Is Vaccinating Against Covid Enough? What we can learn from other countries | Vaccines and immunization


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Three countries stand out for the effectiveness of their vaccination programs against Covid-19: Israel, Chile and the United Kingdom. All have succeeded in immunizing an impressive percentage of their population, but each has done very differently in combating the disease.

Israel has been so successful that it has resumed university lectures, concerts and other mass gatherings and has opened its restaurants and bars. In contrast, Chile is experiencing a surge in Covid cases and faces new lockdown restrictions.

In Britain, deaths and hospital admissions have plummeted, but it remains to be seen what will happen when lockdown restrictions are relaxed in England from Monday. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own timeline for easing.) Will the UK follow Chile’s grim example or Israel’s happier precedent?

The nation will find out soon, but it should be noted that Israel and Chile are not the only ones providing useful illustrations of how the fight against Covid-19 should be designed in the months to come. Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and many more provide key lessons.

Nevertheless, it is Chile that provides the most precise warning for the United Kingdom. Its health workers administered the first shots to 37% of the population, but daily cases continue to rise sharply. Several reasons have been put forward to explain this unexpected leap: the spread of more virulent strains of coronavirus from Brazil; an increased number of Chileans traveling across the country; and reduced adherence to social distancing after the vaccination program gave people a false sense of security.

The importance of this last point was underlined by Professor Lawrence Young, virologist at Warwick Medical School. “I think Chile shows the danger of being too dependent on vaccines alone. Vaccines are great, but they will never be a solution on their own and what is happening in Chile is giving us a very clear warning.

People wait to receive their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Santiago, Chile
People are lining up for the second dose of their Covid vaccine in Santiago. Despite a successful vaccination program, Chile has seen a sharp increase in cases. Photograph: Esteban Félix / AP

Professor Stephen Griffin of Leeds University School of Medicine agreed. “You should always control the cases while you are vaccinating. Otherwise, you will always be in trouble. ”

Chile therefore reveals the dangers of vaccine pride. In contrast, Israel demonstrates the need for constant planning and preparation. Since the start of its powerful vaccine rollout, it has put in place a number of initiatives to maintain its progress against Covid. These include a system of green passes which are given to people who have received both doses of the vaccine or who have recovered from the disease and are therefore considered unlikely to be infectious. The plan is controversial and many have protested against its imposition.

“However, for universities, it has helped bring students back to lecture halls where academics can teach students in person,” said Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh. “These are the types of measures that we need to discuss now so that we can be sure that we open up safely during the summer.”

Two other Israeli measures were also highlighted by Bauld. Antibody tests – which will show whether a person has Covid antibodies from a vaccine or a previous infection – allow international travelers arriving in Israel to avoid quarantine. At the same time, health authorities are also considering giving vaccines to older children once they have been approved by regulators. These initiatives show how well Israel is preparing, Bauld added.

Other scientists cite the examples of Australia and New Zealand. The former has only had a handful of cases despite launching its vaccination program just a few weeks ago – thanks to the rapid closure of its borders last year and its carefully managed hotel quarantine system that has reduces the spread of Covid to trace levels. By contrast, Britain’s dismal testing, traceability and isolation system remains shaky and unproven – despite the fact that it will be crucial to suppress new outbreaks of Covid-19 once restrictions are lifted. “To put it simply, we haven’t learned how important it is to isolate infected people,” Griffin said.

Then there is the issue of vaccinating the world – because until that happens, Covid-19 will remain a threat and Britain will continue to be threatened. So he has a role to play in delivering jabs around the world.

Israeli musician Ivri Lider performs in front of an audience wearing protective masks
Israeli musician Ivri Lider performs in front of an audience wearing face masks who were shown a “green pass” to enter a Tel Aviv stadium last month. Photographie: Oded Balilty / AP

Scientists estimate that more than 11 billion doses of vaccine will be needed to deliver double doses to 70% of the world’s population – a number that will hopefully provide some form of global herd immunity. However, recent figures indicate that the richest countries – which make up one-fifth of the world’s population and including the UK – have already purchased 6 billion doses, while the remaining poorest countries – four-fifths of the world’s population. humanity – got only 2.6 billion.

Faced with this huge vaccine imbalance, India and South Africa have asked the World Trade Organization to suspend patent rights on various techniques, vaccines and Covid-19 drugs to help them produce their own treatments for deal with the pandemic. The proposal has now been supported by more than 100 countries.

“We cannot repeat the painful lessons of the early years of the AIDS response when richer countries returned to health while millions of people in developing countries were left behind,” said Winnie Byanyima, Director executive of Unaids, the United Nations agency for HIV / AIDS in the newspaper Nature recently.

This point was supported last week by Dorothy Guerrero, policy manager at Global Justice Now, an NGO that advocates for equitable access to vaccines. She accused rich countries of stockpiling vaccines at the expense of low- and middle-income countries. “There is a quick and safe way to increase global immunization: give up patents on Covid-19 vaccines and let countries produce their own vaccines. Countries like the UK must mobilize. “

However, the European Union, the United Kingdom and many other Western countries, as well as large pharmaceutical companies, argue that waiving patent rights would not help. They say vaccine manufacturing involves implementing a series of careful, quality-controlled steps.

Negotiating the distribution of patent rights for these different processes would take too much time. It would be better to increase vaccine production to its highest level and then distribute jabs.

Scientists, however, are adamant that the world will not be safe from Covid-19 until global vaccination takes place. As the slogan says: No one is safe until everyone is safe. However, reaching this goal could take years.

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