COVID-19 caused the nation to shut down and wreaked havoc on everyone’s daily lives. International travel has been halted, restaurants and businesses have been closed, and large gatherings and celebrations have been forced to be postponed or canceled. After six months of quarantine and social distancing, however, people are developing pandemic fatigue.
Over 150 candidate vaccines for COVID-19 are currently being investigated in different phases of study. With a few entering Phase 3 studies, there have been talks of the COVID-19 vaccine being the “magic solution” and “magic cure” for ending the pandemic. Unfortunately, there are numerous factors that impact the efficacy of the vaccine and the extent of impact the vaccine has on the pandemic.
Vaccine efficacy varies. Some vaccines, such as the polio vaccine, has been nearly 100 percent effective. The annual influenza vaccine, however, is only about 30 to 60 percent effective, according to the CDC.
Even if there was a vaccine that was effective, who would be getting the vaccine? To mass-produce and vaccinate every individual requires extensive resources and time. Who would get the vaccine first? Healthcare workers? Those with numerous medical comorbidities? How about those living in shelters with limited or no access to healthcare?
Another limitation is whether or not everyone is willing to receive the vaccine. With the expedited research process, the large amount of misinformation and conflicting information about COVID-19, many people have been losing faith in the science/medicine and do not feel safe receiving a COVID-19 vaccine yet. Furthermore, there will likely be a group of anti-vaxxers who will not take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lastly, the immunity conferred through immunization may not last. Some studies show a decline in IgG antibodies within months after contracting SARS-CoV-2, and there are case reports of reinfection. Furthermore, historically, immunity for such viruses have failed to produce long-lasting antibodies and immunity.
There are numerous roadblocks and barriers — vaccine efficacy, the ability to mass-produce and vaccinate everyone, and the questionable and unknown immunity conferred from the vaccine — that prevent a COVID-19 vaccine from being the “magical solution” to end the pandemic. Despite this, a vaccine will likely be beneficial in slowing down the spread of the virus and possibly the severity of the disease, and ultimately be another tool in the fight against this pandemic and one-step closer to returning to normalcy.
Christine Lau is a physician.
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