Vaccines on the horizon
This past week has seen the news of development of successful vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The vaccines have a claimed efficacy of nearly 95%. This is good news, and a triumph for science and medical technology that they’ve been able to be developed so quickly. There are other companies that have vaccines in the pipeline so it’s likely that there will be several more vaccines available in the coming months and years.
But the availability of vaccines doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the pandemic. While it’s great news that the efficacy is so high - which will contribute to a successful “herd immunity” effect - at this stage the performance of the vaccines in “real world” populations is unknown. For example, the vaccines have been tested on mostly young people - it’s not known how well they will work on older (and typically more susceptible) population groups. Also unknown is how long immunity will last. Will we need to get an annual booster shot?
And they have to be distributed and delivered. The newly developed vaccines have some fairly stringent temperature requirements around transportation and storage, and of course, all this requires infrastructure and training to be set up to allow vaccines to be successfully deployed.
Feeding into this will also be the inevitable vaccine hesitancy that has become prevalent in recent years in some population groups. Herd Immunity is, of course, reliant on significant penetration of the vaccine into the population. Sean Carrol wrote a great article in Scientific American which draws parallels between various forms of scientific denialism - it’s well worth a read.
While the news of the vaccines is undoubtedly positive I think skepticism is warranted as to whether life is going to return to the pre-COVID normal anytime soon. The advent of the vaccines is just the first step along the path.