Ireland plays central role in Covid vaccine delivery
Safety data adds to optimism on end to virus shutdowns
Pfizer and BioNTech said their experimental Covid-19 vaccine protected 95 per cent of people against the disease. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
After a year of unutterable misery, the news on the prospects for Covid-19 vaccines just gets better and better.
And Ireland will be playing a part in ensuring that up to 300 million doses of one of the vaccines gets to countries across Europe next year – assuming it secures final approval.
The two front-runners – Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – which are on the verge of seeking regulatory approval, have signed deals to deliver up to 460 million doses of their vaccines across the European Union.
For Pfizer, manufacturing is already taking place at its Belgian plant. But it will be the pharma giant’s Irish facility at Grange Castle in Dublin that will be responsible for testing the quality of batches of the vaccine before it is sent out for use.
That gives the Irish operation a key role in efforts to get a grip, finally, on a virus that has crippled the world economy this year.
The public health experts are reserving judgment, correctly awaiting full data from a series of massive clinical trials – including, critically, how long any immunity lasts. The two vaccines that have delivered data to date use an approach that has never been tapped to date for vaccines.
And even if approved, challenges certainly remain in terms of manufacturing capacity, transportation, storage and training in administering the vaccine.
Patient education to take the vaccine in the first place and to return for a necessary second shot a month later – as required with either of the front-running vaccine candidates – are further headaches as are the inevitably thorny issues of cost and, potentially, indemnities.
But the figures that have been made available are more promising than people had dared hope. Efficacy of 95 per cent, regardless of age, race and ethnicity, with no more serious side effects than tiredness or a headache. Suddenly, the future looks brighter.