From The Medical Republic, 8 April 2020:
“I’m one of those public health people who love silver bullets.”
As editor-in-chief of BMJ Global Health, and a health systems expert at the University of Sydney, Dr Seye Abimbola is well acquainted with the damage that SARS-CoV-2 has wrought around the world. So he’s understandably excited about the potential for vaccines to be the intervention that restores something approaching normality to the world.
Since their discovery, vaccines have been the closest thing to a silver bullet that modern medicine has come up with: a single injection – or maybe two – and an individual is protected for their lifetime against infectious pathogens that might cripple or kill. Even those not vaccinated can benefit from protection through herd immunity.
There was a gargantuian global sigh of relief as the first COVID-19 vaccines were shown to be effective, approved for use and finally deployed en masse. Leaving aside for a moment the sluggishness and supply problems besetting our own rollout, news and social media have been filled with images of politicians and celebrities getting vaccinated, and of joyful, mask-free reunions between immunised friends and family members. Vaccine clinics have been swamped. The overwhelming sentiment has been: “Great, now things can go back to normal.”
But neither the 1918 influenza pandemic, nor the first SARS-CoV epidemic, and not even the Ebola epidemics, have been brought to a satisfactory close with vaccines. The only disease to have been effectively wiped off the face of the earth with vaccines is smallpox. Read more.