September 19, 2020

“It is the only thing that is going to free us from this pandemic”

The advances of some vaccines against the SARS-Cov-2 virus they are optimistic enough that, in parallel, opponents have begun to sprout. Although they are a minority, these movements endanger the solution of the pandemic, according to experts. Skeptics roam the public sphere, like rapper Kanye West, who is running for president of the United States while calling the coronavirus vaccine “the mark of the beast,” singer Miguel Bosé and tennis player Djokovic, but so do increasingly by private.

In addition to occasional outbursts, mistrust towards the speed of development of the injection has begun to take its toll on some people. A survey by YouGov, the global research and data analysis platform, found that one in six Britons (16%), the country where one of the most effective vaccines so far, that of Oxford, is developed, I wouldn’t inject it if it was available, and an additional 15% still don’t know what they would do.

According to epidemiologists, more than 70% of the population needs to develop immunity to COVID-19 to eradicate community transmission. Regarding the speed of the vaccine, the researchers working on them do nothing but send messages of calm, since, to begin with, “the dedication and investment of money in a single objective have never been as great as now.” Dr. Isabel Sola explained it to this newspaper a few weeks ago: “Any vaccine that goes on the market will have to meet certain essential requirements of efficacy and safety.”

“The shortest time in which a vaccine has been developed is 3 or 4 years. Of course, not the times that are being talked about now,” admitted the researcher. “But never before have so many scientists worked on something at the same time, this is an extraordinary situation of hitherto unknown dimensions,” he said.

Another of the main reasons for the unusual acceleration must be sought not in the fact that they are shortening or skipping steps, but in that they are overlapping, which does not imply a health risk, explains CSIC researcher Sonia Zúñiga to . What some laboratories and companies are doing is starting phase II and phase III clinical trials when they are still pending completion of the phase I analysis or even the preclinical ones in animals (in each of the phases the number and typology is increased volunteers to test the drug, among other things). In addition, some companies have decided take the risk of starting to manufacture vaccines now just in case they end up proving safe and effective enough.

“It must be proven that they are safe, that is a red line. That is not going to be exceeded,” guarantees Zúñiga, who nevertheless clarifies that the effectiveness of the drug may be relative if it is decided that, for example, guarantee a 50 % of immunity as a first step is enough, or a vaccine that does not prevent you from getting infected, but does prevent the possibility of suffering a severe disease is enough.

In addition, the urgency of the current situation accelerates the bureaucratic processes that usually delay the market launch of medicines and vaccines. “The slowness of the deadlines may be due to the fact that they are testing their safety and effectiveness, or that papers are accumulating on the desk, and many times it is for this last reason,” explains Milagros García Barbero, former director of the WHO and expert in Health Public. Now, in her opinion, the urgency “is going to reduce the useless bureaucracy.”

“An absolutely irrational and irresponsible move”

As for anti-vaccine movements, the doctor thinks that in the long run it may be a public health problem since “the entire population at risk of stroke will not be able to be vaccinated.” “Everyone who does what they want as long as they do not endanger others, but this case is more delicate,” says Barbero.

Even so, he believes that “this trend is very recent” and that the population at risk (over 55 years of age or with previous pathologies), who should be the first to access the vaccine, have a culturally more open attitude towards these medicines. “Young people and adolescents who refuse are actually unconscious, since they can continue to infect the weakest who have not yet been immunized,” laments Barbero. He is also concerned about children whose parents decide not to vaccinate, which is already being a puzzle in the case of polio or malaria, which confronts minors with future more serious pathologies. “It is an absolutely irrational and irresponsible movement. They call themselves naturalists, but they forget that the greatest poisons in the world are natural products,” he concludes.

Zúñiga also stresses that “a lot of outreach effort is needed for people to understand that vaccines are good things that save lives and that historically they have done so, they have even eradicated a disease like smallpox.” She believes that it has been so long since the population died from diseases that we are now vaccinated against as children, such as tetanus or tuberculosis, that they have simply been forgotten. And remind those who maintain that it is better not to get vaccinated because they are not going to get sick anyway, that if that happens it is because the rest of the population is immunized, but that even this is not a total guarantee. “One only has to look at the outbreaks of measles in the United States last year, when it should be over because there is a very efficient vaccine that immunizes us for life.”

“The need is there and a vaccine is going to deliver us from this, that is very clear, because in the end it is what makes the transmission of the virus stop,” says the CSIC researcher. “You have to have a little patience and be We are cautious, looking at the data from the trials and based on the data we will have to judge, but I am sure that it will not be allowed to supply a vaccine, even in this case of such a tremendous epidemic, that is not safe. ”

The anti-vaccine movement worries at the institutional level and at the WHO, which last year included it among its ten health risks. However, in the case of the SARS-Cov-2 vaccine, other medical and political issues still need to be resolved so that the majority of the population, who are willing to inject it, can access it as soon as possible. “There will be slaps,” predicts the former WHO directive. In the opinion of the experts, the suspicious will not prevent the queue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, in general, is huge.


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