The Not-yet vaccine

Article and Visual by: Sarah

Edited by: Joaquin

This month, drugmakers Moderna and Pfizer invigorated hopes for an end to the coronavirus pandemic when they announced their vaccine had more than a 90% effectivity rate at preventing the virus; the success that the drug companies are reporting are beyond expectations. 

“The best we’ve ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an American infectious disease expert stated in June. “That would be wonderful if we get there. I don’t think we will.” 

However, in five months, his outlook has changed. “Well, our aspirations have been met, and that is really very good news,” he said on Nov 15, calling Moderna’s results “truly striking.” With the arrival of the vaccine, it seems our nearly year long-plight of quarantining and masked tension is over… or is it? 

While suppression of the disease is entirely realistic with a vaccine of this efficacy, several steps still remain before possibility becomes reality. The Pfizer and Moderna data still have to be reviewed by the FDA, and it’ll be important to determine whether the vaccines work equally well in older and younger people; researchers also must know whether the vaccine prevents people from spreading the virus, though the information may be practically impossible to ascertain in a clinical setting. Another essential unknown is how long the immunity of the vaccine will last. 

Both companies said they expected to apply for emergency authorization for public vaccination- and thus receive the go-ahead to begin immunizing higher risk groups; this could, at earliest, begin in December, but widespread immunization would probably not happen until April. There are many factors as well that make the vaccine a logistical nightmare, as well as the issue of vaccine hesitancy; millions of Americans question the safety of a potential vaccine, seen in a survey where only two-thirds of Americans said they would get a vaccine if it reduced risk by 75 percent. 

The development of a vaccine doesn’t mean we can all relax and start doing more things. The delay between announcement, approval and wide vaccine availability will be hard to wait out. This means that although we may celebrate inwardly at this triumph, we must still be vigilant in staying safe, masking up, and being mindful of others. Should a vaccine be approved, but remain in limited supply, it will taunt us as we continue our daily, albeit altered, lives with our masks, our hand sanitizer, and social distancing customs. People will be tempted to return to normal early, especially with the holiday season coming up. 

The goal is now no longer to learn to live indefinitely with the virus, but to get as many people through the time until the common release of the vaccine is  possible without getting sick. Keeping the infection rate low is important, because that’s what will allow us to push the virus into the ground as quickly as possible once we have the vaccine in hand. A death avoided will be a life saved; we are no longer delaying the inevitable.

The vaccine announcement is absolutely good news. It would be a tragic mistake, however, to relax our vigilance. Instead, continue to mask up, stay home and consider canceling or limiting your holiday plans with friends. We are still in the storm, but the end is much closer than before.