Does a vaccine in opposition to Covid-19 herald the top of the pandemic?

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The author is professor of infectious illness epidemiology at Imperial Faculty London

Pleasure swept the globe on Monday with the announcement of the stellar — however early — outcomes from a vaccine candidate in opposition to Covid-19.

In its press launch, the drug firm Pfizer introduced that its vaccine had been proven to be “greater than 90 per cent efficient in stopping Covid-19 in members”. Does this imply that the top of the pandemic is in sight?

Whereas that is undoubtedly excellent news, it is very important keep in mind that this vaccine remains to be within the comparatively early phases of testing. To grasp the potential of a vaccine we have to know the way efficacious the vaccine is and the way lengthy that efficacy is maintained.

The preliminary outcomes inform us that the vaccine has better than 90 per cent efficacy at seven days after the second dose is taken. Additional outcomes will observe shortly giving efficacy outcomes at 14 days. Within the coming months extra information will accrue that may inform us whether or not this efficacy is maintained.

This may even point out whether or not folks will want common yearly pictures. We even have but to study whether or not the efficacy varies in several folks; for instance, flu vaccines are typically much less efficient in older folks.

Coupled with information on efficacy, it’s vital to know if a vaccine that will probably be given to in any other case wholesome folks is protected. Encouragingly, the Pfizer trial has not reported to this point any extreme antagonistic occasions within the 43,500 trial members. Whereas most vaccine-associated extreme reactions happen shortly after vaccination, it will likely be vital that trial members — and people vaccinated following licensure — are intently adopted to make sure that the advantages of receiving the vaccine outweigh any dangers.

The true problem comes subsequent — how will we vaccinate the 7.8bn world inhabitants in danger? Beneath present manufacturing functionality, doses of this and different vaccines underneath trial are prone to fall effectively under what’s required within the near-term. 

The Covax facility — a collaboration arrange by World Well being Group and companions to make sure equitable entry to vaccines in low- and middle-income international locations — expects to have as much as 200m doses obtainable in 2021. A number of international locations — together with most high-income international locations — have bilateral agreements in place with a number of vaccine producers to provide doses in 2020 and 2021. However for a lot of international locations, doses are prone to be obtainable for as much as 20 per cent of the inhabitants, a way wanting the 60 per cent-plus protection that’s possible required to realize herd immunity.

Every nation will due to this fact must determine find out how to prioritise that allocation. Most international locations are prone to give attention to high-risk teams; these which can be most susceptible to extreme outcomes such because the aged, and people which can be extremely uncovered reminiscent of healthcare staff. Within the interim, it’s possible that the remainder of us might want to keep social distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing to maintain transmission in the neighborhood low.

There are additionally appreciable logistical obstacles to attaining mass vaccination — one thing that has beforehand by no means been undertaken at this scale. The gear for vaccination must be manufactured, transported from factories and delivered to native well being centres; chilly storage could also be required alongside the best way — the Pfizer vaccine poses specific challenges right here because it requires minus 80 diploma freezer storage. A military of healthcare staff will probably be wanted to ship the vaccine in each nation.

So don’t neglect that the virus remains to be with us and that is simply the beginning of an extended street forward. It’d simply be value placing that champagne on maintain.

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