KT edit: Vaccine race proves competition is good

The contenders - Oxford, Moderna and Sinopharm - have come a long way and if all goes well could begin mass production by the end of the year



At the start of the pandemic in March, virologists, epidemiologists and doctors said it would take at least a year to develop a viable vaccine against Covid-19. Gavi, an organisation that promotes immunisation and partners with global health agencies, predicted 12-18 months. The World Health Organization lowered expectations, a stance it believed was in the interest of health. Pharmaceutical majors should not be rushed in the pursuit of the vaccine, it felt, and rightly so in some respects. Officials at the WHO are still unsure if a preventive treatment against the coronavirus should be fast-tracked, though there are more that 100 contenders in the fray, with at least three of them in phase 3 trials that further test for safety and efficacy in large populations. The contenders - Oxford, Moderna and Sinopharm - have come a long way and if all goes well could begin mass production by the end of the year.
Sinopharm is collaborating with the UAE to understand how its candidate reacts among different ethnic groups and nationalities. The UAE is home to 200 nationalities and is the best place for final trials that could take a couple of months. Volunteers are eager to take part in this survey during which they will be monitored for over a month and given two doses of the experimental jab.
Indeed, there are issues of safety and potency that must be considered while manufacturing vaccines that are mostly derived from weakened viruses. How the general population reacts to the treatment would have to be closely tracked for months, even years.
The young and elderly could develop different reactions and complications. Gender could play a role too. Would it be safe for children? Covid-19, one must realise, is still a new disease and medical experts are learning more about its behaviour as its spreads among people in varying conditions and climates.
Mutations and the many unknowns make the germ a dodgy and deadly foe. Typically, a vaccine takes 5-7 years to develop but the race to counter Covid-19 is for a cause and the rush could be forgiven as lives matter. What we have learnt from this health pursuit is this: Humans will not sit back and let the virus overwhelm them. The major positive from this pandemic is the vaccine race that has raised hopes for cooperation among nations. Reports on Monday said Oxford's vaccine, the frontrunner, has shown promising results and could the pip the rest to the post. Other candidates could prove just as effective or even are better. Who said competition is not good?


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