If there is one piece of positive news among all the dreary coronavirus developments, it is the rapid work being done on a vaccine.
More than 100 candidates for a vaccine are being tested, at least eight of which are in clinical development. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week that all these efforts represent a plan to put "multiple shots on goal."
What's more, a number of drug companies are going forward with on-spec production of vaccines so they would have a head start if clinical trials show that one is safe and effective. But this determined action carries the risk of false expectations. It is, to be clear, not certain that there will be an effective vaccine. And if there is one or more, it could take years to produce and distribute enough doses to eradicate the disease.
In addition, the issues surrounding how to distribute vaccines present troubling questions. Unless these issues are addressed, the race to develop vaccines could turn into an ugly fight that impedes recovery.
Even within the USA, there's little evidence of a plan for how vaccines might be distributed in the early days when there are not enough to go around.
"We haven't yet gotten to those downstream strategies," Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist who says he was unfairly ousted from the Department of Health and Human Services, told a House panel Thursday.
In allocating the first available vaccine doses, surely hospital workers and EMTs should be at the top of the list. Other first responders would rank high as well.
It might also make sense to prioritize grocery store clerks, factory workers and others who work at specific locations, sometimes in tight quarters. From a utilitarian point of view, the people at the bottom of the list would be white-collar professionals with the flexibility to work from home or practice some social distancing at offices.
There will likely be some who refuse to get vaccinated over irrational fears peddled by conspiracists. Scientists say America won't develop what is known as herd immunity unless roughly 70% of the population has immunity.
Internationally, the demands are even greater.
Right now, United Nations scientists are collaborating as they work on parallel tracks. But if and when one country has a workable product, it will likely come under immense pressure to use it at home before sharing with other parts of the world.
To some degree, this is to be expected. But there are some self-interested reasons for cooperation. The first, or the most effective, vaccine might come from Britain, China or India. Eradicating the coronavirus from large cities in Asia, Africa and South America is imperative so that it doesn't fester and potentially come back here.
The tricky issues surrounding mass inoculations aren't being sufficiently discussed or planned for. With scientists saying that one or more vaccines could complete trials as early as this fall, this is looking like one more area for which the nation is not fully prepared.
The Gainesville Sun
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD
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