As the good news on a Covid-19 vaccine brings a burst of optimism, public mistrust could make this weapon useless which is currently among the most promising, warns the head of the immunization division of the World Health Organization Katherine O’Brien.
“A vaccine that stays in a freezer or refrigerator or on a shelf and is not used does nothing to stem this pandemic.”
On Monday, the American Pfizer and the German BioNTech announced that their vaccine was 90% effective, according to preliminary results. Professor O’Brien considered the results “extremely important” and said she hoped data from several other vaccines, also in the last phase of human testing, would follow soon.
“If the complete data shows that one or more of these vaccines are very, very effective it would be good news to equip our toolbox with a new instrument against the pandemic.”
But, she is deeply concerned about the disinformation and conspiracy theories that are growing the ranks of anti-vaccine, when the pandemic is far from being under control and has already claimed nearly 1.3 million lives. There is a need to increase “confidence that the WHO will not make any concessions on the safety or efficacy of the vaccines it is evaluating”.
Dr. O’Brien acknowledged that he was staying a number of important unknowns regarding vaccine candidates, like the length of protection they will be able to offer and perhaps equally important the big question: “Does this change the likelihood that you can pass (the disease) on to someone else?”
Gigantic logistical challenge
The WHO is counting on the arrival of these vaccines in the coming months but is preparing without delay for the gigantic logistical challenge of inoculating billions of people as quickly as possible. In the meantime, she has developed recommendations for giving the first vaccines to those who need them most.
“The goal is for each country to be able to immunize 20% of its population by the end of 2021, which would really help meet the needs of health workers and the highest priority populations, then, as the supply will continue to increase, we expect to receive many more doses in 2022 “.
Access will also depend on the ability to manufacture the vaccines in astronomical quantities, to package them, to transport them sometimes while keeping them frozen at very low temperatures and then to find sufficient personnel to inject them.
“A highly effective, safe, and manufacturable vaccine is only of public health value if it actually reaches the people it needs to protect and if it is widely used by populations. That’s the next challenge. that awaits us. […] To achieve a real impact of vaccines, it is at the level of its distribution that it is played out and that means climbing Everest “, Katherine O’Brien.