News of a Coronavirus Vaccine Brings Hope to an Exhausted World

Photo+courtesy+of+New+York+Times

Photo courtesy of New York Times

Ana Clara Monaco, S&G Editor

Less than ten days ago, Joe Biden was proclaimed the victor of the 2020 Presidential Election, among a slew of other announcements concerning the political agenda in the United States. As this news dominated the media, updates on the coronavirus did not make headlines. The world has crossed the solemn landmark of 50 million cases recorded, and countries are re-entering lockdown as the second wave hits; yet hope appeared on the horizon on November 9, taking the form of an announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech reporting a 90%-effective vaccine candidate for Covid-19: BNT162b2.

Releasing only sparse details of the trials, the companies have confirmed that 94 out of nearly 44,000 participants have become infected thus far, the majority of which researchers assume had received the saltwater placebo. This data comes from preliminary trials, so independent scientists suggest waiting until long-term data has been collected to begin celebrations. Pfizer’s mRNA-based drug is the first of 11 global vaccines in late-stage trials to project results, many of which utilize the same technology as BNT162b2 and will benefit from the developments. Pfizer will likely apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization following upcoming analyses of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. If all goes well, there still remain countless challenges to overcome. The effort of distribution relies heavily on collaboration among companies, federal and state agencies, and middlemen: government must dictate where and to whom to distribute the vaccine, medical suppliers must provide hospitals with proper equipment, employees must be trained to store and administer the drug, and millions of Americans must be persuaded to get the shot in the first place, not to mention returning four weeks later for the second dose. The 50 million doses expected to be manufactured this year and distributed globally will only vaccinate 12.5 million Americans – creating the governmental dilemma of which lives to save. Rural populations will most likely be unable to administer the drug before it goes bad, as most cannot afford freezers to store the vaccine in minus 70 degrees Celsius. The vaccine has followed the virus in becoming a heavily politicized issue, against Pfizer’s best efforts to separate the medical and health aspects of the pandemic from the political through a refusal of $1.95 billion from the federal Operation Warp Speed. The country has observed a noisy minority refute and spark doubt regarding shots and drugs, and the speed at which the coronavirus vaccines have been produced will only heighten uncertainties. Many, on the other hand, will substitute cautionary measures for a trip to the health clinic, yet masks and social distancing will remain necessary until the crisis is subdued. If the divided behavior and nature of the country during the pandemic – 34 states mandating masks and extremists continuing to declare Covid-19 a hoax –  is any indication of what we should expect as this vaccine reaches the public, Donald Trump, in a statement made repeatedly throughout his presidency, has described it best: “What the hell is going on?”