Dependent on an effective vaccine

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - January 20, 2021 - 12:00am

The eyes of the world are now focused on Norway because of reports some people have died after being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has the highest efficacy rate among vaccines currently available. According to reports, 33 people died while some experienced side effects since the vaccine was administered in late December. All those who died were over 80 years of age and lived in nursing homes. It is now recommended that "doctors consider the overall health of the most frail before administering the vaccine."

There is still no evidence the vaccine directly caused the deaths of the elderly because many elderly people died in nursing homes in Norway even before the pandemic and the release of the vaccine. Both the company and authorities will further investigate whether there is a link between the vaccine and the deaths. The Emergency Use Authorization issued by the DOH on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will remain, pending the outcome of the investigation.

What did not happen in Norway was the immediate condemnation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. No one jumped to immediately blame the company for the deaths. No witch hunt occurred with the prodding of an overzealous crusader. We all know what happened here with regards to the Dengvaxia vaccine. We should also understand that all the current vaccines were developed in less than a year. Normally it takes years or even decades before a vaccine is developed against a certain virus. But since everyone is in a hurry to get the world back on its feet, anti-COVID vaccine development was at break-neck speed probably at the expense of knowing all the effects on people.

What happened in Norway may not help those hesitant to receive an anti-COVID vaccine. This may not be the last incident of vaccine side effects. Other companies with their respective vaccines may report side effects on those given the shot. But experts are not worried about the news in Norway. All those deaths reported were aged 80 years and over and had various lingering or chronic diseases. However, it still needs to be thoroughly investigated before being accused of anything.

The end of this pandemic depends on an effective vaccine that is accessible by all. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned the world was at the brink of "catastrophic moral failure" with regards to sharing vaccines. Rich countries have the privilege of purchasing and obtaining a large bulk of vaccines produced, leaving the scraps for poorer countries to fight for. If COVID-19 is to be eradicated, then everyone has to receive a vaccine. One unvaccinated individual can infect anyone, thereby spreading the disease once again. Imagine people eventually traveling to a country where vaccination of the population was low. Herd immunity may not be achieved if only rich countries have access to the most effective vaccines.

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