“It will be like a miracle cure,” boasted Donald Trump regarding the COVID-19 vaccine throughout his 2020 campaign trail. He has long promised his die-hard base throughout the course of 2020 that potential vaccines are “very close” or could be released any day in the buildup of the elections. This was long before the first Pfzier/BioNTech vaccine was announced, curiously just days after Trump’s defeat. Words like “Operation Warp Speed” were used to storify the glorious launch of the potential cures for the deadly virus. However, despite thousands of people vaccinated around the world, there is a backlog of potentially billions of vaccines and much of the world is not expected to get access to it till the next few years. One estimate points out that it will take up to 5 years to vaccinate most of the world and slowly rid the world of the virus. China and Russia have also unveiled their vaccines but the trust deficit is slowing their progress and acceptability.
The Strains of South Africa and United Kingdom
But, the discovery of new Coronavirus strains, firstly in the UK and then South Africa have raised concerns about the possibility of more lockdowns and virus restrictions around the world even as the vaccines are being rolled out. Members of the civil society and governments who had a sigh of relief are very nervous again.
What if the vaccine doesn’t work against the new strains? What if recovered people who haven’t had the vaccine could be re-infected again with the new strain?
These are some tough questions that need to be answered and as fast as possible. There is no current reason to believe that the vaccine won’t work or if the recovered patients will be vulnerable to this new strain. But, these are extremely important questions that need to be answered and they will probably take some time. There is no indication right now that the new strains are more deadly than the original disease but again, long, hard research is needed to get the facts.
While researchers are frantically working on this, further lockdowns and restrictions loom not just for the UK and South Africa, but for the entire world.
As of now, the UK strain has been detected in dozens of countries around the world and will slowly but surely go global as well. Travel restrictions simply haven’t worked effectively and we need to brace ourselves for this. So, despite the promise of vaccines and what not, 2021 may not entirely be so different from 2020 for many countries as the virus spreads with added fury.