What's next after an effective COVID-19 vaccine?
There is no discussion on the necessity of having a vaccine to stop COVID-19, but that is only the tip of the iceberg and the world must be prepared for what comes next.
The production of the vaccine to curb COVID-19 has astonished many people, especially by the rapid progress that has been made in such a short time to combat the pandemic. This happens, mainly, due to countless scientific investments that have been carried out in the sector years ago to combat several of the diseases that plague the world, but which had its peak with the urgent need to find a quick solution to COVID-19.
The problem is not only finding the vaccine, but what comes after it: producing it, distributing it and managing to administer it massively to billions of people, which implies overcoming gigantic challenges. The solution to this coming problem does not imply that a vaccine is required, since, on the contrary, the foundations can be laid to facilitate the subsequent stages to the consolidation of an effective vaccine for multiple reasons to consider.
First is to be able to guarantee investments in administration systems that, in other words, implies that all the systems for the provision of health services, personnel, equipment and supplies, cold chain, etc., materialize in order to control the pandemic. They are risky investments, but they will continue to pay dividends to those who invest even after the pandemic ends.
Second, it is essential to consider the importance of data and information in the process. Fostering a collaborative space at a scientific level that allows the exchange of data and access to information can facilitate the optimization of mechanisms for the production, distribution and administration of the vaccine worldwide. Likewise, understanding what works and what cannot facilitate and make operations more efficient in the future at an international level, and this is where the WHO plays a fundamental role.
Third, define the recipients of the vaccine, since it is of vital importance to prioritize now who will be the first people to receive it without neglecting that, in any way, any decision must always be based on guaranteeing the general public good, regardless of what the "correct" order would be for its application. It is a decision that must be made between rationality, ethics and morality.
Fourth, it is also important to consider the need to share the risk that investments bring in the process. It is clear that one of the great challenges of this sector is that the ROI made by the private sector is usually minimal or zero, while the public health needs are uncountable. This is why the figure of public-private partnerships can be attractive since they generate investment incentives by sharing the associated risk.
Finally, betting on innovation to make vaccine production and distribution sustainable, since the containment of COVID-19 will depend on how efficient we can be in the administration of the vaccine at a global level, and that includes countries that have resources to finance the purchase, as well as those who do not. If access to it is not guaranteed for all nations, we will probably not be safe.