What if we don’t come up with an effective vacine for the new coronavirus? How long is it likely to take, even if we do, to test, manufacture, distribute, and administer the vaccine in a world with 7.66 billion people, all of whom are potentially susceptible to becoming infected by the virus?
Ian Sample, the Science Editor of the leading British newspaper The Guardian, has published an excellent analysis of the factors which should lead us to temper any facile optimism with a harsh dose of reality.
Ian Sample (Science editor), “Why we might not get a coronavirus vaccine; Politicians have become more cautious about immunisation prospects; they are right to be,” The Guardian, May 22, 2020 (11.23 BST).
Sample quotes Dr. Larry Brilliant, who led the WHO’s smallpox eradication program, as follows:
“It will be harder to get rid of Covid than smallpox,” says Brilliant. With smallpox it was at least clear who was infected, whereas people with coronavirus can spread it without knowing. A thornier problem is that as long as the infection rages in one country, all other nations are at risk.”
One proposal from Gavi, the vaccine alliance, is to boost the availability of vaccines around the world through an “advance market commitment”. And Brilliant believes some kind of global agreement must be hammered out now. “We should be demanding, now, a global conference on what we’re going to do when we get a vaccine, or if we don’t,” he says.
Sample goes on to quote Brilliant, who states the urgency of action rather pungently:
“If the process of getting a vaccine, testing it, proving it, manufacturing it, planning for its delivery, and building a vaccine programme all over the world, if that’s going to take as long as we think, then let’s fucking start planning it now.”