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Andrew Dickens: Why the rush to rollout the Covid-19 vaccine?

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Wed, 27 Jan 2021, 9:12PM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Andrew Dickens: Why the rush to rollout the Covid-19 vaccine?

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Wed, 27 Jan 2021, 9:12PM

Opposition politicians, opinion writers, broadcasters, bloggers and anyone else who earns a living picking holes in government have a new crusade: what's taking so long to roll out the Covid vaccine!

With 60 million already vaccinated in the world yet and not one needle in one Kiwi arm yet, there seems to be a case to answer.

The government maintains it's about a week behind Australia's roll out and based on regulatory approvals that seems about right. The question is when will the jabbing begin?

The question I have is: why we are in such a rush?

Obviously our frontline staff in MIQs and the professionals caring for victims of the virus need a fix as soon as possible. But do the rest of us?

For one thing, we have eliminated Covid. The virus is not raging through our populations as it is elsewhere.

Much has been made of Israel's rapid roll out. But that fails to mention the cultural impact of ultra-orthodox Jews who are refusing to take any measure to protect themselves and throwing themselves solely in God's hands. Rapid vaccine roll out is a symptom of countries that have failed in their first defences against the virus

For the Americas and Europe, the vaccine is the sole weapon they have to dam the flood inundating their health systems. A flood we don't have.

And that affords us a luxury of time, which I think we need to take advantage of.

The arrival of the South African variant on our shores in MIQ to join the UK variant which has been in our arrivals for a while has influenced my thinking.

The new variants are more catchy. A catchy virus quickly supplants its predecessors to become the dominant strain. The concern here is that the first generations of vaccine will be less effective against the newcomers.

This has proven so. Pfizer and Astra Zeneca have already admitted their vaccine is less effective on the new strains. Moderna now appears to be the most effective. All companies are now tweaking their products.

The fear is that the current generation of vaccines might be rendered obsolete before they have even been fully rolled out. 60 million people may have been given a vaccine that does not protect them in the next year. 

It could be a little like going to the doctor for a flu shot and getting the 2019 formula.

I don't want to advocate for a quick roll out of an increasingly redundant vaccine. Without galloping Covid we have the time to assess the appropriate vaccine for the virus in 2021 instead of the vaccine developed for 2020.

The Prime Minister's favourite new line is “it's not how we start, it's how we finish”. I get it but I think that's going right over people's heads.

My line is this: with Covid having no impact on domestic mortality, I'm prepared to wait a little for the BEST vaccine rather than the first.

And it that is the first then that's all well and good.

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