Don’t place all bets on potential vaccine

Besides finding a vaccine, the country should also learn how to eradicate transmission without it

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

NINE potential vaccine candidates have been listed on the Covid-19 vaccine global access portfolio and are undergoing the second or third trial phases.

However, even when the vaccines are finally available, the question of sustainability would remain.

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said it is hard to determine the authenticity of an effective vaccine.

“The effects of the pandemic itself transcend all barriers, and it is unprecedented,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Besides finding a vaccine, the country should also learn how to eradicate transmission without it, so that the common folks can return to their lives and for the economy to recover, he added.

“Learn from New Zealand on how to eradicate transmission without the vaccine, before they recorded four new cases, after 102 days of being free of transmission.

“So, we need to look at this not just from the medical point of view, but socio-economic, too,” he said.

Efficacy and funding were also brought up by Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur consultant respiratory physician Dr Helmy Haja Mydin.

“If funding is unavailable, then we cannot afford to bet on things that are yet to be proven. I understand that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has been liaising with counterparts in China,” he said.

Because of the uncertainties surrounding the potential vaccine, hopes cannot all be placed on the possibility.

“Even when one becomes available, we will not know its efficacy, safety profile and who will be excluded from getting them whether for clinical or financial reasons.

“So, we have to persist in our efforts of social distancing, mask-wearing and such,” he said.

Dr See, however, said the government should be more proactive into establishing talks instead of adopting a wait-and-see approach, despite feeling the country should maintain strict self-discipline to break the virus’ transmission.

“This is to ensure we can have a supply of vaccines once it is ready. The world itself needs 7.5 billion doses of vaccine, so negotiations should begin now for an affordable and continuous supply of vaccines,” he said.

On Aug 13, World Health Organisation DG Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the development of vaccines is long, complex, risky and expensive.

“The vast majority of vaccines in early development fail. The world needs multiple vaccine candidates of different types to maximise the chances of finding a winning solution,” he said.

He added that when a successful new vaccine is found, there will be greater demand than there is supply.

“Excess demand and competition for supply are already creating vaccine nationalism and risk of price gouging.

“This is the kind of market failure that only global solidarity, public sector investment and engagement can solve,” he said, adding if the virus cannot be rid of everywhere, then the economies cannot be rebuilt anywhere.