Vaccine effects against covid-19 should not be felt until the end of 2021

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The impact of vaccination against the new coronavirus should only be felt in Portugal and in the world at the end of 2021, even if the first people are immunized at the beginning of the year.

First, there must be enough vaccines to inoculate about half the population and achieve the effect of group immunity, said Joaquim Ferreira, director of the Clinical Pharmacology laboratory at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes.

“In the best scenario, I would say that having the risk groups vaccinated throughout the first three months of the year and then all of them until July, August, things will only start to change radically from the summer. ideally, they will return to greater normality “, predicted the professor of Neurology and Clinical Pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon.

For the director of the Institute of Biochemistry of that college, Miguel Castanho, “probably, it will only be noticed if the vaccine is having an effect on the great numbers of the pandemic next winter”.

“Until then, it would be unwise if people stopped taking precautionary measures overnight. By the time 50% of the population is immunized, that will be the critical point for the virus and the good point for us, when we will see essential substantive changes “, he adds.

Miguel Castanho stresses that “it would not be prudent to give the illusion or the expectation that this can be achieved before the end of 2021, because if all goes as expected, perhaps the summer will pass in relative calm”, as this year, which will not make it possible to draw all conclusions about the effectiveness of vaccines.

For Joaquim Ferreira, the first people who should be vaccinated are “certainly at risk groups: older people, over 70 years old, institutionalized people, those who have risk diseases”.

This will result, after about two months, in fewer hospitalizations for severe cases of covid-19, which mostly affect older people, fewer people in intensive care and fewer deaths.

“It will take time, even if the vaccine works, as we hope and as the results suggest, and we start to decrease the risks of infection and the risk of serious illness if people become infected. But that will not reduce the global numbers because most of the population will not yet be vaccinated “, he stresses.

Next to the most vulnerable people, “health professionals, firefighters, military personnel, people vital to civic service” and then “all other healthy adults with hypertension, diabetes, who end up being a big fringe, should follow of the population”.

“It will not be an overnight benefit, but an incremental one, over months,” predicts Joaquim Ferreira.

Joaquim Ferreira points out that “the Portuguese are fantastic at adapting but not always planning, and if this is not well planned, access and distribution may suffer some setbacks”, a scenario that can be multiplied by more than two hundred countries in Worldwide.

It is about “producing billions of vaccines in a short time”, a process that will take at least all of next year, even with all laboratories producing intensively.

Everything should be faster than ever before in history, but it is important “not to be naive from the point of view of access to basic health”, he considers.

“It is easy to see that the first populations to be vaccinated are going to be those in the countries of the laboratories where the vaccine is going to be produced, because distance will be an obstacle in its distribution”, says Joaquim Ferreira, stressing that despite the selfishness of each country, “everyone is interested”.

“Europeans are interested in having people who live in Africa or Asia also get vaccinated, because that allows for global control. For us to all work again with healthy economies, everyone must be able to acquire and produce things, otherwise we will continue very badly. “, he says.

Miguel Castanho points out “a factor that can complicate a lot: at this moment, it is unknown how long the immunity conferred by the vaccine will last. If, when we vaccinate the last people, the first ones have to be vaccinated again, this becomes an operation in and it will be very difficult to ensure global vaccination “, he says.

The researcher suggests that “traveller’s consultations” may be extended to many destinations because there will be areas of the globe where it will not be advisable to travel without vaccines, as is the case today because of other diseases.

“We will probably add SARS-CoV-2 to the list of dangerous viruses in some areas of the globe, even if we are already talking about 2022 or 2023, this in an optimistic perspective”, says Miguel Castanho.

He also points out that vaccines at a more advanced stage, even with efficacy rates above 90%, all have “an Achilles’ heel: they all target the same structure of the virus and if it changes significantly, they may become obsolete”.

Miguel Castanho highlights that “there are other hopes besides the vaccine” to turn the tide of the pandemic, referring that there is an “obsessive look” on this tool and that, “in the political discourse, the vaccine was soon adopted as a way of trying to reassure and transferring the responsibility for solving “the problem from the political world to the scientific world.

Among those hopes are drugs to treat patients with covid-19 and diagnostic tests, which “can, by themselves, greatly alter the face of fighting the pandemic.”

“If each of us had a test at home that could be done as easily as a diabetic does the blood glucose test, without the need for a health technician to perform a swab, everyone would know at that time if they could leaving home “, he illustrated.

Joaquim Ferreira recognizes that “the risk of serious adverse effects is not zero” and that only one will know more about what “the vaccine can induce when it starts to administer to more people”, but considers “unlikely to happen”.

“I am very excited. We have data, both of which have been shared [pelos fabricantes das vacinas mais adiantadas] or the scientific knowledge that has sprung from these months, which provide security. If the vaccines are approved by the American and European drug agencies, we must clearly move forward, consciously, but available to participate in this movement “, he says.







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