The coronavirus pandemic continues to create havoc around the world with increasing numbers of deaths and infections daily. Many more countries have also reported new cases over the past few weeks and with each passing day, the level of fear and anxiety in societies everywhere is increasing.
Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently referred to the virus as an “enemy against humanity”, as never before the world has been threatened and affected in this manner.
The big question on everyone’s mind is when will this all end and how soon will persons be able to get on with their daily lives. The reality of the situation is that no one knows for sure, as this will be dependent on how soon a vaccine is developed, tested and given the necessary approval for use.
On Monday, the world received positive news signalling that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the development of a vaccine to halt the spread of the virus. International news outlets reported that based on a preliminary analysis, the first effective coronavirus vaccine could be ready soon, and it would be able to prevent more than 90 per cent of people from getting COVID-19.
A vaccine – alongside better treatments – is seen as the best way of getting out of the restrictions that have been imposed on all our lives. According to WHO, there are around a dozen in the final stages of testing – known as a phase three trial – but this is the first to show any results.
The vaccine has been tested on tens of thousands of people across six countries with no safety concerns having been raised, and the companies plan to take it to regulators for final approval, with the hope of it being in widespread use before the end of the year.
The vaccine uses a completely experimental approach –- that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code – in order to train the immune system. Previous trials have shown the vaccine trains the body to make both antibodies – and another part of the immune system called T-cells to fight the coronavirus.
Two doses, three weeks apart, are needed. The trials – in the US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey – show 90 per cent protection is achieved seven days after the second dose.
The developers of the vaccine – Pfizer and BioNTech – described it as a “great day for science and humanity”, according to a BBC report.
Pfizer believes the companies will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.
However, there are questions about how long immunity lasts and the companies have not presented a breakdown of the vaccine’s effectiveness in different age groups. It should be noted though, the data presented is not the final analysis. It is based on the first 94 volunteers to develop COVID-19 – the precise effectiveness of the vaccine may change when the full results are analysed. It is expected that the companies will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators, the BBC reported.
Even after the vaccine is approved, there is also the question of access, especially for developing countries such as Guyana. The United Nations has stated firmly that engaging in a coordinated global effort to share vaccines across borders is the only means of effectively beating the coronavirus.
Several independent experts have called on countries to support the COVAX initiative for global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the WHO.
The experts have outlined that under international human rights law, access to any COVID-19 vaccine and treatment must be made available to all who need them, within and across countries, especially those in vulnerable situations or living in poverty.
Additionally, we support the call for international cooperation and assistance between developed and developing countries to ensure widespread sharing of technologies and know-how on COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.