There has been a lot of good news on the search for a vaccine to combat Covid-19, the pandemic that ripped the year to shreds. With news from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna stating that their vaccines have 90 and 94.5 percent efficacy respectively even as the final stages of trials begin, hope now seems a possibility. The Russians have claimed their Sputnik-V vaccine confers an efficacy of 92 per cent but those claims are being taken with a pinch of salt. Elsewhere, several other vaccine-candidates are reaching the final stages of their development, including India’s COVAXIN, developed by Bharat Biotech. It appears that by early 2021 at least one if not more vaccines would have been released in the market.
That said, we must temper our enthusiasm slightly as most vaccines so far require incredibly super-cold chain transportation requirements. The Pfizer vaccine needs temperatures below -80 degrees centigrade to be stable, the Moderna one, a very cold but slightly more reasonable -20C. It will be difficult to manage such a cold chain vaccine delivery system, particularly in a country the size of India, but one could assume that hardier vaccines will be developed which India’s existing cold chain infrastructure developed for fish, meat and vegetables will be able to manage. However, even if such a vaccine is developed relatively soon, one should beware that it might take several months to inoculate most Indians living in large metropolitan areas even if we take advantage of producing companies like the Serum Institute. Safely manufacturing and deploying over a billion doses of the vaccine, even if global suppliers help with patents and manufacturing, could take years. But getting the vaccine out there as soon as possible will, according to some virologists, dramatically speed up the herd immunity process. It is not surprising that stock exchanges across the world have been on the upswing as have reports from bodies looking at economic growth. After almost a whole year of doom and gloom, even a bit of positive news is enough to set the markets rocking. And make no mistake, all these reports are very positive. Yet, we would have to be cautious until we get the nitty-gritties of how exactly the vaccine will be administered.