As the COVID-19 pandemic continues,vaccines are a hot topic again especially as human trials have commenced, and there are persons who think vaccines shouldnt exist.

What are vaccines?

This thread would quickly address what vaccines are,their obvious imperfections and the situation with a COVID Vaccine.

To explain vaccines,

The body has a component, the immune system, whose primary function is to defend agains infections and toxins.

Daily, we come in contact with a lot of bacteria and other organisms and the reason they dont make us ill, is because our immune system is able to fight it off.

Sometimes, to give our immune systems a better chance of fighting these microorganism, we “train” the immune system on how to fight these infections by use of vaccines.

This happens by inactivating or killing the viruses and introducing it to the immune system.

Because they are weakened, the immune system is able to overcome, and “learns” how to better fight the virus.

Understanding how vaccines work

Vaccines can be so effective that they prevent the individual from becoming sick, and since most infectious diseases spread when the individual is sick, can be very important tools in curbing spread .

Vaccines be also used to eliminate entire diseases, e.g small pox.

But they aint perfect

First because they do not make a lot of economic sense, most diseases have readily available cures and affect only a specific population.

But they have a role in some diseases e.g those which spread very quickly or have long term complications.

Also they are expensive to produce. All drugs are, because of the amount of testing that has to go into it to ensure it is safe.

To start with , safety has to be establised in the lab, then on to animal trials, then human trials, which to eliminate bias, goes on for a long time.

This is a tough and rigorous process. drug testing generally is. Then studies have to be done to ensure it can adequately “train” the bodys immune system and there is more benefit using it than the risk.

Basically ensuring it works and justifying why people should use it.

If this has been established, the company has to be able to produce it in massive quantities. we have already seen how severely demand can hurt supply in the health system. This is a problem too

The it still has to go through approval in individual countries before it is allowed.

Then there is the question of logistics within the country.

How do we ensure that my cousin in the village in bayelsa thats a 30 minute boat ride from land gets it?

So these are a lot of costs, and breaking points, and really expensive ones too.

But sometimes the risk benefits the drawbacks. Take polio for instance, everyone is getting vaccinated for polio and in a few years, it will beccome a disease we would never have to battle with again.

In the case of COVID 19, vaccines are one of the areas of prime consideration.

There are currently over 70 possible vaccines in different stages of production.

Over 40% of this is happening in the US and about 1/5th are being developed in China.

Human trials for vaccines have started in China US, UK and Germany.

The UK is already making plans for a large scale manufacture of their experimental vaccine, because as we said, we would need at lot, but thats risky, because there is no guarantee that it is safe.

Things are moving very fast and we hope we aint sacrificing speed for safety.

But i think we may be giving it too much attention at this point especially the general public.

Research is still ongoing, and it is still too early to tell if anything would come out of it.

If it does, it could be a game changer.
But that’s a big IF.

Learnt something new? So someone else sees it.

John Afam (MBBS,Benin)


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