For a year now, the world has struggled against the COVID-19 pandemic, with only a scant few weapons against the highly contagious disease. That is all about to change.
Over the course of the last 12 months, as the coronavirus pandemic radiated outward from Wuhan, China, medical experts and health officials warned that there were only a few real ways to avoid spreading the illness.
First, we would have to remain socially-distanced, more than 6ft apart, and in smaller groups than our economy is accustomed to. Restaurants, music venues, and sports arenas soon sat empty, delivering a mighty blow to our fiscal health.
And then there was the great debate about mask-wearing and its efficacy in the fight to stop COVID.
But that’s all we had, as we waited, sometimes impatiently, for a vaccine to arrive and begin distribution.
That day has now come.
Britain authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for use Wednesday, greenlighting the first shot backed up by rigorous scientific review. The first vaccinations are expected within days — a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.
The go-ahead for the vaccine from American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech comes as the virus surges again in the United States and Europe, putting pressure on hospitals and forcing new rounds of restrictions that have devastated the global economy. Officials cautioned that several tough months still lie ahead, even in Britain, given the scale of the operation needed to vaccinate large swaths of the population.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which licenses drugs in the U.K., recommended the vaccine for emergency use after it reviewed a raft of data, including the results of clinical trials that showed it was 95% effective and offered significant protection for older people, among those most at risk of dying from the disease. But the vaccine remains experimental while final testing is done.
The moment could not be overstated.
“This is, without any shadow of a doubt, an historic day,” said David Harper, senior consulting fellow in global health at the Chatham House think tank. “This is an unprecedented piece of science,” given that the vaccine was authorized less than a year after COVID-19 was discovered.
We can only hope that this news will truly usher in the beginning of the end of the coronavirus crisis.
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