The Covid-19 pandemic is still very much with us and numbers of people continue falling victim to it worldwide. The disease itself - an infectious virus caused by the coronavirus is transmitted mainly through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. People are vulnerable when in proximity to someone who is infected with the virus or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), the organisation leading the fight to stop the spread of the disease, has issued guidelines on how the spread can be slowed. Unfortunately many people - including the sitting US President - have phoo-phood the dangers posed by the virus and failed to follow guidelines.
Not surprisingly therefore, the numbers of persons contracting the disease have reached astronomical heights. To date (25th November 2020), statistics reveal 59.1 million people have contracted the disease, 37.8 million have recovered and 1.4 million persons have succumbed and the numbers keep growing. During the past few weeks however prospects of defeating the virus have improved dramatically with three to five anti-covid-19 vaccines reporting good results at trials. It is anticipated that at least one of these vaccines may be available by the end of spring 2021.
Among the vaccines being tested are Covid vaccine developed in the UK by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca which can protect 70.4% of people from becoming ill and – in a surprise result – up to 90% if a lower first dose is used. There is also the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna whose vaccines were made with a different technology. Both of those reported almost 95% efficacy. Then there is also the ‘Sputnik V’ the vaccine developed by Russia as well as the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotec, all of which have shown varying degrees of success.
However the ‘Vaccine and Infectious Disease Forum of Sri Lanka’, established over a decade ago, points out that while all the vaccine makers have claimed varying degrees of success, they are all interim results. The studies are not complete and not registered under any international regulatory bodies or the World Health Organisation.
The announced price of the Pfizer vaccine is reportedly $19.50 and Moderna of $25-$37 per dose which actually means their price is $39 and $50-$74 per person.. The price of the vaccine developed by Oxford is said to be considerably lower, and the Russian and Chinese vaccines are expected to be even cheaper.
Sadly even then these vaccines will not be available in Sri Lanka as the richer countries namely the US, the EU, the UK and Australia have cornered the markets, having bought up millions of doses from the manufacturers in advance. According to the Deccan Herald, Pakistan has earmarked $100 million for advance payment to procure the coronavirus vaccine. Sri Lanka however is not in a position to meet these costs and will have to await the good offices of the World Health Organisation via the COVAX (an initiative of the WHO), the initiative of the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation.
However it would appear the WHO/COVAX initiative would be in a position to get the Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka only towards the end of 2021 and even then, because of a lack of resources our country would possibly receive only around 20% of its needs. Additionally the vaccines will have to be paid for - approximately $20 per dose.
This is the reality of the non-rich nations of this world. We in Sri Lanka will not be getting the Covid-19 vaccine anytime soon. The exploiters of the resources of this world - the colonisers of nations who raped weaker nations will make available the vaccine, only once they have protected themselves.
Even today long before the vaccines have been even approved, one particular airline is already insisting they will not fly passengers unless they have taken/had the Covid-19 vaccine.
In the face of this reality we must therefore be ready to, as far as is possible, keep the coronavirus at bay by strictly abiding to and educating our fellow citizens to strictly follow guidelines laid down by the WHO and our own health authorities on preventive measures, as for example:
- Getting infected persons to hospital early so as to prevent unnecessary deaths,
- Enforce the wearing of face masks,
- Maintain social distancing and
- Rigorously washing hands and whatever other guidelines suggested by the health authorities.
The authorities too - both medical and political - need to keep the people informed of the true situation in the country to prevent fear and rumour mongers playing on the fears of the populace.