For the last year we have been living in a state of total uncertainty about COVID-19 and how  we are going to deal with it. The most common things searched on Google in 2020, apart from the date of the NBA playoffs, were ‘coronavirus update’ and ‘coronavirus symptoms’. The virus has taken 3 million lives. It has affected our social lives and our ability to educate today’s students. Now we have a way to end all of this. The vaccines. Our beacon of hope. But how effective will they turn out to be?

For those who haven’t caught up with the news, there are now 3 main vaccines being distributed in the UK; Oxford’s AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer. 22% of the UK’s population have been fully vaccinated while 51% have been given their first shot. Worldwide, 1.08 billion people have had at least a first shot, which is around 14% of the population. Soon, we are reaching the point where over 40s will be able to come forward to get their doses, and we are ahead of the predicted schedule, with all adults predicted to be given at least their first dose by May 12th rather than June 18th. 

Countries far behind their vaccine rollout target are notably Canada and members of the EU, and these are just the developed countries. Canada is having little luck because there are little plants in the country, as is the same in developing countries. The EU has been slow because of various political issues with the UK as well as Russia, when Russia said they would supply their ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine if the EU wouldn’t punish them for the military build up on the border of Ukraine and the attempted murder of Alexei Navalny. However, there are many countries that are doing very well. The US is the country with the second highest number of Covid cases and highest number of vaccinations, with 237.36 million people having been given their first dose. The UK is third with 48.14 million and India is second with 149.27 million. This could be for a number of reasons, whether they be that there are many vaccine manufacturing plants of any of the companies involved in fabrication in a country, or because they just have enough money to spend, which doesn’t leave much room for developing countries. Or it could be that they are using blackmail like the Russians.

In conclusion, vaccines are important. Other than constant lockdowns and eventual eradication of the disease, they are probably our only way out of this. People may be scared to put unknown substances into their bodies, but is it really any different to having a possibly fatal pathogen attacking your immune system and cells? We have used vaccines to get rid of many diseases such as polio, hepatitis, and tetanus, and countless lives have been saved. As vaccines and epidemiology are not many people’s area of expertise, many have questions about things like travel and the vaccine passport system. As of now, you must have a permitted reason, but on the 17th of May, hopefully that will change when the travel rules are eased. Vaccine passports are what will be used to verify whether you should travel, but some are annoyed that this is biased towards those who are fortunate to have had their vaccines, but surely by the time we are allowed to travel, those people will be vaccinated, so they have nothing to worry about. The things we do have to worry about are variants. So far there are five variants. The Kent variant, the Brazil variant, the South Africa variant, the Indian variant, and the San Francisco variant. According to trials in Israel, the main vaccines work against the variants, but if the virus gets stronger and mutates in a way that isn’t compatible with our vaccines, we could be in for a world of trouble. A century ago we had the Spanish flu and 50 million people died in one year. Now, because we have more scientific expertise, we should be able to prevent casualties on this scale.