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Vaccines fuel world's hopes; meanwhile future in Samoa uncertain

vials of covid-19 vaccine
Source: Samoa Observer

Apia, SAMOA — As two companies announce COVID-19 vaccines with effectiveness rates above 90 percent, The Samoa Observer is reporting that the World Health Organisation warns it is too soon to say when they might reach Samoa’s shores.

Two American companies in as many weeks have announced vaccines currently in their testing phase have proven remarkably effective. 

This week pharmaceutical company Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary reports. That comes after Pfizer said its version of a vaccine appears to have a 90 per cent efficacy rate. 

Both companies are now likely to seek permission within weeks for their emergency deployment as global cases of the disease now reach 55 million. 

But it is still too soon to know when vaccines - be they from Moderna, Pfizer, or any of the other companies currently developing inoculations - might reach the country, Samoa’s World Health Organisation representative, Dr. Rasul Baghirov, said.

“It’s difficult to say which vaccine will make its way to the Pacific,” he said. 

“Part of it is distribution and capacity to produce the number of doses. It’s a bit too early to say what Samoa will receive in the end.”

But he is very encouraged by the results of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine phase three trials.

According to a statement, the phase three trial was on 30,000 volunteers, including 95 who contracted  COVID-19 during the course of the trial. 

The study found there were no significant adverse effects of the vaccine, and that mild or moderate reactions were short lived. They included fatigue or muscle plain.

“This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna.

It is a two dose vaccine that needs to be stored at very cold temperatures, although Moderna’s has slightly lower requirements than Pfizer’s version. 

Pfizer and BioNTech have said they intend to start deploying their brand of vaccine before the end of the year.

The W.H.O. is also interested in seeing more detailed data on the vaccine trials and how different people with different health conditions have been responding to the vaccines.

“We know that so far that everything seems to be fine, there were no huge adverse events and the mild things like temperature and a bit of pain, this is really nothing, this is normal for what you expect from vaccination,” Dr. Baghirov said.

“But nevertheless we need to have disaggregated data to see how different vaccines affect different groups of people and at the end of the day we might end up with several vaccines that are used for different groups.”

Moderna, unlike Pfizer, is part of the global COVAX facility, which is organized by the World Health Organisation, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (C.E.P.I.). 

It is a co-sponsored global procurement network hoping to secure vaccines for lower-income countries to ensure that it is distributed fairly around the world, including Samoa.

Dr. Baghirov said that under the COVAX agreement, Samoa will be getting 20 per cent of its vaccine demand when a vaccine becomes available.

But he suggests that vaccinating 20 per cent of the population for now in a country that has no cases or instances of community transmission of the virus may not make sense.

“In a country like Samoa which remains COVID-19 free, vaccinating 20 per cent doesn’t really change anything,” Dr. Baghirov said.

“It is a question mark for the smaller nations like Samoa whether it is justified to go for 20 per cent or try and secure a vaccine for the whole nation.”

“We remain hopeful that the COVAX mechanism will play out, especially for developing countries who otherwise may not be able to secure the dosages necessary for vaccination.”

Read more at Samoa Observer