World's fastest developed vaccine: A challenging necessity
World Insight with Tian Wei

The infectious and lethal nature of COVID-19 has propelled its vaccine to be the fastest developed ever. December 5th marked the day Russia began mass vaccination of medical workers, teachers, social workers and other high exposure groups with the Sputnik V vaccine. Three days later, the UK rolled out mass vaccination using the Pfizer vaccine for citizens over 80 and frontline healthcare workers.

Although the UK and Russia have rolled out vaccines that have a registered 90 percent efficacy rates, the vaccination campaign raises more questions than answers. Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute, explains, "The vaccines were made with the objective of protecting individuals against COVID-19. But will the vaccines achieve herd immunity? Can you take one vaccine and switch to another for a booster? Should you vaccinate people who have already been infected? Can you vaccinate the elderly or expectant mothers? Do we vaccinate people with compromised immune systems? These weren't in the first set of questions but they will be crucial when we vaccinate 6 billion people on Earth," CGTN host Tian Wei speaks to Dr. Kim to unpack these questions.

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. has prompted vaccine developers to meet the two month safety regulations on volunteers with little buffer. Kim says, "The U.S. FDA requires at least two months trials on all volunteers. Different countries have different views on risks. There have been occasions when vaccines have developed rare side effects that weren't apparent in the clinical trials that only involve tens of thousands of people. That is why the U.S. FDA demands regulatory review." Kim says that while vaccines on the market have two months' worth of safety and efficacy data against the disease. The outstanding information will have to be collected in real time.

The vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Russian company Gamaleya have registered over 90 percent efficacy. AstraZeneca registered an average level of efficacy of 70 percent. Chinese vaccines from Sinovac and Sinopharm have yet to release efficacy results. These results are impressive, but according to Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, at least 75 percent of the population needs to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. To this end, the U.S. has now pre-ordered 2 billion doses of vaccines, far in excess of its 300 million-strong population.

Kim says that the U.S. needs to worry about vaccine acceptability instead of vaccine supply. He adds, "Opponents of vaccines are putting out misinformation to people all over the world. To arm ourselves we need to have very intense communication of the safety and efficacy of vaccines once data is available." He is concerned that vaccine uptake in the U.S. won't be optimal, which will compound a U.S. that has not effectively encouraged mask-use and social distancing."


Kim applauds the 190 countries of WHO's COVAX initiative. He hopes that it will ensure the equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines to low income countries. However, different countries may be obligated to receive different vaccines depending on their logistical and economic circumstance. Kim explains, "Pfizer's vaccine requires storage at -70°c, when you factor in transportation and logistics it less practical in low and middle income countries. Moderna have been committed to make their vaccine storable a -20°c. Sinopharm vaccines are expected to be storable at 2-8°c, the temperature of a refrigerator." This disparity in which vaccines are available by country will pose questions for international travel. Kim hopes that COVAX can ensure that different vaccines will be recognized across borders.

Vaccinations may be the first step to normalizing international travel. But travel also opens another Pandora's box. Kim says, "How does one country verify that another country's vaccination document is correct? Will the little yellow WHO immunization book be sufficient?" Kim even says that travel can incentivize vaccinations because countries will not want to accept travelers from abroad if they are not properly vaccinated. He envisions that a travel bubble is likely between China, South Korea and Japan. He says, "These high tech economies have done a better job in controlling the pandemic. If they can promote a digital certificate of vaccination that can be mutually recognized, it will allow people to travel freely. Then business and leisure travel can return to normal." Kim reckons that a travel bubble in Northeast Asia can provide an example for other nations to replicate in the near future.

The next few months promise both grim and hopeful press releases. On the one hand the U.S. has registered an average 2,200 COVID-19 deaths per day. On the other hand the U.S. and EU are expected to follow the UK in authorizing emergency vaccine use. The COVID-19 vaccines are the fastest developed in history, which is made more impressive due to the novel mRNA technology used by many of them. Next year expects mass global vaccination and growing immunity against Covid-19, nothing less will do.

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through a 45-minute live debate and interviews.

Schedule: Monday-Saturday 

Time (GMT): 1415, 2015

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