The announcements by two pharmaceutical companies that their vaccine candidates are highly effective in preventing Covid-19 is very good news. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech say their vaccines are over 90 per cent effective.
This is great news for a world that has been terrorised by the unrelenting coronavirus for the past one year. The world is being buffeted by a second wave of the virus that has infected 56 million people and claimed more than 1.3 million lives.
Although the vaccines have not yet been authorised, this ray of hope gives us a good reason to celebrate. Reports, however, indicate that the vaccines could be authorised for emergency use in US in a matter of weeks.
Already, some countries have ordered doses of the potential vaccines. Australia has ordered 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine while Britain has secured five million doses of Moderna's vaccine. The country had earlier ordered 350 million vaccine doses from six suppliers, including Pfizer, and 100 million doses of an AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. Canada is said to have secured supplies of more than 400 million vaccine doses already, enough to inoculate each Canadian 10 times.
The European Union wants over 200 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine. The US will receive 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine soon after it gets the requisite approvals.
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In total, wealthy countries are reported to have taken half of the projected vaccine supplies. Unfortunately, poor countries, Kenya included, seem to have been left behind in this race for vaccines.
Yet, it is crystal clear that we are not immune to this disease. In Kenya, 1,366 people have died while 76,404 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed so far. Infections and deaths continue to rise every day. This makes it imperative for us to join the race to acquire the first vaccine vials.
Unfortunately, the government is still biding its time. Part of the government has also expressed reservations about the efficacy of the vaccines. But while it is good to be cautious, we are lucky because the vaccines are being tested out there and it is unlikely Kenyans will be guinea pigs as some fear.
While the cost of the vaccines is high and some countries are paying as much as $18 (Sh1,800) per dose, there is no good reason for Kenya not to order some early doses. The government might not be able to acquire vaccines for all Kenyans at a go due to pecuniary pressures and the fact the vaccines will not be available for majority of people around the world in the near future due to production dynamics, but it must do everything possible to acquire vaccines for our vulnerable members of the society.
The aged and those with health conditions that put them at a greater risk of Covid-19 should get the vaccines at the earliest time possible. In any case, it is wiser to spend Sh1,800 on a vaccine than hundreds of thousands in hospital.