Tuesday, October 19

The year we live pending vaccines

Louis Pasteur would be amazed. A little less than a year ago, the world had been fighting for months without effective weapons against COVID-19, a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, with high mortality and high contagion capacity. Currently, more than 3.6 billion people, almost 47% of the world’s population, have received at least one dose and, of those people, more than 2.7 billion, 35% of the world’s population, are fully vaccinated.

It is difficult to get an idea, but the vaccination campaign, which has been described as historic, has been a true epic from which humanity will have to draw many lessons, both from its scientific and health success and from its shadows in the form of an unjust access in the most disadvantaged areas of the planet, scandalously delayed in the administration of some serums that have proven their effectiveness in curbing the alarming numbers of deaths and hospitalizations.

Edward Jenner, at the end of the 18th century, with his experiment against smallpox, revolutionized expectations for the future in public health by opening an era that has eradicated many diseases or severely restricted their incidence. The list includes diseases such as measles, smallpox, polio, hepatitis, tetanus, rabies, cholera, whooping cough, typhus, plague, diphtheria … and more recently, Ebola, human papilloma or COVID-19, just when it seems that malaria will also become part, at last, of possible immunizations.

Vaccine development has historically been driven by governments, non-governmental organizations, international agencies, scientific centers, and universities. In this global pandemic, it has also been the investment of hundreds of millions of euros of public funds that has allowed the development of different vaccines. The pharmaceutical industry has taken advantage of these funds for their manufacture and the debate on the convenience of releasing patents has remained in the air, an operation claimed from a planetary vision of its function.

But beyond the colossal company involved in manufacturing so many millions of vials, a logistical and health deployment has been necessary that has put the political and health structures to the test. An aspect in which the European Union has shown its power and in which systems such as the Spanish have revealed their effectiveness. From centralized purchasing from the European Commission to the massive administration of doses by regional governments, the importance of this expert system that we call the public health service has been demonstrated.

At this point, Spain is one of the countries with the highest vaccination levels, also thanks to the fact that certain political demagogies and certain denialist manipulations have raised little resistance among us to the indisputable advantages of acquired immunization. Almost 80% of Spaniards have received at least one dose of some of the vaccines against COVID-19 and about 78% have complete immunization.

The regional government has just awarded on the occasion of October 9, the festival of this community, the high distinction of the Generalitat Valenciana to the vaccination teams against the pandemic. “We have protected 90% of the population, thanks to science, the enormous civility of the citizens and the vaccination teams,” said Valencian President Ximo Puig in his institutional speech. Indeed, various tributes have been paid to the victims, who are already 4.8 million in the world (84,700 of them in Spain), and to the health workers who have fought in health centers and hospitals against the coronavirus. But it is not clear whether we sufficiently value all that we owe to science and the importance of providing it with decent funding and resources. As Pasteur said: “Do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by a sterile and depressing skepticism; do not be discouraged by the sadness of certain hours that pass over the nations. Live in the serene peace of laboratories and libraries. Ask yourself first: What have I done to educate myself? And then, as I progress: What have I done for my country? Until the day comes when you can feel the intimate satisfaction of thinking that you have somehow contributed to the progress and well-being of humanity. ”


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