THE BIG PICTURE
From the Virus to a Vaccine
There is light at the end of the dark tunnel
A recent edition of The Economist notes that the “promise of the new COVID-19 vaccine is immense,” while cautioning: “But don’t underestimate the challenge of getting people vaccinated.”
To this end, there are wide-ranging concerns about storage during transportation and upon arrival – in short, the logistical challenges are immeasurable at this time.
Among the pertinent issues and as Time asserted not long ago, “the asterisk is that actually getting the vaccine to people who need it will not be easy.” For starters, it [Pfizer’s vaccine] will have to be stored at ‘freezing temperatures’ of -70ºC, which means that potential manufacturers of what Time calls “fancy freezers” are working around the clock in parallel with the growing number of prospective vaccine manufacturers across the globe.
On the other hand, Moderna says its vaccine need only be stored at -20ºC – the temperature inside a refrigerator so to say.
The probable candidates from among the first vaccines that are likely to be approved include versions from Pfizer (a US-German collaboration), AstraZeneca-Oxford (an Oxford University vaccine that’s being tested in the UK and India) and the US-based Moderna.
Other contenders for an early vaccine hail from as far afield as Russia (Sputnik), China (Coronavac, which is also being tested in the UAE) and Australia (from the University of Queensland in collaboration with biotech firm CSL).
Overall, there are reportedly another 20 or so potential vaccines in their clinical evaluation phases and more than 100 prospects in their early stage of review.
Meanwhile, the WHO has said it will supply Sri Lanka with vaccines to inoculate around a fifth of our people so let’s hope the powers that be are quick to find other sources and set aside funds to subsidise vaccinations for fellow citizens who are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
This may or may not be part of the nation’s interest in joining the global COVAX initiative, which is being coordinated by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (a.k.a. GAVI) and promises to provide participating countries with access to vaccines regardless of whether they are rich or poor nations.
Under this scheme, up to 20 percent of a nation’s populace stands to be vaccinated with priority given to front line workers and high-risk groups.
According to reports in the mainstream media, Sri Lanka has expressed an interest in participating in this laudable initiative.
The bottom line is that there is hope, real hope – as long as we are careful between now and then; maybe until mid-next year or thereabouts. In the US for example, health workers and other high-risk citizens could be vaccinated by the end of this year and others by March 2021.
So staying positive (and COVID-negative) is the new name of the game – staying power as it were, will see us through the dark tunnel where there’s a glimmer of hope… beyond what’s been the darkest of years in more than a generation.