US biotech firm Moderna released the encouraging findings from their phase 3 trials, which follows hot on the heels of similar vaccine results from Pfizer and BioNTech. All of this raises confidence that we could see the roll-out of vaccines before the end of the year.
Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, reacted to the news saying: “One important unknown is whether this vaccine, or any of the vaccines currently in trials, prevents disease transmission.
"It is likely that vaccines that prevent symptomatic disease will reduce the duration and level of infectiousness, and thus reduce transmission, but we don’t yet know if this effect will be large enough to make any meaningful difference to the spread of the virus within communities. But, overall, this is excellent news. Having more than one source of an effective vaccine will increase the global supply and, with luck, help us all to get back to something like normal sometime in 2021.”
Further positive analysis comes from another Edinburgh University expert, Professor Devi Sridhar. The chair of global public health at Edinburgh Uni Med School believes that there are many causes for hope in the fight against Covid-19 and not just because of the progress with vaccines.
Because of greater understanding of how the virus spreads, difficult but effective measures have been put in place. Mass testing is key to deal effectively with the pandemic, especially by identifying people who are asymptomatic and unconsciously spread the infection. Slovakia has already tested 3.6 million people over one weekend and will do so again to identify those carrying Covid-19.
As we have been reminded by the social isolation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we cannot be certain that people previously infected can’t catch coronavirus again. Even where there has been a high level of antibody prevalence in the population, like some parts of New York City, the epidemic is still accelerating there.
The rate of infection in the US is hugely worrying, but this is also true elsewhere. Russia has reported its worst daily increase as has Iran. Germany has imposed new restrictions following agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel and premiers from the country’s Länder.
Austria has moved to a second national lockdown. New measures coming into force today include school closures and a ban on meeting outside the household. In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is having to weigh up tougher restrictions to reduce the second wave of infections.
We need to get through the next months until mass testing, vaccines and improving treatments for those who have Covid-19 make a decisive impact. As Professor Sridhar explains, there is light at the end of the tunnel: “Although winter will be challenging, with shorter, darker days, colder weather and an overstretched health service, the progress of science means we will have a window of opportunity to break this destructive cycle of lockdowns in the spring. That should give us all cause for hope and optimism.”
For those of us who have relatives and friends we can’t see or run businesses affected by restrictions, this can’t come quickly enough.