Last week, Health Minister Chris Fearne stated that Malta’s first batches of the COVID-19 vaccine are to be expected by early 2021. Yet, a week has passed since that first announcement, and it may be time for a closer look at how the race for a viable vaccine may pan out.
“I’m very confident that transmission between people will be reduced by such a highly effective vaccine – maybe not 90% but maybe 50% – but we should not forget that even that could result in a dramatic reduction of the pandemic spread.” Prof. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s co-founder and a key person behind the vaccine told the BBC.
It is important to note the current status of the vaccines.
After last week’s major announcement of the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine spread globally, the European Union reported that it was close to signing a deal with the developers of this vaccine; Pfizer and BioNTech.
This deal would expand upon the pre-existing promises for vaccines, in which Malta would be receiving enough vaccines for the entire population to be inoculated via the vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and now Pfizer and BioNTech.
This same rhetoric has been shared by other vaccine developers, including Sanofi which is expected to widely distribute the vaccine by June 2021.
Currently, all of the ordered vaccines have reached their late-stage clinical trials which include several thousands of participants in order to test the effectiveness of the working vaccines.
Of these, all of them appear on track to be in wide range distribution by 2021, with a few countries – such as the UK – getting orders for some of the vaccine developers in smaller doses somewhere between the end of 2020 and start of 2021.
Those early vaccines are ones which will be most likely distributed to those most at risk – including the elderly, frontline medical staff, and care home workers. The larger bulk of vaccines, available once the developers go into wide range distribution, will then go on the inoculate the general populace.
“Thanks to the joint procurement agreement which we entered into with the European Commission earlier this year, Malta will be one of the first countries worldwide to start receiving the vaccine,” Fearne has said.
Given the statement provided by Sahin alongside the expected distribution dates of licensed vaccines and the status of current clinical trials, Fearne’s initial statements now seem to have doubt cast upon them – as the pandemic continues to create confusion and uncertainty.
Yet, whilst the race for the COVID-19 vaccine – and to end this pandemic – tightens, it is important to take into account the words of Sanofi’s chief, Olivier Bogillot’s comments on the topic;
“One laboratory is not going to be able to supply the doses for the whole planet – we will need to have several winners at the end of this race.”
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