With news of various iterations of the COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out, there is indeed much to celebrate.
The encouraging development is that the pharma and research communities have come together to produce an assortment of vaccines in record time. And if this virus has successfully challenged and pushed scientists to use a particular strategy to stimulate immunity, we are now ready for anything else that comes our way in the future.
It is time for all of us to celebrate how far biology has come, how fruitfully we can manipulate biochemical machinery for the good of humanity, and celebrate the potency of science in its global endeavor. With efficacy rates close to 90 per cent or above, these vaccines may offer protection to all age groups and all classifications of people, from frontline workers to elderly patients and those with other co-morbid medical conditions.
The promising recent results from the vaccine trials has sparked some optimism that a global recovery from the coronavirus-induced slump could be in sight.
Time to take stock... even cheer
The reasons to cheer are aplenty in the GCC especially as it hosts the world’s major oil producers, who have seen their income slump as a result of the low demand caused by home-working and international travel restrictions.
London-based Capital Economics has raised its forecast for global economic activity in 2021 to 6.8 per cent and suggests oil prices will rise sharply to $60 a barrel by the end of 2021. There would be considerable pent-up demand for travel, leisure activities and holidays.
With efficient public health systems and ample resources, the richer Middle East nations should be able to ensure speedy access to the vaccines for their populations, although poorer ones will find the going tougher.
With luck, vaccines will prove effective and supplies will be quickly ramped up. Then the Middle East governments will have to focus on paying off some of the large debts incurred during the 2020 lockdowns, while trying to rebuild confidence among tourists and businesses alike. Such issues could take time to resolve.
Don't let caution slip
In spite of this good news, several concerns still stand out regarding the characteristics of the vaccine and how fast it can be distributed. As the time to market for these vaccinations is short, we still don’t know how long the protection against the virus will last, and what if any, are the longer term side effects.
Given what the world has been through over that past 10 months, we are ready and willing to move forward and work on the answers to these questions and others in the months and years to come.
The data suggests that one-fifth of the world’s 7.8 billion population, including two-thirds of those over 70, risk severe COVID-19 infections. Never before have there been efforts to vaccinate an entire planet at one time on such short notice. As the effort mounts, syringes, refrigerators, medical supplies and staff will need to be managed as well.
Science has done its bit to try and see off the virus; society has done it’s best to maintain social distance and adapt to our new normal, and now comes the test for the healthcare sector to safely and effectively distribute the vaccine to everyone who depends on us.
The coming months are crucial...
- Michael Davis is CEO of NMC Healthcare ltd.