The Guardian on the reality of Covid-19: Beyond blind optimism

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.”

Sample reports,

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.”

The Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.