Dr F Thomas: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 December 2020
A big announcement today is the approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the British Medical and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use. Whilst today’s news is being celebrated as the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, an opinion poll published by YouGov – a global public opinion and data company shows that 20% of people are unlikely to take the vaccine.
The question therefore is, does the whole world need to take the vaccine for the Covid-19 pandemic to be brought to an end?
The Coronavirus has become a nightmare for billions of people the world over, since it started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Since then, there have been 63 million cases, of which 41.1 million have recovered and 1.48 million have died.
People all over the world have had to change their habits during this coronavirus pandemic and continue to do so. Almost everyone now wears a mask, uses hand sanitisers, as well as observing social distancing and lockdown measures – all in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus.
Scientists, WHO and World leaders, say that a vaccine is the only answer to ending this pandemic, as once the lockdowns are lifted, the cycle of infection and transmission continues.
Several countries have been working on producing vaccines, including the UK, USA, China and Russia. Today the British government said that it has approved and will start rolling out the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine as early as next week in the UK.
Due to the urgent need to get life back to normal across the world, the research, clinical testing, production, and assessment of the safety of this vaccine has been done in the shortest possible time, causing some concern for many.
It has been declared safe for use and effective against the virus, after a study involving 44,000 people showed a 95% success rate. It is hoped that 800,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for immunisation to commence as early as 12th December 2020.
A total of 350 million doses have been ordered by the UK government.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS THIS VACCINE?
Studies show that having only one dose of the vaccine gives 70% protection against the coronavirus. However, taking two doses will give 95% protection. It would seem logical therefore that everyone may have to take both doses of the vaccine for the world to return to normal once again.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED SIDE EFFECTS?
During the trials, some volunteers experienced swollen, sore arms, slight fever, muscle and joint pains and headaches, which lasted 12 – 24 hours. No deaths have been reported for the Pfizer vaccine trials.
HOW WILL THE VACCINE BE STORED?
According to scientists, the vaccine must be kept at a temperature of minus 70 degrees Centigrade. When it is moved to a normal fridge with a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Centigrade, it lasts for only 5 days. So once it is taken to a medical facility, vaccinations have to take place as soon as possible.
It is worth noting, that the Ebola vaccine which was used sparingly in Africa during the outbreak in 2014, was also stored at minus 70 degrees.
HOW WILL IT BE ADMINISTERED?
The vaccine will be given in two doses, 3 weeks apart. It should ideally be given at least seven days before or after any other vaccine such as Tetanus, Hepatitis, and Typhoid.
The vaccine can be taken by people who have previously tested positive for coronavirus and a COVID-19 swab test will not be required before receiving the jab.
WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE UK VACCINE?
According to health officials, first in line will be elderly residents and staff in care homes. Next in line will be people over 80 years old and healthcare staff. The vaccinations will filter down to those aged below 80 years down to above 50s. Last in line will be the 18 – 50 year olds.
WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR THE UK VACCINE?
Pregnant women, children and under-18s will not be offered the vaccine.
WHO WILL CARRY OUT THE VACCINATIONS?
Clinicians will carry out the vaccinations at designated centres.
WILL YOU TAKE THE VACCINE IF YOU ARE IN THE UK AND ELIGIBLE?
It is not compulsory to take the vaccine. Many people are going to take it, but a few are still on the fence. However, studies have shown that about 80% of people said they will take the vaccine if offered. Understandably though, many are also scared of side effects.
Many elderly people are very scared of venturing out of their homes even after lockdown is lifted, and do not accept visitors. They are therefore keen to have the vaccine, to give them protection and go back to pre COVID times.
WILL THE VACCINE BE MADE AVAILABLE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES?
According to the British government, richer countries of the world will pay for the vaccine, to be given to people in developing countries.