about 11 months ago
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We might be talking tall about the ‘green shoots’ or the ‘demand bouncing back’ and some increase in ‘consumer confidence.’

But all this is bravado as underneath, there remains a sense of trepidation – we all are just putting up a front because the threat of the virus remains and we are living in this fear of the second wave. Yet, being humans, we are built on the foundation of hope and by nature, we cannot remain unhappy and low for too long. That probably explains our current attitude of “keeping the spirit alive.”

The win of Biden does not really change the lives of majority of us Indians but the news that a vaccine has finally been invented is the only news we all have been waiting to hear. And yesterday, Pfizer announced that news saying that it’s vaccine, in collaboration with German company, BioNTech SE prevented more than 90% of infections in a study of over 40,000 volunteers.

Following this news, the US markets shot through the roof with the Dow Jones rising over 1300 points and so did the rest of the indices. The Indian markets as such had yesterday closed on a euphoric note and the US markets surge and news of vaccine did set the day for a huge positive.

Before we start celebrating, let us understand that this realistically:

1: Pfizer will be conducting two more months of safety data, after which the FDA will decide whether it is fit to be authorized or not. Though the company did say that it will seek emergency authorization, this will take a minimum or 2-3 months more.

2: The amount of vaccines required is humungous. So its not like after 2-3 months, once the FDA approval comes, we all will have access to this vaccine. Maybe the VVIPs will get it but for most of us commoners, it’s a long way off.

3: There is now hope that Moderna, which uses the same mRNA technology for the vaccine like Pfizer, could also report a success. It is currently conducting a large trial and its results are expected at the end of this month. Two is better than one…

4: The nonprofit group Public Citizen in USA rightly said, “the release of preliminary and incomplete clinical trial data by press release to the public is bad science.” At the moment we know nothing – what does the “90%” mean exactly? For how long it gives protection – like a flu vaccine or life-time like small pox and measles? Does it protect elderly and children? Does it protect all races and ethnic groups?

5: Distribution of the vaccine will be the biggest logistical nightmare. The vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures – that in itself is a challenge. Then the question of who gets it, how to distribute it, how to keep records of all those who got and ensure every single person is inoculated.

Well, this is good news from Pfizer, no doubt and probably one of the biggest victories of science in recent times. But let’s not get overconfident and assume that life will get back to normalcy soon. That’s not going to happen as obstacles of mass production of millions of doses and the logistics of delivering it will make this into a long drawn process.

We might not get protection for a few more months now, at least till Q1FY22. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin could be launched by Feb’21- that’s what one unnamed ICMR scientist said yesterday. Last stage trials are yet to begin, so we really do not know at this point of time.

Yes, mankind is close to finding a vaccine, not a cure. Moral of this story - As of now, nothing changes except a big leg-up to hope. But otherwise, we will all continue to wear masks, wash hands, social distance and remain wary well into 2021. Yup, work-from-home is here to stay for a long time still!

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