“No-one is safe until everyone is safe” – Professor Salim Abdool Karim, epidemiologist, and chair of the government’s coronavirus advisory panel.
In a recent interview with the BBC Prof Karim was quoted as saying, “There’s a mistaken belief by some countries that they can vaccinate their populations and they’ll be safe. It simply isn’t true!” Until the entire world is successful in ridding their populations of the ever-mutating SARS-Cov-2 virus the pandemic will still be there.
The cat and mouse vaccine game
According to Karim, “The longer it takes some countries to get the vaccines, the more danger of keeping the virus, not only alive but mutating, is a real threat to the entire world. By standing together it’s in everyone’s interests.”
Around the world scientists, epidemiologists and virologists are all trying to analyse the 501Y.V2 variant against the current vaccines and antibodies in people infected earlier on.
Does the vaccine mean safety for the recipient?
In a recent WHO ‘Science in Five’ online talk, Dr Katherine O’Brien, Director of the Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals Department at the WHO answered several pertinent questions on people’s immunity after they’ve had the vaccination.
When does immunity kick in?
Right now we have two dose vaccines with a good immune response kicking in within two weeks of the first dose. After the second dose the immunity will get even stronger in a shorter period of time.
How long does vaccination immunity last?
We still don’t know how long immunity lasts from these vaccines. We’re currently tracking people who have received the vaccine to find out whether their immune response is durable and to see how long it lasts against the disease.
After you’ve been vaccinated can you still infect others?
The clinical trials demonstrated that these vaccines protect people against the disease. What we don’t know yet is whether or not they protect people from transmitting it to someone else, (even if the vaccinated person has no symptoms) which is a really important part of our understanding around what these vaccines do.
Once we’re vaccinated how long do we still need to take precautions?
Until we fully understand what vaccines can or can’t do we definitely need to take precautions. In some countries there’s very broad transmission and in others it’s totally out of control. It’s really going to depend on what communities and countries can do to really crush the virus and the transmission. In that way the vaccines can do their best job at preventing this disease. Right now we don’t have evidence in certain areas, such as children for instance. So those age groups are going to continue to be at risk of both infection as well as transmitting to other people.
The other danger is simply not having enough vaccines to protect everyone. So we have to continue wearing masks, physical distancing, sanitising, handwashing and not gathering in big groups. Only time will tell how long this will go on. Once we get broad vaccination in the community and know more about what the vaccine can actually do to prevent infection, can we slowly start taking our foot off the pedal. But right now we just need to make sure this dreadful pandemic doesn’t escalate again.
According to Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx, “Vaccination remains a personal choice and if you are prepared to face the odds register and get vaccinated. It’s better to be mentally healthy than not.”