Opinion: The Vaccine News Is Just The Start - Let's Hope The Government Can Do One Thing Right.
If you've been following the news recently, you'll have heard some properly promising news concerning a potential vaccine. Pfizer's vaccine, developed in partnership with German firm BioNTech has finished its all-important Phase Three trials and has found 95% efficacy with the most at-risk age groups. In other vaccine news too, there's been some good data from both Moderna and Oxford University concerning their own efficacy rates. Now, Pfizer will submit their data for regulatory consideration whilst we await the final data from other trials and hopefully gain approval which, given the mighty high efficacy rate, you'd think would come easily.
Of course, the big issue with the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been discussed extensively, is the problem of storage. Unlike their 'competitors' from the likes of Moderna and the newly-announced Oxford University/AstraZeneca shot, Pfizer's shot requires refrigeration at mighty-low temperatures and will only last in standard fridges for a matter of days. However, to be honest, once this is worked out, we face an even bigger challenge - the actual rollout of the vaccine and how it's going to be administered to the general population. This doesn't rest on us, the public, but most obviously falls onto the shoulders of the government who, if their track record so far is anything to go by, could be in for yet another berating by every journalist in the land. The news in the last few days regarding the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine has only added to the good news, although the big question of distribution and government policy still remains.
If the government desperately need to get one thing right when it comes to this pandemic, it has to be the delivery of any potential vaccine to the population. With the way that previous events have unfolded, it wouldn't surprise me if they outsource any form of distribution to a private firm, promise a "world beating vaccination program" and then blame the general population for not complying with guidance to have the jab, despite the fact the majority of the population will have complied as best they can. Of course, none of the balls-ups they could make would be their fault - the days of any British politician being held accountable for their actions are definitely long-gone. It was only yesterday that Boris Johnson was telling people that the end of lockdown is the "season to be jolly careful", echoing the words of classic Christmas carols like some comedic halfwit and with leadership like that in place and a bunch of even less accountable and quite frankly faceless ministers flanking him, we really do have no hope.
Of course, all of this is based on previous events in rather recent history, and maybe the government might surprise by making use of surgeries and mass vaccination clinics all run by the NHS and maybe the army if needs be, but with their current track record, that looks unlikely. There have been talks to vaccination every adult from the age of 18-50 from January, but if you look at it this way, they've got just over a month to sort that, and with their record when it comes to issues with exam cancellations and the delays over what to do there, it wouldn't be surprising if we didn't see this jab in November next year, especially given this government's incompetence. We like to think of there being light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the incredible rate of pace at which these promising vaccines have come around, but that could all be undone with slow responses from up on high. Let's not forget that whilst Edward Jenner's smallpox vaccine was discovered in 1796 and there was the beginnings of acceptance for such in the following 19th Century, the worldwide plan to eradicate smallpox didn't emerge until 1959. Of course, circumstances differ from then to now, as we haven't had two World Wars for one thing, but we can't afford such huge time lag regardless.
It would appear to be wrong of me to single-handedly point the finger at the government when the vaccine hasn't even been approved yet, but to be honest with the delays of everything else so far this year, we might just need to give them a kick up the backside several months before. Whilst the government are of course liable for any mistakes made in future, the issue with the vaccine and its distribution, but more importantly acceptance, also lies in part with the public. I'm sure the majority of us would be happy to take it - I know I certainly will, the majority of my family and friends will to - but the issue is not the compliant ones. The primary issue that this government will face, apart from getting it out there, is convincing either the anti-vaxxers (good luck with that) or more importantly, those who are vaccine hesitant. Their message is that they don't want to try what they call an "untested" and "rushed" vaccine. I can, in a very small way, understand what they're saying - vaccines usually take several years to develop, send through the respective trials, receive regulatory approval and then get manufactured.
However, with the current health crisis being the worst for a century, it's simple logic to see why the vaccine to hopefully solve it has come around so quickly. I don't like to use this term, but it sums up what I'm saying perfectly - the ongoing pandemic is unprecedented for modern society, and as a result, it should become abundantly clear why several different teams of pharmaceutical companies, universities and researchers have come together to develop a shot at previously unheard of speeds. Everyone wants this situation over with as soon as possible and to develop a vaccine in ten months as opposed to ten years is a very good start. The vaccines have to go through rigorous trials to make sure they're safe and if something does go wrong, the trials stop immediately. Once everything has been checked out, they restart again, make sure they have a good data set, analyse the results and then publish preliminary findings. That's where we're up to at the moment for a few candidates - Pfizer are a little way ahead as they've published their full results and have began to file for emergency approval to get the jab rolled out as quickly as possible. On the side of the regulators too nothing will be compromised in terms of safety - the MHRA in the UK for one
have spoken of their high-standards of both safety and efficiency which means this is, of course, a serious matter.
I think everyone's praying that when it comes to the vaccine, it becomes the core focus of government policy in the weeks and months to come, and with daily cases appearing to come down, although still high, there may just be a way out of this mess. It rests on the shoulders of the government first and foremost to get the distribution and associated policy right, and then the people to see sense and take the vaccine that signals a way out of this horrible mess.