While the Coronavirus outbreak globally is almost nearing a year, all eyes are set on the development and mass production of vaccines.
After vaccines hit the market, people will still need to be careful in the same manner they are right now.
While the Coronavirus outbreak globally is almost nearing a year, all eyes are set on the development and mass production of vaccines. Post vaccination, the fear of rapid COVID-19 transmission may go away; however, that does not mean that people have won that battle against the viral infection. Simply put, even after the vaccination is available, life will not go to what it was in the pre-COVID times. In an IE podcast, Dr Gagandeep Kang, microbiologist and professor at the Christian Medical College in Vellore has explained as to why people should not lower their guards even after the COVID-19 vaccine is available.
According to Kang, the efficacy of vaccines is still a topic of discussion. Kang said that till the time a country has something that can “act as a readout” that will allow others to recognise a person is protected or not, practising social distancing and wearing masks are important. Kang termed it as a correlate of protection. She said that not everyone will know who among a population is vaccinated or who is not. Therefore, the normalcy will not return the minute vaccines are out. People will need to be careful in the same manner they are right now, she added.
Emphasizing on what will change with COVID-19 vaccine, Kang said that it would be a game changer in slowing down the rate of infection transmission, stopping it from spreading quickly further protecting people in bulk. This will also lead to less severe infection cases in hospitals. Vaccines will also allow the country to reach a stage where the disease can be easily handled via testing and tracing. She said in Taiwan, with outstanding testing and tracing methods, it has been two hundred days since they had a new case. And all those that have been reported are imported ones. Similarly, with vaccines in the market, it is likely that in India testing and tracing will receive a huge help.
Furthermore, Kang pointed out that there is not a single vaccine which has 100 per cent efficacy. Citing some of the best vaccines like that of measles, she highlighted that even that is 90 percent efficacious. Also, malaria vaccine only has 30 per cent efficacy. Therefore, even if COVID-19 vaccines have 50 per cent efficacy, “the percentage is not bad for a respiratory virus.” According to her, a majority of influenza vaccines that are used vary from year to year and they may not work at all sometimes or they may have 60- 65 per cent efficacy depending on the viral strains.
It is to note that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the benchmark for COVID-19 vaccine at 50 per cent. Kang said that this benchmark is a middle range which has to be achieved among trials, therefore, the estimate for efficacy can be between 30 per cent and 70 per cent. Meanwhile, 321 vaccine projects are currently being pursued for Coronavirus vaccination where 40 vaccines are under human clinical trials.