Is “the end” really in sight?
|Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks|
|After U.K. coronavirus vaccine authorization, the beginning of the end of the pandemic is in sight|
The announcement came roughly a year after the first cases of covid-19 were documented in Hubei, China. Since then, the virus has taken a devastating global toll: At least 64 million people have fallen sick, and more than 1.4 million have died. Economies large and small were devastated by lockdowns and border closures.
That a vaccine could be developed, tested and approved in such a time frame is an undeniable feat. During an interview Wednesday morning, Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech, beamed with pride. We believe that it is really the start of the end of the pandemic, if we can ensure now a bold rollout of our vaccine, he told CNN. More countries need to approve the vaccine, he said, but its a good start.
Sahin was right: This is only the beginning of the end. And exactly how close the end of the pandemic might be depends on your vantage point.
Britain, which has pursued a muddled pandemic response in many other aspects, has been proactive on vaccines. The British government has secured deals with various manufacturers, amounting to more than five doses per person. It has preordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and it was faster than both the United States and Germany, homes to the companies that created it, in approving it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Unions European Medicines Agency now face calls to speed up their timeline. Other countries may also be feeling pressure. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country to begin vaccinations next week too, even though Russias domestically produced vaccine has faced less rigorous testing.
As the vaccine race heats up, poor countries could be left behind. They cannot rival the scientific or economic might of richer nations when it comes to vaccine development or procurement. Estimates from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center in Durham, N.C., suggest that some people in low-income countries may have to wait until 2024 to get vaccinated.
The European Union and five nations have already preordered roughly half of the expected supply of vaccines for 2021, Nature reported this week. Though some middle-income nations have gotten deals India, which manufactures many vaccines, has secured 2 billion doses the most successful have been wealthy nations like Canada, which has roughly eight vaccine doses per person.
The World Health Organization and other global groups have tried to address this problem by forming the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, also known as Covax. More than 150 countries have joined the program, which aims to develop and equitably distribute 2 billion doses of a vaccine by the end of next year (the United States and Russia are both nonparticipating outliers).
The problems are not just related to supply, but also logistics. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at an unusually cold temperature: minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit. That is outside the capabilities of many countries at the moment, especially at the scale needed for mass vaccination programs. The United States alone