What you need to know about a Covid-19 vaccine
Infectious Diseases Physician weighs in on the positives and potential challenges of a COVID-19 vaccine.
This month saw major breakthroughs in the fight against COVID-19 as multiple pharmaceutical companies announced advancements in the development of Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech have stated that their vaccine could be available as soon as December 2020. United Kingdom based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is also in the late stage of development and claims that their vaccine would not need to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it easier and more cost effective to distribute.
Professor Graeme Meintjes, an Infectious Diseases Physician and Second Chair of Medicine at the University of Cape Town has been on the frontlines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic at Groote Schuur Hospital. He believes that the creation of a vaccine is a massive positive.
“Effective and safe vaccines that are widely available and accepted by people in communities will be a complete game-changer in the fight against Covid-19. The two vaccines for which there is now clinical trials evidence showed 95% protective efficacy against acquisition of Covid-19. If these and similar vaccines are widely rolled-out and scaled up in communities, this could reduce Covid-19 spread to very low-levels. But the virus is very unlikely to be completely eradicated by vaccines,” stated Meintjes.
With a global population estimated at 7.7 billion, manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine could be a possible challenge according to Meintjes.
“The challenge of making SARS-CoV-2 vaccines very rapidly available to the entire world’s population is an unprecedented challenge, not previously confronted in human history. Individual companies have a ceiling to their capacity to manufacture a vaccine – a maximum number of doses to provide vaccines to about one billion people per year. This alone would not meet the world’s requirements. Therefore, we need several vaccines to be tested and shown to be effective and safe, to meet the challenge of making vaccines available wherever they are needed, this being a global pandemic,” explained Meintjes.
It is important for everyone to take the vaccine once available according to Meintjes.
“We would advise every South African to take the vaccine when available, unless they had a medical condition that made it unsafe for them to do so, such as a severe allergy to constituents of that vaccine. This is unusual. If everyone takes the vaccine, they both protect themselves and reduce the spread of the virus in communities helping to achieve what is called herd immunity,” he said.
Whilst vaccines may soon be available. It is important to remember to continue with preventative measures according to Meintjes.
“When the vaccine is introduced, we would still advise adherence to other preventive measures in communities such as mask wearing, hand sanitizing and physical distancing. It is feasible that once there is adequate vaccine coverage and we are sure that spread of the virus is being adequately prevented by the vaccine, that certain of the other preventive measures could be eased,” he concluded.