2021 began with a worldwide ambition – to vaccinate as many people as possible against Covid-19.
But in many parts of the world it’s been a slow start. There aren’t enough vaccine dose available yet. And sometimes, logistical problems add to the shortages.
That’s why the UK decided to simply delay the second vaccine dose to increase capacity.
Only a handful different vaccines have been authorized so far. Some countries have already kicked off vaccination campaigns. Supply remains extremely limited, despite manufacturers ramping up their production capacities.
Most of the vaccines require an initial jab and then a booster shot sometime later, to provide adequate protection. With a global population of 7.8 billion people, that means that almost 16 billion doses need to be produced for everyone to be vaccinated. Producing that amount will take years some experts say.
But time is of the essence: The longer the virus keeps spreading around the globe, the higher the likelihood of mutation. Just recently scientists discovered two new variants in the UK and South Africa that appear to be much more contagious. The fear is that those mutations could render even strict lockdown measures useless. And eventually even the vaccines.
Now experts are trying to find ways to get more shots into more arms. The discussion is focused on three options:
The first option is to delay the second dose. That would mean more people could have a first shot, which might provide some protection. The UK and Denmark have approved the measure and are about to put it into practice. But some experts warn that immunity might wane in the weeks following the initial shot. That could create ideal circumstances for the virus to mutate and become resistant.
The second idea is to cut the doses in half, which would double the number of people that could be vaccinated. While there are indications that the immune response is the same, experts say, we can’t know for sure.
The third option is to combine two vaccines, so that the composition of the booster is different from the initial one. The reasoning behind that idea is that both the AstraZeneca and BioNTech vaccines target the viruses spike protein. But with two different methods.
The problem is: None of the proposed alternatives has been tested so far.
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