By Dr. K E Karunakaran –
Covid 19 pandemic is now reaching one year. Also known as the coronavirus pandemic, the virus infection was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. As of 30th December 2020, more than 82 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 1.79 million deaths attributed to COVID-19[source: Wikipedia]. The virus has caught over 41,600 Sri Lankans and death toll will soon reach 200.
The current wave of the viral infection has produced clusters and sub-clusters in most parts of the country. The unusual yet highly vulnerable location; the Prisons not only reported an escalation of infected persons but also a significant blood shed the country witnessed this month. The education sector is continuing to be the worst affected, still struggling to get to near-normal state. Tourism likewise received a very high blow. The ever vibrant BIA turned into a pathetically deserted place. The sector of passenger transport appearing a recovery in operation nevertheless continue to have impacts due to restrictions. Although the industry sector is still suffering due to the detection of infection in an apparel factory and other reasons, the agriculture sector continue to function reasonably resulting in the interest of home garden production as well. These are some of the negative and positive factors which brought impacts on Sri Lankan society. Many countries experience the situations worse than ours, suffering the worse including famine. United Nations forecast a ‘Hunger Pandemic’. The most recent experience is the mutant virus reported in Britain with more virulence.
Therefore, the entire world has the most fervent wish: the ‘covid pandemic should be brought to a halt’; easier said but very difficult to realize. Many factors play in this regard. Important are; health, socio-political and economic factors. An infection can be effectively be handled only by preventing people getting infected. Thus at present strict adherence to the hygienic measures are very much advocated, even with legislation. Lockdowns and travel embargo still very much in place. The other form is development of immunity in people. This would be achieved through vaccination.
Vaccination is not new to Sri Lankan people. The older generation are aware that the illness ‘small pox’ had been completely eradicated via the vaccination and the present generation do not know of such vaccine. Another good example of success is ‘polio’ which is also on the verge of eradication except in two countries in the world. The ‘Expanded Program of Immunization’ is being implemented with full coverage. This is possible due to the Primary health care system network effectively functioning throughout the country. Thereby the disease, disability and death are prevented and health of our people is ensured. Thus, infrastructure for vaccination against covid virus will be implemented when it is available.
In a general circumstance vaccine for use in mass scale among the population takes an average of fifteen years. This period is necessary for initial production, phases of clinical trials which are performed among groups of people, identifying effective dosage and frequency of vaccination, studying on immune protection and side effects. Once safety is ensured for use in the population, after ensuring its safety and efficacy and also licensing by regulatory authorities, then production of vaccine in mass scale takes place. All these processes require a length of time.
With regard to covid vaccine, within one year of the emergence of the disease, the world is talking about the vaccination extensively. This is because currently there are 60 vaccines on trial in 41 countries and 15 are on phase 3 clinical trials. So far three vaccines have been approved.
News came as early as mid-November 2020 of the preliminary results upon the efficacy of vaccines under trials. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 90% effective. The Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine showed 92% efficiency. Moderna reported about 95% efficiency of their test vaccine and the Chinese CoronaVac also reported showing good efficiency from the early trials. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is also shown to be 70% effective. These are some of the vaccine trials which made the preliminary reports. Trials are ongoing. There will be more vaccine trials reporting expected in the dawn of the new-year 2021.
On the 2nd of this month U K announced of giving the vaccine to its citizens the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine producer Pfizer and BioNTech are hoping to supply 1.3 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021. Russia also announced mass scale vaccination program initially to Doctors and teachers. Subsequently the USA regulatory authority FDA (Food and Drug Authority) approves the emergency use of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. There was also a news flash of allergic reaction to two health workers in the UK who received the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine. Both of them recovered.
Therefore, sooner than later vaccine against the Covid 19 infection will be available for the world population. Although vaccine will be available, whether people will prefer to get it! This will become a major issue. There is a high possibility that Health care workers and those working in the frontline of control of covid 19 spread are the first lot of people who will receive the vaccine. This lot constitute a small percentage of a given population. There is also a high possibility that people will wait till the ‘definite evidence’ upon the safety be established with regard to the vaccine. Thus public confidence needs to be developed. It was reported that ‘In an attempt to increase public confidence, three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — have all stated that they would be prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine publicly once it receives approval’ [source Medical News Today]. Nevertheless there are other concerns – the cost of the vaccine, storage, transport, maintaining appropriate cold temperature and the related expenses are to name some.
Thus the year 2021 is going to be the vaccination year against covid 19. The challenges are also ahead of us.
The data used in this article has been obtained from ‘COVID-19 vaccine trials: Live updates’ published in ‘Medical News Today’ and also in Wikipedia
*Dr. K E Karunakaran – Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health-Care Sciences, Eastern University, Sri Lanka
GATAM / December 31, 2020
Make vaccination record mandatory for voting. Every adult will get it!
sonali / December 31, 2020
Our tourist hotels should be converted to Covid treatment centers. Ukrainian tourists would be the first patients. More European Covid tourists should be invited. Tourism can be speedily revived that way. The MIG man would certainly be glad to be in charge.
SJ / January 1, 2021
Pity, such advice never came up when Italian tourists initiated the first wave of injection.
Raj-UK / December 31, 2020
So far, only the Pfizer, Modena & the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccines have been approved by the WHO. The Russian & Chinese vaccines have not been approved, at least, so far, as their test results are questionable. Even the Oxford vaccines was approved only recently due to test result inconsistencies. None of the vaccines are considered to be over 90% effective but around 70%. The Pfizer vaccine is the most expensive at around £30 & needs to be stored at -70 deg. C while the Oxford vaccine costs about £3 & can be stored in normal refrigerated temperatures. The drug companies have pledged to supply the vaccine at cost but it is the rich countries who are at the top of the queue. Poor countries like SL will have to wait, maybe, until the latter part of the year if expecting free doses, once the drug companies have covered the costs or possibly after generic vaccines, usually from India, hit the market.
SJ / January 1, 2021
“The Russian & Chinese vaccines have not been approved, at least, so far, as their test results are questionable.”
How questionable, and to whom?
All vaccines were produced in indecent haste unlike vaccines of the past. There are unresolved questions about side effects and long term effects.
Sweden, which constantly targetted by Big Pharma and global media for not clamping down on its people has a death rate of 745 per million, placing it far behind Belgium, Italy, Spain and UK, to rank it 13th in Europe. Belarus with 135 deaths per million and policy similar to Sweden fares even better than Sweden to rank it 31st.
So COVID-19 under the calmer democratic and humane approach has not hurt either Sweden or Belarus any worse than other European countries with harsher regimes.
Why do we refuse to look at the experiences of several countries of the Americas who despite poorer resourced fare far better than their wealthier neighbours?
We forget that this pandemic is another flu but with a faster spread.
There are deadlier epidemics like dengue that have been badly neglected in this country and some other countries.
I fear that the race for the vaccine has two parameters that are seldom referred to: profits for Big Pharma and global politics.
Raj-UK / January 2, 2021
The WHO & developed countries would approve drug only after evaluating extensive test results which have a success rate of over 70%. Any medication that does not comply with the strict test criteria are not approved for sale. The Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine was to be the first to be offered but was delayed due to test inconsistencies. Furthermore, drug companies have pledged to supply the vaccine at cost considering the worldwide effect of the pandemic.
Sweden’s constitution does not allow lockdown enforcement as it prevents freedom of movement but can only advise citizens to follow recommendations. Though Sweden had a high death rate, UK has the highest death rate. Developed countries carry out mass testing compared to adhoc testing in poorer countries which maybe the reason for lower number of reported cases. In UK, those tested positive are asked to be self quarantined at home & only those with symptoms are admitted to hospital. Many in SL do not come forward for testing fearing being locked up in a camp if tested positive, therefore, actual numbers of those infected are not known.
I agree that more people die in SL with manageable illness, such as, diabetes, kidney failure & even malnutrition & starvation, as well as, suicides & road traffic accidents, compared to under 3% of those infected who actually die from the virus.
SJ / January 4, 2021
You said “The Russian & Chinese vaccines have not been approved, at least, so far, as their test results are questionable.”
I asked about the questionability of the tests, and you have skipped that question.
Vaccines this time were produced in unusual haste and questions raised about procedure have been swept under the carpet. There are ways in which criticism can be drowned.
Check how the views of Dr. Michael Yeadon (ex-Pfizer research director for respiratory diseases) have been drowned by a planned campaign of hostile comments so that the original statement of Yeadon could not be readily traced on the Internet.
That is free media for the world.
Sweden refused to be bullied and has been targetted and labelled a failure. My point is that it was a false claim.
Sweden with no harsh lockdown has not fared badly and so has Belarus..
That says something. Should we not think about it.
“Furthermore, drug companies have pledged to supply the vaccine at cost considering the worldwide effect of the pandemic.”
When did drug companies become charitable institutions?
Pharmaceuticals have become big business in the past several decades. COVID-19 is a boon to them, and do not expect them not make hay while the sun shines.
We will learn sooner or late how Big Pharma has taken all of us fora thndering ride.
Raj-UK / December 31, 2020
UK expects over 70% of the population to be vaccinated by summer when herd immunity achieved & the pandemic eradicated by the end of the year but since the new strain of the virus is spreading faster in the cold weather, UK & Europe is under lockdown, probably, till spring. SL was not badly affected in the first round & the govt. has taken credit for controlling the pandemic successfully but despite a 5 week continuous curfew, which should have eradicated the pandemic, as, technically, the virus will be in our systems for not more than 2 weeks, apparently, Indian workers have brought the virus back, which questions the Govt.’s quarantine policy. Now it has been reported that 2 Russian tourists have also tested positive, which, once again, questions the Govt.’s strategy to earn a few roubles at the expense of eradicating the virus. Has the Govt. a strategy to eradicate the virus, apart from banning burials of COVID deaths?
RBH59 / December 31, 2020
Covid 19 pandemic is now reaching one year, Widely spreading the Official source preplaned and sure that the tourist arriving in accordance with the preventive and precautionary measures recommended by the competent health authorities development of efforts to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Then how come buried body with polythene under 6 feet is not preventing and able to enter out of the earth for transmission of virus. Now they found some covid patients from the tourism.
Good Sense / January 1, 2021
The author provides information, which is true for any program of vaccination. It is in the public domain that one of the vaccines require a storage temperature of about -90 degrees Celsius. The refrigerators to store that vaccine itself is an unimaginable cost. The cost of that virus is estimated to be about 75 USD. However, it is known that Singapore and Israel have got down the vaccine despite challenges of storage. The bigger issue can be the mutation of viruses. As to whether a vaccine developed so far would be effective against a new form of the virus , is yet to be known and tested.
Pon Lanka / January 5, 2021
Better try Chinese and Russians vaccines on Rajapakas ,Maithri, Ranil and over 70s to prove whether those are effective and trust worthy!