Written by Prakriti Panwar, a grade 11 student
Pfizer (a US drug maker), along with BioNTech (a German biotech firm), recently released preliminary data of their vaccine, from the last stage of human trials.
It was found to be more than 90 percent effective. The firms have even applied for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) and the vaccine will soon be sent for a review to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The major freezing problem
While this may seem like good news at first, there is a major logistical problem that could affect the distribution of the vaccine: a temperature of -70 degree Celsius (lower than the temperature of the Arctic circle) is required to be maintained in order to store it. Also, it will be an expensive vaccine, which may put it out of reach for moist people.
Nature of technology used and its drawbacks
mRNA (Messenger RNA) technology was used to develop the vaccine. This technology, instead of using a small amount of the virus to develop immunity against it, “trains the immune system to target the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus.” In theory, this means that the spike blockage would prevent people from getting infected. However, this type of technology hasn’t been used on humans, in mass numbers before.
Despite certain minor drawbacks, the vaccine has proven to be a huge advancement as it is capable of moderating the severity of the disease, especially since the symptoms can easily be confused with those of the common flu.
Loopholes in the study
Also, though Pfizer mentioned that the study consisted of participants from diverse ethical and cultural backgrounds, it did not mention if there was a “stronger protection for particular age groups.” Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group said, “We don’t know anything about groups they didn’t study, like children, pregnant women, highly immunocompromised people and the eldest of the elderly.”
It must also be noted that the data Pfizer released, only includes data on the 94 confirmed cases, which means that there is no proof yet, that the vaccine prevents the virus from infecting us.
Future of the vaccine in India
As far as the distribution of the vaccine in India is concerned, the development seems to be stagnant. Though Indian officials had a meeting with representatives of Pfizer in August, when the data for phase 1 had been released, there has been no development since.
The future of the vaccine in India depends upon whether or not Pfizer and BioNTech approach the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation of India, either on their own or through a partnership with an Indian vaccine firm.
However, before the launch in India, the vaccine would again have to go through local trials for approval. Hence, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine may not reach the nation quite quickly. The firms have already fixed deals with the US, UK, Japan, and the European Union Region.
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