Numerous First World countries such as the US, UK, Israel, Japan, Australia, and the EU have reportedly purchased 51 percent of COVID-19 vaccine candidates — which account for 2.7 billion doses — as researchers are busy testing the efficacy of vaccine candidates.
What About Vaccines for Developing Nations?
The news was contained in a recent report from the non-profit organization Oxfam and was revealed after analyzing data gathered by the analytical firm Airfinity.
While the remaining 2.6 billion doses have been promised to developing nations such as Indonesia, Mexico, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, and India.
As many countries are hunting for the COVID-19 vaccines, it is feared that developing nations cannot afford to buy vaccines to fulfill their needs.
“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have. The development and approval of a safe and effective vaccine is crucial but equally important is making sure the vaccines are available and affordable to everyone. COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere,” said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.
Indonesian epidemiologist Dr. Pandu Riono shows no interest in the news, arguing that there have been no vaccines yet as researchers are still busy testing them.
“Why should we panic? Which vaccines? No vaccines are available yet as pharmaceutical companies are still busy producing and testing it,” Riono told InsideOver.
WHO Launches Initiative to Ensure Equal Access to Future Vaccines
Riono added that developing nations can join a multilateral platform through the COVAX Facility—an Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance—to boost development for vaccines, treatments, and therapies aimed at fighting the pandemic.
The WHO set up the COVAX initiative earlier this year to ensure member countries’ equal Access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Each country will get vaccines for 20 percent of its population.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global health challenge that can only be met with unprecedented cooperation between governments, researchers, manufacturers, and multilateral partners. By pooling resources and acting in solidarity through the ACT Accelerator and the COVAX Facility, we can ensure that once a vaccine is available for COVID-19, it’s available equitably to all countries,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.
As many as 172 countries have joined the COVAX vaccine mechanism, as the UN announced on its website. The WHO boss told journalists that around 2 billion doses of COVAX vaccine will be produced at the end of next year.
The initiative is expected that all developing nations can get vaccines for new coronavirus in a more affordable price.
The Stages of Vaccine Clinical Trials
It takes a process before a vaccine can be widely used. Riono explained that clinical trials have four stages.
“The first trial is on animals, then to humans to see how they respond and how their antibodies are formed. The second phase is to find out the right doses. Then, the third clinical trial is to vaccinate more people to see how effective the vaccine is. After that, when a vaccine is ready to be released, we will monitor the vaccine’s efficacy as well as its safety,” Riono explained.
When asked about how long each stage goes on, Riono explained that it varies widely.
“It depends on several factors, right? Like the third clinical trial may take more than three months as we must make sure that the efficacy is high,” he added.
The number of volunteers involved in the trial also matters. If a trial involves only 1,000 people, it will not be effective.
“At least 30,000. The more, the better. In a vast archipelagic country like Indonesia, the trial can be spread in several big cities like Bandung, Jakarta, Surabaya to see the efficacy of the vaccine,” Riono added.
Will the Vaccines Actually Work?
However, there is no guarantee that vaccination can kill the mutated virus. This new strain of coronavirus triggers various reactions, from fevers to asymptomatic reactions.
The Director of Indonesia’s Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology Prof Amin Subandrio stated that the mutated virus is useful for researchers to develop vaccines.
The latest research from a Florida-based Scripps Research Institute showed that coronavirus’s mutated variant is more contagious than its predecessor. Such a study triggers speculation that vaccination will not be sufficient.
“Well, it could be. Vaccines can be either produced from the deadly virus or weakened virus. The vaccine can be effective in killing one type of virus; however, it may not be effective for the virus’s mutated version. Therefore, further research is needed,” Riono said
Discipline is Still Needed
As vaccines will not be ready soon, some agree that the key to ending the pandemic is implementing a strict health protocol.
Wearing masks, keeping a distance, and washing hands are essential to protect ourselves and other people during the pandemic.
“Do not expect and think that the vaccine is everything,” Riono cautioned. “Let’s discipline ourselves by wearing a mask.”
Implementing health protocols will be our new lifestyle for at least the next five years. Vaccination cannot guarantee that we can skip wearing a face mask and hand-washing.