Vaccines give hope, but…

Imlisanen Jamir

The vaccines are coming.

An announcement was made last week by Pfizer and BioNTech that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate had 90% efficacy in clinical trials. Similar announcements about the Russian Sputnik V and Moderna vaccines followed soon after.

Pfizer’s testing is showing a 90% efficacy. Moderna’s is 94.5%. Both are in the homestretch of a race with a huge jackpot — potentially saving millions of lives and a way back to normal for everything from education to the economy.

The early results of trials of two COVID-19 vaccines are certainly encouraging. But there is plenty of reason for caution, not the least of which is that the trial results haven’t been published or peer-reviewed. 

The news about two seemingly successful trials of vaccines to fight COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a better time. With the onset of the flu season, festivals approaching and an air of complacency settling among the public, this season has the makings of being one of the worst of the pandemic. 

In Nagaland, only last week, 4 super spreader events resulted in a peak of 970 COVID-19 cases in the State, the highest weekly tally since the previous high of 964 recorded in between July 31-August 6. Couple this with the increase in traced contacts, and the situation appears grim. 

Amid that bad news, the temptation is to treat word of the preliminary analysis of vaccine manufacturers as a welcome cure at the end of a dismal year. It may be, but it’s too soon to draw that conclusion.

It is important to realize that the start of vaccination is not the end of the pandemic. It just means that the road has straightened out and the race to the pandemic’s end is now on a flat track.

Lancet, one the world’s leading peer reviewed medical journals, while commenting on the vaccines on November 22, recognized that 2020 has been a year of incredible scientific achievement. 

“In less than 12 months, researchers have characterised a novel illness, sequenced a new virus's genome, developed diagnostics, produced treatment protocols, and established the efficacy of drugs and vaccines in randomised controlled trials. Many people are feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time,” the journal said. 

That is a testament to what can happen when we marry science to necessity and take roadblocks out of the way.

However, there needs to be realization that we can’t just have a vaccine. People have to accept a vaccine. Time is needed for it to work and there is the consideration of multiple doses as well as time to develop in the system. 

The race to beat this pandemic has never been a marathon. It was more of a relay race, with different stakeholders having their own relay points to reach in the best possible time. Science had its job to do and so did hospitals. The state had to do things and so did the government. Corporations did, too.

But the final sprint requires the people to take the baton and do their part too.

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