Rayhan Ahmed Topader:
The pandemic may seem to have gone on forever. As we approach the end of 2020, it is easy to lose sight of how much progress science has made over the past 10 months. Since January, scientists have gained a far better understanding of Covid-19 transmission, and have developed the tools to manage the virus. In fact, while the next four months will be difficult, the promising vaccines, better testing and treatments and greater knowledge we now have about how to control this virus will make the situation far better by March. An experimental vaccine against Covid-19 from Moderna is said to be nearly 95% effective, marking a second major step forward in the quest to end the pandemic Another big announcement in the race to create a Covid-19 vaccine today early data shows a vaccine created by the drugmaker Moderna is 94.5% effective in preventing the coronavirus. This follows last week’s announcement that another vaccine, made by Pfizer, is 90% effective, based on preliminary trials. Both the Pfizer and Moderna models are a new type of vaccine, which targets the body’s mRNA to produce proteins of the virus, teaching the body how to fight it. Both vaccines are also still in clinical trial and need to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use. But experts say there’s a chance either one (or even both) could be ready for distribution by January.
Dr.Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco said One thing to take into consideration for vaccine distribution is the storage temperature.The Pfizer vaccine requires storage temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius about -94 degrees Farenheight. By contrast, the Moderna vaccine needs a storage temp of about -20 degrees Celsius, which is -4 degrees Fahrenheit.There are some vaccines that may come out in the future that only require refrigeration, but these two frontrunners, being mRNA vaccines, do need some pretty cold temperatures, which means we’d need distribution centers like Walgreens or CVS to have the infastructure to support complex freezing systems. California, Chin-Hong said, is one of five regions that have been earmarked by Operation Warp Speed to be models for vaccine distribution. But the details are not very apparent, Because vaccine distribution is part of America’s national security plan, and with President Trump currently refusing to concede the election results, there’s no clear hand-off to the next administration. That’s a problem because President-elect Biden will take office in January, which is exactly when most of these vaccines will (ideally) be ready for roll out.Suffice to say, a lot of people are walking around in the dark about distribution at this point.
But it’s Essential workers who have close contact with people at high-risk for the virus, as well as our most vulnerable, fragile residents, particularly those in skilled nursing facilities everyone else.Ferrer said the public health department has been working on a distribution plan since May to make sure that “everybody who lives in L.A. County has good information, so that they can make a decision about getting vaccinated and feel comfortable that the vaccines that are being distributed are safe and effective, and that we have a system in place so no one gets left out. She added that health officals want to make sure that there are no vaccine deserts and will be using similar strategies to those they used in setting up testing centers to make sure that everyone in the county has access to a distribution center and that there is enough vaccine available for the general population.The government is considering banking on the existing cold chain for storing, transporting and distributing coronavirus vaccines while some experts say the main challenge will be to manage such a large volume with the existing capacity. As vaccines, once procured, will need to be transported to remote parts of the country and administered rapidly at the right temperature, the experts stressed the need for developing a robust network for this.
A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply system to store, manage and transport life-saving vaccines. It consists of a series of links that are designed to keep vaccines within WHO recommended temperature ranges, from the point of manufacture to the point of administration. Bangladesh has the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) framework, capable of keeping life-saving drugs at temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.Currently we are not thinking of vaccines being developed by Moderna or Pfizer as we don’t have the capacity under the EPI to preserve and transport them. It is also very expensive to upgrade the existing system, Services.Different vaccines require different temperatures and cold chain facilities and handling procedures. For example, Covishield doses must be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius. But the vaccine candidate being developed by New York-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer requires a storage temperature of minus 80 degrees Celsius. Once thawed, the vials can be refrigerated for just two days.However, all the vaccines are not the same and therefore they are not preserved in the same manner, he added. The existing cold chain is basically for vaccination of children and may support vaccines required for one to 1.5 crore people
We don’t know yet, but participants in the clinical trials for both vaccines will be periodically monitored for antibodies, so that researchers can figure out when and if members of the public would need a booster vaccine down the road.The drug manufacturers estimate immunity may last longer than a year, but it’s unclear exactly how long. Moderna is promising 20 million doses by the end of 2020, which would effect about 10 million people (each person receives two doses). Pfizer is promising 50 million doses, so that’s potentailly a total of 70 million doses by January. In 2021, we could have up to 1.3 billion doses from Pfizer and a similar amount from Moderna. In addition, there are at least 10 other companies in Phase 3 trials around the world and at least three other companies developing vaccines as part of America’s Operation Warp Speed. Still, we shouldn’t be overly optimistic about when these vaccines will be distributed to everyone, Getting it from the manufacturers into the arms of the average community member would require so many steps, like, how are you going to keep the vacccine so cold? And when you defrost the vaccine, it has a short shelf life will you have to throw away doses if you can’t use it in time? All of these things are, you know, potential barriers.Dr. Ferrer said she’s hopeful that L.A.
Every County will be able to start administering vaccines to the general population sometime in the Spring of 2021, with this caveat: They’ve got to be approved. And then we’ve got to make sure that they’re manufactured at a very high volume. Aalso want to note there’s lots of other promising that are in development, and that may have less restrictions attached to them in terms of cold change storage requirements, needing two doses not one. Pretty hopeful that a few months from now, there other vaccines that we may be able to use in L.A. County and across the world.The optics of the Trump administration promising a vaccine by the election were not ideal.That made some people nervous about the vaccine being rushed to trial and production. The name of the government vaccine initiative, Operation Warp Speed, probably didn’t help.The good news is that the vaccine isn’t going to be rushed scientifically. The science itself still has to be verified in all the usual ways. Operation Warp Speed just means that the bureacracy of releasing a vaccine is going to be minimized as much as possible,” Chin-Hong said.The data we have now suggests that even though the release of these two frontrunner vaccines isn’t going to happen for at least a few months, both should be safe.
We are living in challenging times. There are moments when I think we all feel a sort of helplessness, that the situation just keeps going from bad to worse. In fact, we’re making progress. The virus is relentless and apolitical. It looks for vulnerabilities and exploits those vulnerabilities. But we are fighting back. Much has been learned about how best to treat patients with Covid-19 Hopefully, we will soon have an effective and safe vaccine that can contribute to getting back to normal. San Diegans have a rare opportunity to be part of the fight by volunteering for a trial.There are the proven, practical things we can all do now to reduce our risk of viral illness this fall. Flu season is upon us. Get your flu shot! Covid-19 and influenza are different diseases caused by different viruses, but reducing the risk of the latter can only be beneficial. Also, do these three things daily that reduce your risk of contracting either infectious disease: Wear a mask. Socially distance. And wash your hands frequently.
Writer and Columnist