The beginning of the Pandemic
The start of a new decade shattered the lives of millions around the world. On December 31, 2019, the novel coronavirus also known as COVID-19 had spread from the People's Republic of China to the whole world. After the recommendation of the Emergency Committee, the WHO Director-General declared that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The world stands together in the fight against COVID-19, and yet the virus continues to surge. Numerous vaccine candidates are bringing hope to the world, but many people remain cautious due to the speed at which the immunization was approved by various governments.
The vaccine development
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic to Europe and North America by February 2020 was followed by lockdowns across the Western world, with varying degrees of restrictions achieving different degrees of success in reigning in the virus. To many in the scientific and medical communities, it quickly became apparent that a post-COVID-19 world would necessitate a rapidly applied immunization program. The 1967 mumps vaccine, which was the fastest ever developed, took four years. Could a safe and effective COVID-19 inoculation become available for citizens around the world?
Vaccine development is an arduous process, taking 10-15 years on average to accomplish. The COVID-19 pandemic put unprecedented pressure on every healthcare system and economy. Unprecedented and immediate measures would be required. March 30th marked the beginning of Operation Warp Speed, an emergency vaccine program implemented by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The Current Situation
Days after the US Food and Drug Administration started probing five allergic reactions in Pfizer's and BioNTech SE's clinical trials, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recommendations for those with allergies. The news came as a setback for researchers and immunologists who thought their efforts were a success.
Pfizer has warned people with allergies to forego their COVID-19 vaccine. However, this warning has not stopped many countries from using the Pfizer vaccine. Federal officials, the military, and health workers are already undergoing vaccination. Long-term safety and efficacy remains a concern among many citizens.
Antigens trigger the body's natural immune response. Local and systemic reactions such as pain or fever are common side-effects of a healthy immune response. Experts say that vaccine reaction is an individual's response to the inherent properties of the vaccine, even when the vaccine has been prepared, handled and administered correctly.
A successful vaccine keeps even minor reactions to a minimum while producing the best possible immune response. The reactions typically occur within a day or two of vaccine administration; rash reactions, common after a measles vaccine, can arise up to 12 days. With most epidemiologists hoping for an 80% efficacy rate, the current vaccines have demonstrated an impressive 95% or 98% rate. However, until approximately 80% of a population is immune, then efficacy of individual vaccines will be insufficient to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The way ahead
The world suffered two million deaths from smallpox in 1967. Human victory over smallpox with a vaccine is a constant reminder of what we can do together. The COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to the entire global community, and we must battle it together. Scientists and doctors globally are working together across national boundaries to develop a 100% efficacy vaccine without any allergic reaction.