COVID-19 Vaccine Developments Around the World
The UK Becomes the First Western Country to Distribute Vaccine
The United Kingdom has become the first Western country to begin rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine. Britain’s vaccine distribution process could give the US and other countries a preview of what challenges they may face in distributing COVID-19 vaccines to their citizens.
Britain will first give the Pfizer (PFE) vaccine to people over 80 years old, then to retirement home workers and healthcare professionals. The first Briton to receive the vaccine was 90-year-old Maggie Keenan. “It’s history and the best thing that’s ever happened,” Keenan said after her shot.
The UK expects to receive 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from pharmaceutical manufacturers in Belgium. The shots come in 975-dose blocks, and must be kept extremely cold. The manufacturer delivers them in isothermic boxes packed with dry ice. Then the vaccine has to be thawed and diluted with a sodium chloride solution before use.
For the vaccine to be as effective as possible, patients must receive two doses spaced three weeks apart. After the first dose, the vaccine also appears to provide some protection.
FDA Says Pfizer Vaccine “Highly Effective” in Preventing COVID-19
Meanwhile, in the United States, the same Pfizer vaccine is under review by the FDA. On Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration said data from the vaccine’s trials showed it was “highly effective” at preventing COVID-19 after two doses.
The FDA is scheduled to discuss Pfizer’s vaccine tomorrow, and could decide to grant emergency use authorization in the next few days. Emergency use authorization would mean that some people in the United States could be treated while the FDA continues its review process. Health officials have promised that vaccine distribution will begin within 24 hours if and when the FDA grants emergency use authorization. Once this process begins, it will likely still take several months to get the vaccine to every US resident who needs it.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Immunity Passports
Since it could take months to vaccinate everyone against COVID-19, but people are eager to get “back to normal,” restaurants, bars, and airlines may soon start asking for proof of vaccination. Health ministers in the UK have said that while the government does not plan to issue “immunity passports,” they may add a feature to the COVID-19 contact-tracing app that would make it simpler for people to show their vaccination status.
Legal professionals and scientists have expressed concern about immunity passports. Because we do not yet know how long immunity lasts, scientists say it may be unwise to relax public health measures completely once people are vaccinated. Lawyers have voiced worries about data protection and privacy, as well as the ethics of requiring customers to prove immunity before receiving services.
Despite these concerns, former CDC director Tom Friedan said he anticipates widespread use of immunity passports. Though there are still many unknowns about how vaccine distribution will work and what impact a vaccine will have on people’s daily lives in the coming months, Maggie Keenan receiving her shot was a step in the right direction.
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