In March, Boris Johnson said we would reverse the trend in 12 weeks and “send the coronavirus to pack” and since May ministers have been bragging about having a vaccine by September. Last week, the prime minister seemed far less confident, telling lawmakers that there was still no vaccine for SARS, 18 years after it appeared. A vaccine may not be far off though.
The World Health Organization is monitoring 1
China and Russia have already approved some vaccines for limited use. The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products has a vaccine used on healthcare workers in the UAE and says the Chinese government has approved its use in more than 100,000 people. CanSino Biologics is testing its vaccine on Chinese soldiers. Vladimir Putin used the pandemic for propaganda: he claimed that the Russian Research Institute Gamaleya’s vaccine was approved in August (it was not), called it “Sputnik V” and the Foreign Ministry is believed to have authorized a disinformation campaign against the AstraZeneca evidence.
Vaccine Taskforce president Kate Bingham says there is a “very low chance” of a vaccine arriving by Christmas. But she expects it to come “early next year”. The regulatory authority for medicines and health products must first approve any vaccine, then it must be produced and distributed. Pharmaceutical companies have already made millions of doses of some of the trial drugs, but distribution could be more complicated. Many vaccines need to be kept refrigerated before use, so seven “Nightingale Vaccination Centers” have been found, including Leeds Town Hall and Woking Recreation Center, according to the Economist.
Will I be vaccinated?
It depends: are you elderly, classified as clinically extremely vulnerable or do you work for the NHS? If so, chances are you’re at the head of the queue. But younger, fitter people who aren’t essential workers will likely have to wait much longer.
Luminaries like Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, have pointed out that it would be immoral for richer countries like the UK and the US to stockpile vaccines while others fight for waste. Farrar believes only 20-30% of the UK will initially need a vaccine.
We can’t be sure that vaccines will mean an end to the lockdowns. Scientists advise politicians to close their doors to prevent the virus from spreading so fast that hospitals are rushing out of beds to treat sick people, whether they have Covid-19 or another life-threatening disease. Early vaccines may only be partially effective and may not protect everyone. Flu vaccines are only 50 percent effective, Bingham said last week. We may need masks and social distancing at least until July 2021.