The news is out, a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK and widespread vaccinations are expected commence on Monday Dec 7, next week.
It will be fascinating to see how people respond to this.
Which Vaccine has been approved?
This is BNT162b2. It has been developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, hence the name. To explain, BioNTech is the original developer of the underlying vaccine technology, while Pfizer provides logistics, finances and oversees the clinical trials, and is the manufacturing partner.
It is given by intramuscular injection.
It is an RNA vaccine composed of nucleoside-modified mRNA encoding a mutated form of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and is encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles.
It is what?
OK, let me play that back again.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) is used to encode part of the spike protein found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19). It is packaged within lipid nanoparticles. Once you receive this, it triggers an immune response against infection by the virus protein.
There is one very big challenge with this vaccine. It needs to be stored and transported at ultra cold temperatures below −70 °C (−94 °F). That will make distribution to a large dispersed population very challenging.
Who Paid for the development?
BioNTech started development when they received a $135 million investment from Fosun in exchange for 1.58 million shares in BionNTech. In Sept the German government granted BioNTech 375 million euros. BioNTech had also received 100 million euros from the EU.
How good is this specific COVID-19 Vaccine?
Clinical trial data revealed that it may have an efficacy of over 90% in preventing infection within seven days of a second dose. Sorry yes, I forgot to mention that bit, you need two shots, not one, with a three week gap between those two doses.
Obviously safety was also closely looked at. From the data available they concluded that there are no substantial safety concerns.
What do we not know?
There are of course things that we simply do not yet know …
- Will it work for children, pregnant women, or immune-compromised people?
- How long will it protect you for, a few months, a year, or longer? we simply do not know.
How much does the UK have access to?
Pfizer has an agreement to supply 40 million doses (10 million before 2021) to the United Kingdom.
Who will get the COVID-19 Vaccine first?
The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) will shortly publish its final advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
Those most at risk will be the obvious priority. In other words, if you are under 50, don’t work with those at risk, and have no health condition that puts you at risk, then you will not be an immediate priority.
How will people Respond?
I predict a wide diversity of responses such as …
- Enthusiastic Support: Yes please, I’d really like to end the current shit-show and get life back to normal
- Caution: Well yes, but experiment on my neighbours first, I’d like to see how they get on with it.
- Rejection: It’s all a hoax / vaccines are evil / you are trying to microchip me, etc…
So what then happens regarding that last segment?
What now happens will be truly fascinating to see and the world will be watching because they know it will be the same for them in due course.
A couple of things are possible.
Governments will not legally mandate the vaccine. There will be a clear refusal to do that. Medical ethics are also very clear on that principle as well, you never impose any treatment, medical intervention is by consent.
What might happen is that businesses and organisations will require people to be vaccinated. To perform a job individuals may be required to have the vaccine. A refusal would result in dismissal. This would be clear cut for cases where others are at risk and so it is not about protecting the individual who refuses, but protecting all those they work with.
For example, medical personal, dentists, anybody looking after the elderly in a professional capacity, etc..
That may then ripple out into other segments of society. To go to a venue or jam-packed public event the organisers may require you to have a vaccination because their public liability insurance might dictate that. In a similar manner organisations may mandate that staff who interface to the public must have it, again for liability insurance reasons because if they don’t and their staff are a source of an outbreak, then they open themselves up to being sued.
How the anti-vaccination folks will respond to that will indeed be fascinating to observe.