Despite vaccine breakthrough, social distancing and wearing masks may remain

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: Nov 20, 2020, 11:04 PM(IST)

Image for representation Photograph:( AFP )

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The speed at which researchers and pharma companies responded to the pandemic is unprecedented

In August, the World Health Organisation(WHO) had said that a vaccine will be a "vital tool" in the global fight against the virus but it won't end the pandemic on its own.

Firstly, like other viruses, the Wuhan virus too will mutate. The SARS-COV-2 is an RNA virus, so like flu and measles, the Wuhan virus too is more prone to changes and mutations while, a potential vaccine is likely to take into account vast majority of Wuhan virus strains, a random mutation occurs somewhere down the years. Then the vaccine may cease to be effective.

The Wuhan virus is communicable meaning it can be transmitted from one person to another. So while a quarter or half of the population could be vaccinated against the Wuhan virus over the next couple of years, the remaining population will still remain at the risk of catching the virus and transmitting it.

So going forward, social distancing and masks will remain the norm and other lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic will remain too and everyone will have to learn to live with the virus at least for some time.

The Wuhan virus was first detected in December in China. At least that's what the officials say, the first case outside China was recorded on January 13, and between the February 11 and 12, the WHO convened a research and innovation forum on the Wuhan virus.

On March, 18 a solidarity trial was launched with the aim of generating data to find the most effective treatments for the Wuhan virus. It is November now, so drugmakers had less than a year to develop the vaccine.

Under normal circumstances, it takes up to 10 years to develop a vaccine. The discovery and research stage alone takes two to five years that period was cut short. Potential Wuhan virus vaccines went into clinical trials as early as March 17 which is just three months into the discovery of the virus.

The speed at which researchers and pharma companies responded to the pandemic is unprecedented and while that's remarkable it also leaves room for future risks. There has not been enough time to test the side effects of the vaccine.

A candidate x or a candidate y may not show side effects after two weeks of being administered but what if there are side effects after a year? These are questions we do not have answers to and these hurdles remain.

However, there is no reason to not celebrate the potential vaccines. They may not end the pandemic, but they are the most powerful weapon till date in our battle against the Wuhan virus and it will be unfair to expect that this weapon - the vaccines - will come free of cost but given the situation, drug makers have expedited the process, and have delivered potential vaccines in a fraction of that time, less than one-tenth, to be close to precise.

Drugmakers have pooled in all their resources in the middle of a pandemic to come up with a vaccine. It takes approximately $500 million to develop a vaccine. 

Drugmakers are estimated to have spent around a billion dollars to develop a Wuhan virus vaccine while there should be no milking of the health crisis expecting drug makers to sell at cost price or below cost price is unfair and could snatch incentives from future rapid vaccine discovery.

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