Medical ethics Pandemic Vaccines

Covid Vaccines: Fruit of a Poisoned Tree?

The Covid-19 saga is down to a race between virus and vaccine.

The current wave of the disease has been brutal.  Almost as if it knows that vaccines are nipping at its heels, the pandemic coronavirus has turned on the afterburners: far more contagious variants like B.1.1.7, 501Y.V2, and CAL.20C have emerged, sending the number of cases skyrocketing around the world, cramming hospitals and intensive care units as the global death toll rockets well beyond two million.

In reality, the novel coronavirus doesn’t “know” a thing.  Like all viruses, it’s a mindless beast, endlessly mutating via trillions upon trillions of replications as it feasts upon us.

Thus far, thankfully, it appears that the new vaccines against the virus are likely to be effective against the new variants as well.  But the longer the virus runs wild, the higher the chances that new mutations will escape vaccine coverage — in which case we may well be back to the drawing board. 

The pressing need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible can’t be overstated.  Once front-line health-care personnel, long-term care-home workers and everyone over fifty are successfully immunized, this pandemic will essentially be over; the rest of the operation will be mop-up.

Thus far, however, we’re severely constrained by limitations in vaccine supply; and we’re hamstrung in most countries by choppy, disorganized vaccine distribution.  (Israel is the glaring exception; with ample vaccine in hand, thanks to buying her way to the front of the procurement line, that nation is vaccinating with military precision: almost 30 per cent of its population has received a first dose of vaccine, compared with less than 1.5 per cent in Canada.)

Mind you, the mere fact that we have a vaccine to complain about is nothing short of a miracle.  Never before in human history have safe, effective vaccines against a new contagion been engineered with such astonishing speed.