The race to inoculate millions of people across the world against COVID-19 is off to a slower and messier start than expected. Insufficient supplies and complex logistics are bogging down the process.
Many countries – including the US and Germany – are falling far behind projected rollout speeds.
The main issue is that the BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine – the first one to be widely approved – requires cumbersome refrigeration at extreme temperatures and two shots within three weeks to be most effective.
This has sparked a debate among experts about whether the time between doses should be stretched to 3 months. Some argue that it is better to give many people some resistance to the virus, than to give fewer people full protection.
Britain recently became the first country to authorize the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Trial data suggests it is somewhat less effective, but much easier to store and transport.
Experts say it could change the situation entirely. Unlike its Biontech-Pfizer competitor, this vaccine is more effective when the second dose is given three months later… leaving enough time to inoculate much of the population and endow them with partial immunity. The UK plans to vaccinate a million people per week from January 4th.
But what may turn out to be the most promising development on the horizon is still pending approval. Johnson&Johnson’s Jannsen vaccine requires only one dose. That could simplify logistics considerably. If approved, this single-shot jab could be in use in by February.
To ebb the alarming rise in COVID-19 deaths, governments are still scrambling to find a way to speed up vaccination schemes.