In the past, decades have elapsed between the emergence of a deadly disease and the licensing of a vaccine. Alas, not today. Technological innovation and urgency – necessitated by health, economic, and personal liberty concerns – have culminated in 320 coronavirus vaccine development projects. This is especially impressive given that it has been a mere year since the first confirmed cases of the virus. Desperate for popular kudos, the British Government has already ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, estimated to be 90% effective, and has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine. The latter’s effectiveness was initially declared as being 70%, but it is believed that this could be increased to match Pfizer’s 90% with an alteration in dosage.
The extent to which a vaccine will be sought after by people around the world is difficult to predict. The views of ‘anti-vaxxers’ are often condemned by the majority as irrational and ignorant, but in some cases vaccinations are opposed due to legitimate concerns, often stemming from personal experience and fear for one’s children. In the context of Covid, worries have undoubtedly found fertile ground to grow as the timescale of vaccine testing and trialling has been unprecedentedly short. The unavoidable consequences of this include complete obliviousness regarding both the long-term effects of the drug and how long any immunity will last. The commitment of anti-vaxxers to their cause, however, is likely to be tested in coming months and years. Rumours have begun to circulate the popular domain that large gathering and event attendance will be conditional upon being able to provide proof of vaccination. Therefore, is it likely that desperation for some sort of normalcy now will outweigh concerns that may manifest themselves in the future.
Fear of the unknown has been a common thread throughout the course of British history. It is therefore certainly exciting and noteworthy that AstraZeneca, and the Oxford Vaccine, is amongst the pharmaceutical companies currently in the mix and pioneering research. What’s more, the Oxford Vaccine is cheaper and easier to store than other international developers: Oxford’s only requires standard refrigeration, and would cost £3 a dose, whereas Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, needs to be kept at -75°C, and costs £30 per course. So, although the near future may not be blindingly bright and the light at the end of the tunnel is yet to properly turn on, the power to ignite the flames had been found.
Please note that between the time of writing and publication there may have been further announcements regarding vaccine development.
Feature image by Bill Dickinson. Available via Flickr under Creative Commons 2.0.