The public’s fear and reluctance to receive vaccinations can be stoked by even uncommon side effects, which could impede the overall vaccination campaign and extend the pandemic. It’s critical to strike a balance between openness and averting panic.
  • Individual vs. Societal Good: The decision to prioritize individual well-being by addressing side effects might conflict with the greater societal good of achieving herd immunity and protecting vulnerable populations.


Ultimately, international health organizations are essential to managing vaccine side effects during a pandemic while walking the ethical tightrope. It is a continuous struggle to strike a balance between openness, resource distribution, public confidence, and the urgency of controlling the outbreak.

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