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Tired and protected people in the home, most of us, are told that life will return to normal once we have a vaccine that protects people from capture. the coronavirus. Once it’s so fortified, we’ll be able to rejoin thousands of people to cheer on our soccer team, invite as many people as we like to weddings, and so on. Bill Gates writes that even “if our best treatments reduce deaths by less than 95 percent, we will still need a vaccine before we can return to normal.” Caroline Chen reported at ProPublica that “the hope and desire for a vaccine to end global devastation is growing with each passing week.” Not so fast.
Dr. Anthony Fauci he predicts that “in early 2021, we expect to have a couple of hundred million doses.” The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is lobbying for vaccines before the election, even if this involves tapping various safety tests. However, it must first be kept in mind that even after a vaccine is found to be safe and effective, it will be a long time before it is mass produced and presented due to the challenges posed by the production of billions of vaccines. The Strategic National Reserve has only 2 percent of the 650 million to 850 million needles and syringes needed for mass vaccination. The shortage in silica sand, necessary to make the medical grade vials, is expected to decrease production. According to Ryan Cross, “No company currently has the capacity to produce enough vaccines for the entire United States, let alone the world.” Some estimate that mass vaccines could take four years.
It is true that some corporations, like Johnson & Johnson and Moderna are already expanding their manufacturing capacity in preparation for the distribution of more than a billion vaccines. The White House has formed a public-private partnership, Operation Warp Speed, to build manufacturing capacity before clinical trials are completed. The Department of Defense is leading the security of manufacturing logistics. But Gen. Gustave F. Perna, who is in charge of the efforts, told the New York Times that discussions about the equipment and necessary facilities are just beginning.
Medical experts they predict that “surely there will not be enough vaccine for at least several years, even with the unprecedented effort to make billions of doses.” About 70 percent of the world’s population, or 5.6 billion people, are likely to need to be inoculated to begin to establish collective immunity and decrease [the coronavirus’s] spread.”
For the vaccine to work, most people will have to agree to be vaccinated. After the introduction of the polio vaccine in 1955, the United States eradicated polio. However, it took until 1979 for there to be zero new cases of the disease originating in the United States. Throughout the world, extraordinary efforts have been made, with the support of the World Health Organization and non-governmental organizations, to convince people in developing countries of the vaccine’s safety and to convince them to get vaccinated. Polio remains a threat in some places.
The challenges in inoculating the public may well come from objections fueled by conspiracy theories against the vaccine. A popular belief, attributed to a discredited study published in 1997, is that vaccines cause autism. Other discredited beliefs are that vaccines weaken the body’s natural immunity and that they contain toxins.
We have seen in recent years an increase in movements against vaccination. The number of Americans who believe in the importance of vaccinating their children has decreased from 94 percent in 2015 to 84 percent in December 2019, according to a Gallup poll. The “anti-vaxxers,” who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children against preventable viral infections such as measles, which was eradicated in the United States in 2000, caused multiple outbreaks in unvaccinated neighborhoods.
Also, A survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that a third of Americans, 31 percent, were unsure whether they would agree to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Among them, seven out of ten people doubt the safety of the vaccine. It follows that for the vaccine to work, it must not only be safe, effective, and widely available, but we must also convince people to agree to be vaccinated, a serious challenge.
Even if everyone in the world is vaccinated, a gigantic mission, we may not yet have the herd immunity we are looking for because many vaccines are not as effective as such immunity requires. Herd immunity requires the immune population to achieve 70 to 90 percent of the total population. For viruses like the flu, vaccination has been effective only to prevent 40-60 percent of the population from contracting it.
Finally, many viruses mutate. There have been some recent reports that the coronavirus has been mutating, although so far it has simply become dominant and not a truly different variant. If it mutates, then it may require a change in vaccines, depending on the type of vaccine we get. (Those in development include whole virus vaccines, genetics, and viral vectors, some of which may provide protection against a variety of viruses, while others less so.)
All said and done, we better realize that the virus will be with us for years to come and accept that The new normal, which lives with various security measures, as well as testing and tracing contacts, will be with us even once the vaccine is widely available. Keep your mask close and friends at a distance.
Amitai Etzioni is a university professor and professor of international affairs at George Washington University. Her latest book, Reclaiming Patriotism, was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2019 and is available for download free
Ruth B. Etzioni received her PhD in Biographical Statistics from Carnegie Melon. She is a full member of the Fred Hutch Cancer Center member of the Division of Public Health Sciences.
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