- The COVID-19 immunisation drive is expected to be largest in world history, and that too, within a relatively short time.
- Gaps may arise, and divisions emerge, as the world is getting "bifurcated" according to their vaccine providers, in an "East vs West" kind of equation.
- The inactivated vaccine platform (used by Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Bharat Biotech) means they are more "stable", i.e. they don't need super-cooling, and therefore can offer hope for the underdeveloped parts of the world.
- Chinese, Russian and Indian-made vaccines have proven attractive to lower and middle income countries, especially the ones who lack the capacity to sustain an ultra-freezing chain needed by mRNA vaccines.
DUBAI: What vaccine efficacy rate would you accept for yourself? The World Health Organisation (WHO), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and most health regulators agree on this: a 50% efficacy rate for a new vaccine is the "acceptable" threshhold.
Vaccine trial data show various anti-COVID-19 shots with efficacy of well over 50%. Some hits upwards of 70% to 95% in trials. And let's not forget: prior to the current pandemic, the fastest vaccine to be developed (against mumps) still took four years. Our list below shows a number of jabs against SARS-CoV-2 that took less than 12 months.
Massive trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers were done, giving them solid scientific grounding. While COVID-19 is still making a deadly run, today, there are a number of vaccines approved for use in different continents. And inoculations are well underway in different parts of the world, of which the UAE is leading, in terms of rate of distribution. Yet, there's an active anti-vaxx camp, spreading a whole bunch of scare-mongering, unscientific claims, which can be spread exponentially on social media.
Even so, more vaccines may be needed, as some will inevitably spoil during transport or handling.
For now, there's one key question in everyone's mind: What is the best COVID-19 vaccine. What's available now? Fortunately, there are numerous options at humanity's disposal.
The trials posted incredibly high success rates in several places. Moreover, new ways of developing vaccines (such as mRNA) had been found. The utility of tried-and-tested platforms (inactivated/attenuated vaccines) had been re-affirmed. In the UAE, there are currently four approved vaccines: Sinopharm (December 9, 2020), Pfizer-BioNTech (December 23, 2020), Sputnik V vaccine (January 21, 2021), and AstraZeneca (approved in Dubai on February 2, 2021). These are good reasons to celebrate. But celebrations have also changed, as they ought to.
We see today numerous new virus testing technologies, such as RT-LAMP, saliva and DPI tests in Abu Dhabi, antibody therapy in the US and stem cell therapy in the UAE. These may all come in handy in screening for — and fighting — the next pathogen that may threaten humanity. We're not done with coronavirus fight yet. But we've come a long way in winning the battle against the disease.
Following are the profiles of approved vaccines, the leading weapons in humanity's anti-COVID-19 arsenal, as of January 24, 2021:
Side by side comparison
(Call us out if you see anything amiss in this report, so we can update. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- We all desire for the best. Yet we also need a good perspective and be hyper-rational.
- Scientists have set a 50% pass mark for vaccines. Trial results show spectacularly higher efficacy numbers.
- With multiple successes in multiple continents, coupled with domestic vaccine production programs in many countries, there's hope we can build a much wider net against COVID-19 soon, by achieving herd immunity through vaccination.
- This is encouraging, though production and distribution challenges do exist as the virus continues to wreak economic and health havoc.
- Many of us want to be vaccinated, and competition is heating up at the global stage for those precious vials.
- The vaccine production sprint is on. As of the moment, demand far outweighs supply. It's just right that the more vulnerable members of the population should get the first batch of production.
- The US and Europeans, are focused on taking care of their own people first, with advanced purchased agreements signed with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
- China, India and Russia are deploying their vaccines around the world. More are in the offing. The latter has also started in earnest its vaccine diplomacy by giving millions of free shots to its neighbours.
- There's a much greater global awareness about the rigors of vaccine development, but the anti-vaxx camp is also working doubletime, peddling conspiracy theories, fear-mongering and outright lies.
- This once-in-a-century challenge requires the best effort, cooperation and understanding of all like the world has never seen before.