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Last Updated : Sep 15, 2020 02:18 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

COVID-19 vaccine no silver bullet, a large number of people won’t have access to it, says Singapore minister

He also pointed out that distribution of vaccines will be a “huge challenge”, but “cheap, quick and non-invasive testing and social distancing” should mitigate transmission in the meantime.

Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (REUTERS/Rogan Ward)
Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (REUTERS/Rogan Ward)

Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has cautioned that a large number of people “probably won’t have access” to a COVID-19 vaccine even if one is developed by 2021, due to uneven distribution.

Answering questions at the Singapore Summit virtual conference on September 14, Tharman said the pandemic “will not be over” in a year’s time and that a vaccine should not be thought of as a “silver bullet,” Bloomberg reported.

He also pointed out that distribution of vaccines will be a “huge challenge”, but “cheap, quick and non-invasive testing and social distancing” should mitigate transmission in the meantime.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Tharman’s view concurs with that of Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla who also warned of shortage of COVID-19 vaccine till 2024 at least; and WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan’s prediction that the pandemic would take four to five years to be controlled.

These comments, however, are on the other side of pharma chiefs’ optimistic outlook.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla felt the company’s vaccine candidate, being developed in partnership with BioNTech’s COVID-19, could reach Americans before 2020-end, if proven to be safe and effective by federal regulators such as the US Food and Drugs Administration.

While AstraZeneca on September 12 said it had resumed clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom after regulators completed their review of a serious side effect in one trial participant there. AstraZeneca, which is working with University of Oxford, has said the MHRA confirmed it is safe to resume British trials.

On the market effects of the pandemic, Tharman said it would put emerging markets at risk and add pressure on pre-existing trends including maintaining sustainable debts and possible wipe-out of a significant number of small and mid-size companies.

On global trade tensions between the United State and China, he said the situation would get worse before it gets better, but there is “enough space” for others to continue to find “win-win partnerships”

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First Published on Sep 15, 2020 02:18 pm
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