The data on the efficacy – though preliminary evaluations in some cases – of three vaccines have been made public now. This is promising enough to make us all believe that we’re close to a solution – perhaps closer than one might have assumed earlier. In fact, some in countries that do not have a tie-up in place for the production of either of these promising candidates are even considering the opportunities of vaccine tourism as well.
We may not have witnessed progress of such scale and pace before in the case of science. Some may dub it the work of removing red-tape that has caused such boost in activity and eventual results too. This would show us the impact of getting rid of stagnancy in any system. It is fair enough to be cautious when you view the entire process – but this caution must not become equivalent to overstepping. Now is the time to be wary of those propagating a pseudoscience that mars the value of vaccines. It is no truth unknown that some countries are still lagging in attaining immunity against certain diseases owing to their highly conservative collective stance against vaccination. Given the nature of the virus and how it has demonstrated its spread, there is no better fitting guard than immunisation through vaccines. To solely rely on ideas like herd immunity would resemble giving up the steering wheel to an unreliable player like luck. After all, even herd immunity is a rather restricted concept – even if considered to work – given how movement between groups of people with at least a single infected individual somewhere along the course, could break the net of safety. It rightly is the time to reaffirm belief in vaccination and for this reason, pump up the effort to spread awareness about the science behind it.
But, social aversion is not the only issue that must be factored in while thinking of how one can expand the reach of vaccination drives. There will initially be a phase-by-phase process that targets the most vulnerable first and gradually bring in others. For the entire drive to go about without any hindrance, there should be great emphasis on storage too. As is known by now, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines demand extreme cold storage conditions and this may become a matter of concern especially in the case of the developing or low- and middle-income countries where such infrastructural facilities may not be present. Yet again, this more than ever underscores the necessity for global cooperation that looks beyond personal interests – and this is where the WHO must step in to seal the gap that can, if left unaddressed, exacerbate inequality in the global order. The AZ-Oxford vaccine sure does offer better news when it comes to transport and storage since it requires just about the same conditions as most other vaccines for which there are already facilities in the developing countries. It is also more affordable for large-scale use that literally requires immunising billions. The other two make use of mRNA technology which is more advanced than the rest, thus contributing to the increased complexity in production and distribution. It is such minute hitches along the way that we should be looking out for. The logistical blueprints must be scanned for fissures of all kind – these should be dealt with as early as possible, leaving no scope for delay.
It still is premature to arrive at close-ended verdicts about which vaccine is better or if any of these are as yet qualified to be given the nod for wide use. But, the good news certainly takes away some weight from all of our shoulders for there does appear a shortened span standing between now and normalcy. Until then we can continue doing the best and nothing short of it to keep outbreaks under control. This inoculum of hope should keep us moving forward.