For the majority of people, a vaccine is seen as the silver bullet that will end the pandemic. More than 200 vaccines are being developed by scientists around the world, in a process that is taking place at unprecedented speed. However, the history of vaccine development is littered many failures.
But a report, from researchers brought together by the Royal Society, said we needed to be “realistic” about what a vaccine could achieve, and when. Even if an effective coronavirus vaccine is developed later this year, life will not return to normal in the Spring.
Restrictions may need to be gradually relaxed. “Even when the vaccine is available, it doesn’t mean everybody is going to be vaccinated within a month – we’re talking about six months, nine months… a year,” said Prof Nilay Shah, head of chemical engineering at Imperial College London.
The report says there are still “enormous” challenges ahead. Some of the experimental approaches being taken – such as RNA vaccines – have never been mass produced before. There are questions around raw materials – both for the vaccine and glass vials – and refrigerator capacity, (some vaccines need storage at minus 80C). Prof Shah estimates vaccinating people would have to take place at a rate ten times faster than the annual flu campaign, and would be a full-time job for up to 30,000 trained staff. “I do worry, if enough thinking going into the whole system?”
Do NOT put Dido Harding in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Many questions that will dictate the vaccination strategy remain unanswered :
- will one shot be enough or will boosters be required?
- will the vaccine work well enough in older people with aged immune systems?
With age, the immune system often mounts a lesser response to vaccination; that’s why, for example, adults 65 and older can opt for a high-dose flu shot — that’s thought to help bolster their protection. Scientists also know from prior research that the flu vaccine is less effective for people who are obese. It is too soon to know if obesity or age will be a factor in the immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine candidates now being considered for use.
The issue of long-term immunity will take time to answer, and we still do not know if people need vaccinating every couple of years or if one shot will do. Clearly the vaccine has been portrayed as a silver bullet, and ultimately it will be our salvation, but it may not be an immediate process. There would need to be discussion on whether “vaccine passports” are needed to ensure people coming into the country are immunised.
The Anti-Vaxxer movement or “Vaccine hesitancy” appears to be a growing problem that had become embroiled in anti-mask, anti-lockdown ideologies. “If cohorts of people refuse to have the vaccine, do we leave them to fend for themselves or have mandatory vaccination for children to go to schools, or for staff in care homes? There are lots of difficult questions.” Click here BBC article
Hopefully, by the time the covid-19 vaccination programme is rolled out in 2021/22, a high level of immunity will have been built up in the general population under 65 with a high level of herd immunity, supplemented by vaccinating the elderly and clinically vulnerable. Time will tell.