A vaccine is our best shot at getting the world back on track. But the path to getting there is complicatedby David McAllister / November 9, 2020 / Leave a comment
As the UK enters winter under the shadow of a second wave, one question will be on everyone’s mind: just how long will things go on like this?
The long and the short of it is that the only chance we have of getting back to some semblance of normality is through an effective vaccine. So how far have we got?
“Phases I-III”—Trials and tribulations
All vaccines go through standard phases to test safety and effectiveness, with each phase marked by increasing numbers of participants. A Covid-19 vaccine is no different, but amid the pandemic many labs and companies have found ways to speed through or run phases simultaneously, meaning processes that would normally take years now take just a few weeks or months. Already, tens of thousands of people in a dozen countries are taking part in the crucial final stage of trials.
“Phase IV”—taking shots
After trialling, the next challenge is distribution. Here, money talks: the UK has taken the unprecedented step of pre-ordering millions of doses from six companies, while the EU is doing similar. On behalf of poorer places, UNICEF has pre-ordered half a billion syringes; the challenge ahead will be to fill them.
“Phase V”—trial by public opinion
But the true effectiveness of any vaccine may hinge not just on the rigours of science, but also public opinion. A survey conducted by University College London of 70,000 British adults suggests that only around half (49 per cent) would be “very likely” to take a Covid-19 vaccine, while a significant number registered concerns ranging from the naive to the delusional. With misinformation on vaccines so widespread, producing one that works may end up being only half the battle.
Sources: Chart 1: WHO, “Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines”; Chart 2, ec.europa.eu, unicef.org and “Covid-19: Pre-purchasing vaccine—sensible or selfish?” published in the BMJ, 2020; Chart 3, “Covid-19 Social Study: Results Release 21” published by UCL, September 2020