A vaccine alone will not end COVID-19 restrictions

by Simon Peterson, staff writer

Update Nov. 9: As reported in The New York Times and other outlets, pharmaceutical company Pfizer has just announced that their vaccine after analysis is more than 90% effective. They are planning to apply for an emergency FDA approval later this month.

COVID-19 has been the main focus of the world over the past nine months with an emphasis being on flattening the curve. This makes the possibility of a potential vaccine rather enticing as it could largely reduce the spread of the virus. 

Regularly, the answer for a vaccine would take about 12-18 months. But due to the scale and push for this vaccine, it appears that it may be approved much faster than this; in an interview with CNN, Anthony Fauci said, “We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, beginning of December.” 

However, this is good news. If approved by then, the vaccine will not be able to replace public health restrictions: it will simply serve as a further precaution as it will not work effectively for everyone, even if fully distributed to the public.

This is because the FDA requires only a 50 percent efficiency for the vaccine, which means that it will simply be used as a further preventative measure. Even though there is an expectation stated by Moncef Slaoui, the leader of the vaccine push in the US, that the vaccine will have 80 percent to 90 percent efficacy, there still will be a sizable part of the population that will not develop an immune response due to their body not responding properly to the antigens in the specific vaccine. 

Along with this, many people are not likely to get the vaccine due to concerns about the development process for a vaccine. Furthermore, it seems that the likelihood that the majority of people will be vaccinated has gone down from 72 percent in May to 51 percent as of September, according to Pew Research. The reason for this is that 77 percent of Americans think it will be approved before it is as safe and effective as it should be.

Despite not leading to the end of shutdowns, a potential vaccine would still be very good news because it could help flatten the curve. It will help slightly flatten the curve due to it being made available to medical personnel and those at high risk, but it would not mean that it would be widely available to the general public due to limited supply thus until it is made widely available it will not have a large impact. However, the government is putting lots of funding towards vaccine development, so if one is approved that funding will likely shift towards manufacturing meaning that their entire focus will likely shift to getting the vaccine out to the general public.

All of this to say that a vaccine, if approved, should be only looked at as a further step to prevent infections and deaths. Unfortunately, this also means that it will not bring about the reopening of local schools or more lacking restrictions.

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