We Want the “Best” Vaccine

Article by Silada Rojratanakiat

Photo : BioSpace
When the first person in the world received a COVID 19 shot in December 2020, it marked the start of the fightback against the novel coronavirus. The historic moment gave us all confidence that there was a way through this pandemic. Soon, we were desperate to know when the vaccine would be available to us. Many of us pressured the government to set an accelerated timeline so that the Thai public would have access to the vaccine as soon as possible. As much as the government wants to protect the people, there is unprecedented competition among countries to secure vaccines. The world is massively supply-constrained as COVID 19 vaccines have become the world’s most precious commodity. Even though it is understandable that COVID 19 vaccine is, in general, the world’s most sought-after asset, we don’t want to take whichever vaccine is available. We want the “best” vaccine. We use factors to compare players in the vaccine market: overall efficacy, efficacy against variants, side effects, and the cost of a vaccine and its allocation. The last point is not of great concern, as for most people, any expense is modest compared to the economic loss associated with COVID-19.
When people talk about the “best” vaccine, they are usually referring to efficacy rates. Some vaccines have efficacy rates of up to 95% while others have lower efficacy rates. However, many public health experts stress that the efficacy rate alone can be misleading. To compare each vaccine’s efficacy rate head-to-head fairly, we have to compare all of them head-to-head in the same clinical trial. At this stage, scientists can’t make head-to-head comparisons between the authorized vaccines as the vaccines have not been tested against each other in the same clinical trial. Even though they all underwent three clinical trials, the trials took place at different times in different lands with different populations. Different circumstances give a different result. For instance, when comparing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (66%) to Pfizer vaccine (95%), Johnson & Johnson trials took place when the variants of COVID19 had emerged, while Pfizer held its trials earlier. Besides, the trials of both brands occurred in different countries which had different strains of COVID 19. It is too early to claim that one vaccine is better than another. We need more confirmation from the continuation of clinical trials and real-world usage. In short, we do not have enough data to validate the effectiveness of the vaccines, so there is no straightforward answer. Therefore, when we look at the efficacy numbers, they only indicate what happened in each vaccine’s trial.
The race between the vaccines and coronavirus mutations is intense. Lately, the headlines say that new COVID variants have changed the game, and the vaccines we have are “not enough.” The vaccines we have are indeed “enough” for what we care about the most. The goal is to keep us alive. Even though the current vaccines are less effective against the variants, they still offer a level of protection. All COVID 19 vaccines are approved for emergency use because they are expected to prevent severe hospitalization and death. To protect us against any infection or to get “COVID Zero” may not be the point of the COVID 19 vaccine at present. Vaccines will help us tame the virus, reduce the risk of worst effects, and transform COVID 19 into something we can negotiate. The truth is, as long as COVID 19 continues to circulate, the world is likely to see new variants emerge.
Each of us is different. We all have different immune systems. When receiving the same vaccine, one person can feel sick while another person can feel okay. Nevertheless, it is normal to feel unwell after receiving any vaccination. Side effects are common and expected after receiving any COVID vaccine. They are not necessarily alarming signs that something is going wrong. In fact, they can be evidence that something is going right as the immune system starts to respond to the injection. Many health care professionals assure us that the benefits of the COVID 19 vaccination outweigh the risk of side effects. Remember, the threat of a severe COVID 19 infection is “more real.” At present, the COVID 19 fatality rate is approximately 2%. In contrast, the rate of incidence of adverse effects from COVID-19 vaccines is low. The life-threatening allergic reaction rate after a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID 19 or Moderna vaccination is 0.00045%. In the case of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID 19 vaccine, the risk of unusual blood clots is even lower, 0.0004%. Therefore, according to the statistics, 20,000 people out of 1 million people die from COVID 19, while about 4-5 people out of 1 million people suffer from deadly side effects from Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccinations. Even the adverse event rate from receiving the Sinovac vaccine, one of the more controversial COVID vaccines, is 1.06%. However, it is still wise to be aware of the possibility of side effects, so we can differentiate whether a side effect is mild or severe and seek immediate medical attention if necessary. After injection, the medical staff will ask their patients to remain at the medical institution for 30 minutes so that any reaction can be observed by medical personnel. Mild to moderate side effects like headaches and muscle pain are more common than serious side effects, and allergic reactions and adverse events are statistically rare.
Before COVID 19, when we get a shot, we never asked about the brand of the vaccine. The idea of choice is unusual in immunization, especially when there is a shortage of COVID 19 vaccine worldwide. Regardless of which vaccine is available to us, we can be confident in the vaccine’s ability to protect us as long as we live cautiously. Doctors cannot stress enough that COVID 19 vaccines are not a silver bullet. Vaccines must be combined with proper hygiene and the practice of social distancing. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but getting there is a marathon, not a sprint. The world is striving to reach that destination, and this a phase before the eventual post-Covid era. Perhaps, 2021 won’t see the end of the pandemic, but it is still the beginning of the end.

Information and Source

Reporter : Tarin Angskul

Rewriter : Tarin Angskul

National News Bureau & Public Relations : http://thainews.prd.go.th