The country’s plan to vaccinate around 80 percent population over the next two years was thrown in disarray following news that India reportedly slapped a ban on the export of the vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute. The Business Standard reached out to the expert on what a possible delay could do to our Covid-19 pandemic management
If we want to vaccinate 70-80 per cent people with the purpose of achieving herd immunity, we have to complete the process in one year. As far as I know, the available vaccines in the market give protection for one year. The people who are making decisions and planning these should consider this fact.
We cannot say the plan to vaccinate 80 per cent people is at risk now. It is too early to comment on the issue. But collecting the vaccine is the most important part of the planning.
We were supposed to source vaccines from other sources, and the government is doing that as well.
We should have kept some phase-2 vaccines in the pipeline of the procurement plan too. There is still time, within the next six months, some more vaccine will be available. Those vaccines will have some additional benefits, for example, some will work on a single dose. Some of the vaccine can be preserved at a temperature of 2-8 degrees, and even in room temperature. Some of the vaccines which can be kept in room temperature for one month to one year will be available within one year.
We do not need to be anxious about vaccines right now. A good plan is important to make the future secure. We need to buy two to three types of vaccines for vaccinating the whole population.
For the time being, we can say that if we vaccinate 70 to 80 per cent people, we will be able to achieve herd immunity.
MRNA vaccine will have to be kept in temperatures -20 to -80 degrees Celsius. The rest of the vaccines, including inactivated, protein-based can be kept in temperatures between 2-8 degree Celsius. There is no big obstacle to procurement of vaccines.
As for risks of using vaccines that have sped through in the trial phase, there is nothing in the world that does not have side effects, including water. You have to consider the risk and benefit ratio. How many people are suffering side effects? There is no medicine in the history of the medicine which does not have side effects.
Vaccines should also not be considered a replacement for masks. We all have to maintain the health guidelines. We will have to use masks for the next five years, or at least three years.
We will get the scope of talking to people without masks at least three years later. No vaccine will ensure that reality over the next three years.
Md Sayedur Rahman, Chairman department of pharmacology, BSMMU.