With two vaccines, normality beckons, but not time yet to let up


With two vaccines, normality beckons, but not time yet to let up

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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We are extremely encouraged by news that a second vaccine, with over 90 per cent effectiveness against COVID-19, is on the immediate horizon, offering strong hopes for an early return to normality.

Over the weekend, drugmaker Moderna became the second company to announce that it has a vaccine that, based on preliminary data, will provide 94 per cent protection against the novel coronavirus.

Just last week Pfizer unveiled its own vaccine, offering over 90 per cent effectiveness against the disease.

Together, the two have raised expectations worldwide for an end to the nightmare in which 54 million people have so far been sickened and 1.2 million have died.

It gets better, because another 10 vaccines are in early stages of development, increasing the prospect of several vaccines becoming available to fight this and other viruses.

We have taken note of the optimism of Dr Anthony S Fauci, who is among the world's foremost experts in the field:

“I had been saying I would be satisfied with a 75 per cent effective vaccine. Aspirationally, you would like to see 90, 95 per cent, but I wasn't expecting it. I thought we'd be good, but 94.5 per cent is very impressive,” he said.

Still, while we look forward to resume life largely as we knew it before the novel coronavirus pandemic, it cannot not be stressed enough that this is no time to put the brakes on the efforts already being taken to keep the virus in check. Any let up would be to squander the gains made at great sacrifice.

Because of COVID-19 fatigue, as well as the tremendous cost of fighting the disease, it is easy to become complacent upon news that the vaccines are well on the way. There are already large numbers of people the world over who are openly demonstrating against restrictions or flouting the protocols that protect us.

But instead of going away, the virus is raging anew, and in many countries, notably America, appears to be surging beyond levels experienced in the earlier part of the pandemic.

Some US states and cities are reinstating lockdowns, restricting gatherings, issuing mask mandates, setting curfews for bars and restaurants, and closing schools once again. Hospitals in some areas are overwhelmed, scrambling to find enough beds for the severely ill.

As happened at the beginning, major grocery chains are reimposing limits on purchases of household supplies like paper towels, tissue, disinfectant, and the like. Jamaica certainly doesn't want to get back to that stage.

It should also be borne in mind that the results of the vaccines are not yet conclusive, as the data on their effectiveness could change as studies continue, and as evaluation by independent experts intensify.

In respect of how soon the vaccines will be available in Jamaica, there is no great certainty. Reports said Moderna and Pfizer could produce enough vaccine for a little more than 20 million people in the US by sometime in December.

Like other small, developing countries, we'll have to rely on the World Health Organization, through the Pan American Health Organization, to look out for us. Even at that, the first doses will understandably go to the most vulnerable people.

Let's hold fast to the course.

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