As Pfizer-BioNTech’s breakthrough Covid-19 vaccine progresses toward emergency FDA approval, the next challenge awaits — logistics, WSJ reports. The lofty task of inoculating most of the population means it could be a while until lockdown measures in the West go away.
The Backstory: Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday their co-developed vaccine proved more than 90% effective, clearing a preliminary path to being the first approved Covid-19 vaccine in the West. Previous vaccinations programs had the benefit of years to roll out and specific targets such as children or the elderly in some cases.
Now comes the hard part, even for nations with well-developed vaccine programs: tracking who gets the shot, getting young people to take it, making sure there’s adequate supply and operating large-scale inoculation centers.
Approaching The Situation:
- Britain’s National Health Service held tests to see how a vaccine stored at “an ultralow” temperature could be administered at a large scale.
- The United Nations Children’s Fund has started stockpiling around half-a-billion syringes.
- The EU’s executive arm drafted a plan on which groups to vaccinate in what order: health-care workers, the elderly, the sick and then essential workers.
- The U.S. federal government mapped a “multipronged approach” with state officials and tapped McKesson Corp. to handle vaccine distribution (except Pfizer, which is doing it on its own).
Stepping Back: Pfizer-BioNTech still needs further research to prove the efficacy of its vaccine. Even if it does have a 90% success rate, at least three-quarters of the population need it to reach herd immunity. If the vaccine’s effectiveness falls below the 80% mark, the whole population would need to be vaccinated, according to Imperial College London Epidemiologist and Professor Roy Anderson.
- If all goes to plan, Anderson predicts lockdowns will still be on the table early next year “before normal life resumes in 2022.”
Final Word: All this comes with vaccine makers still figuring out how to produce, store and transport the shots at scale. Moderna’s vaccine candidate needs to be stored at minus-70 degrees Celsius before its vialed and minus-20 Celsius after, which most hospitals can accommodate.
- Shelf-life questions persist as well for those in the vaccine race.