Vaccines, a Christmas gift for humanity

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Despite the best efforts of the medical staff, many thousands succumbed to the virus. But let’s consider that as of 30 November there were 62 millions cases of coronavirus reported worldwide to WHO.

The coronavirus pandemic had the world at its mercy. Millions across the globe were fighting for their lives. Hospitals had reached a breaking point as critically -ill patients struggling to breathe were wheeled in at all hours. Doctors and nurses were run off their feet, attending to patients afflicted by the dreaded virus.

Despite the best efforts of the medical staff, many thousands succumbed to the virus. But let’s consider that as of 30 November there were 62 millions cases of coronavirus reported worldwide to WHO, of which an overwhelming 60.5 million had recovered. We must admit that the recovery rate is very high, like in South Africa. Humanity owes a huge debt to all the doctors and nurses who risk their own lives fighting the virus on the front line.

As wave after wave of the pandemic surged across the world, we battened down the hatches and cowered in fear, wondering if we ever would lead normal lives again. We waited for a miracle cure. But as the days dragged on, we slowly dawned on us that the war against the tiny, unseen enemy wasn’t going to be an easy one. Scientists had warned us that there would be no overnight cure for Covid 19 and a vaccine against the virus was a long way off.

In the meanwhile scientists and medical technicians worked day and night feverishly in laboratories across the world to develop a vaccine It was a race against time. Who would be the first to make medical history and announce to the world that they have the vaccine?

Would it be the Americans or the Russians? Like the race into space, the Russians were in a hurry to get the accolade and announced their Sputnik vaccine to the world. But the world was sceptical about the Russian claim as it had not been scientifically tested and verified. Soon after, American pharmaceutical firm Pfiefer and German company BioNtech together announced that their vaccine had successfully passed all clinical trials and was ready to be rolled it out as soon it had been given US regulatory approval.

More good news followed. Another American company Mordena announced it also had an effective vaccine. Then Swedish company AstaZeneca and Oxford University announced that they too had developed a successful vaccine which was more effective than the others. AstraZeneca found that its vaccine had a longer storage life and that half a dose had a 90% efficacy rate. If we count Russia in, we now have six different vaccines just in time for Christmas. And more could follow. At last the world can breathe again.

When news of the vaccine broke out, there was a relief but no euphoria. There was one more hurdle to cross. Getting the vaccine to billions of people was going to be a logistical nightmare. Until then, coronavirus would continue to wreak havoc.

The rich countries have already placed their orders. The EU has ordered 300 millions doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca. Unfortunately, there will be no Christmas gift for the poorer, third world nations. They have a long wait.

By Thyagaraj Markandan