Archive for the ‘Vaccine’ Category

Now There Are Two, And Other Thoughts

Monday, November 16th, 2020

The Moderna Vaccine

Moderna’s announcement today that its vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is more than 94.5% effective in early trial results is wonderful news. Pfizer’s similar announcement from last week about its vaccine, BNT162b2, (also mRNA-based) gives us great hope that by mid-2021 the U.S. may have vaccinated most of the country’s population.

One advantage Moderna has over Pfizer is that its vaccine does not require “ultra cold storage,” as in minus 103 degrees Fahrenheit. As we wrote here, Pfizer says it has developed specially designed, temperature-controlled shipping packages, using dry ice, to keep its vials at roughly minus 103 below Fahrenheit for up to 10 days. But what happens if the doses are not used in ten days? This is one of the many things that is concerning governors and health care experts who are wrestling with the logistics of large-scale vaccinations.

We won’t know if Pfizer’s and Moderna”s vaccines can really do what it seems they might be able to do until the final results of their trials are known, but there is one thing we won’t know even then: How long will they protect us from the Coronavirus? Although both companies will follow all test subjects for a couple of years, if they each file quickly for and receive Emergency Use Authorization, which is all but guaranteed, they will go to market with about four months of data.

Will this lack of certainty about long-term protection cause people to forego vaccination? Personally, I don’t think so. But there is another possibility.

As we have seen for many months, despite the lack of competent leadership from 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, there are significant segments of the population taking the virus more seriously than others: seniors, those who are health-compromised, and myriad others who have paid attention to the science. It is conceivable these groups will take the vaccine, but refuse to return to any semblance of pre-pandemic life until long-term efficacy is known, and that won’t happen until well into 2022. If this happens, it is likely that masks, remote work, telehealth, and a host of other accommodations we’ve made due to the pandemic are here for quite some time longer.

Speaking of vaccines, here comes China

Flying under the media radar was an article in Foreign Affairs (subscription required) from 5 November by Eyck Freymann and Justin Stebbing. China Is Winning The Vaccine Race: How Beijing Positioned Itself as the Savior of the Developing World is an eye-opening look at China’s herculean effort to rebound from its tragically bungled initial response to COVID-19. From the article:

As a result, the disease spread around the world, crippling economies, killing more than 1.2 million people, and badly damaging Beijing’s image. In 2021, China plans to redeem itself by vaccinating a large chunk of the global population. Although it faces stiff competition from the United States and other Western nations in the race to develop the first vaccine, Beijing is poised to dominate the distribution of vaccines to the developing world—and to reap the strategic benefits of doing so.

Four of the 11 worldwide vaccine candidates are Chinese. The most promising of these, developed by Wuhan-based Sinopharm, is already being given to frontline workers in the United Arab Emirates.

Half the world’s population lives in the developing world, and Donald Trump’s administration, with its America First mantra, has no plans to distribute vaccines to that half of humanity, leaving a wide open door through which China is already walking. Also from the article:

The United States has declined to participate in a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to deliver two billion vaccine doses to at-risk populations in developing countries, and it has not extended financing to or signed preferential vaccine distribution deals with such countries, as China has done.

While the U.S. will supply vaccines to its own citizenry and sell them to other developed countries, the vast underbelly of humanity will go a-begging. The emerging markets of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America can barely afford vaccines, China has seized this opportunity by announcing subsidies and striking loan deals with the eighteen countries where its vaccine candidates are now in Phase Three clinical trials. As far back as May, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised that any successful Chinese vaccine would be used for a “global public good.” Thus far, he has kept that promise.

Throughout the pandemic (and, for that matter, the entire Trump presidency), America has ignored no, stiff armed the half of humanity most in need. This is just another Everest the incoming Biden Administration will have to climb as it tries to undo four years of foreign policy misfeasance, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the wrongful exercise of lawful authority.” Kind of fits, doesn’t it?

Barack Obama returns

President Obama jumped back into the political scene as a force for Joe Biden during the recent campaign. Our first Black president did his part to help rally the African American vote, which proved so consequential in Biden’s victory.

Now, President Obama has written the first book in what will be a multi-book memoir. The Promised Land goes on sale tomorrow. So, he’s begun the book interview marathon, that, in his case, will be widely covered by the media. Case in point Yesterday, he turned up twice on CBS, first with Gayle King on CBS Sunday Morning and second with Scott Pelley on Sixty Minutes.

I’m sure the book is interesting and will sell a gazillion copies, but that’s not what I want to mention here. No, I’d like to end this column with a little story Mr. Obama told at the end of his interview with Ms. King.

Having become a private citizen at 12:01 pm, 20 January 2017, the former president began to reacclimate to private life. For security reasons, he was still prohibited from driving himself. So, as he tells it, there he is in the backseat of some vehicle checking his iPad and being driven somewhere by a Secret Service Officer. Then, the car slows and stops. Since this never happens in a presidential motorcade, he wonders why they stopped. Had something happened? Was there some danger? He looks up and sees the red light. At that moment, another car drives up beside him and he sees children playing in the back seat. As he told Ms. King, “Welcome to private life, Barack.”

Sixty-five days from now, Donald Trump will begin to encounter his own red lights for which he must stop. That will be a reality show worth watching.