2020 will be remembered as a watershed for humanity when a pandemic brought the world to a grounding halt. It’s a year when the world stood still. It is the year when in record time vaccines were developed for SARS-CoV2, the novel Coronavirus. According to data shared by Moderna, at the 39th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, more than 80 plus new viruses were discovered in the last 40 years while only 4% have a vaccine commercially available in the US. Example, Zika virus has no vaccine in the market yet although one is under development. As the COVID-19 virus mutates, the South African strain remains a concern.
Yesterday, the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, established the first global stockpile of vaccine for the Ebola virus. The vaccine developed by financial support from the United States of America is stockpiled in Switzerland and made available to countries on request. Ebola virus has a much higher mortality rate compared to the novel coronavirus, with an average mortality rate of 50% with a high of 90%. The virus first appeared in 1976. The Ebola stockpile effort is a welcome move, as it develops buffer protection against the likelihood of spread of the disease.
The pandemic experience has further highlighted the importance of being proactive in our approach as H5N1 influenza “Bird Flu” hits parts of India; a virus with a mortality rate is as high as 60% for infected people. The inactivated vaccine is available for people between the ages of 18 and 64 years. It would be a welcome move to pile up global stockpiles of various vaccines as a formidable line of defense against risks of the pandemic from other infections.