The Reality of a COVID-19 Vaccine
By: April Feng
News of a COVID-19 vaccine has brought hope of finally ending the current five-month-long pandemic. However, the vaccine is only the beginning of the road to recovery, as there is still a long way back to normal.
Although a coronavirus vaccine would certainly help to make the pandemic situation better, it is unlikely that a vaccine would offer complete protection against the virus. Additionally, false hopes are being fed by “promising initial results” and the rising stock prices of vaccine manufacturers. The Trump administration is further feeding these hopes by stating “projections of a vaccine as early as October,” according to The Atlantic.
Jesse Goodman, the former chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, says, “Even when a vaccine is introduced, I think we will have several months of significant infection or at least risk of infection to look forward to.” Although there are already 27 vaccines in Phase 3 trials, it will still take many more months.
A vaccine can only bring the beginning of recovery, and there is no telling how long recovery itself will take. According to Kanta Subbarao, the director of the Melbourne center of the World Health Organization, “There’s a lot of hope riding on these vaccines, [so] nobody wants to hear it’s not just right around the corner.”
The US Operation Warp Speed has helped to speed up the process of obtaining a vaccine through funding vaccine manufacturers. However, there are still many issues with the production of a COVID-19 vaccine. For starters, the technology being used has never been utilized in a previous vaccine. For instance, Moderna’s vaccine is “a piece of RNA that encodes a coronavirus protein,” according to The Atlantic, which has never been done before.
Additionally, there may be issues in distributing the vaccine in bulk. As seen previously during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, although millions of vaccine doses were manufactured, there was a lack of packaging facilities, thus slowing down the distribution process. There are currently preventative measures being taken, such as the network of “fill finish facilities” that has been created by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Another issue exists in the lack of a system of distribution. Previously, the Vaccines for Children Program would have facilitated the distribution of vaccines. However, unlike the previous 2009 swine flu pandemic, older adults, not children, are in the high risk group. This provides a problem in reaching these adults and distributing vaccines. The CDC has also been oddly silent on the distribution side of vaccine production.
To complicate the matter, a poll from The Associated Press News states that 20 percent of Americans would refuse to get vaccinated. An additional 31 percent were uncertain whether they would get the vaccination or not. This skepticism from the public will make it nearly impossible to reach herd immunity.
However, there is good news. According to Ruth Karron, the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins University director, it is obvious that the virus is not going away. Despite that, it is safe to predict that the pandemic will eventually end.