Some anxiety is definitely warranted, especially during worrisome situations like the current coronavirus pandemic. This applies not only to basic health questions such as the risk of becoming infected or becoming severely ill.
While fear about illness and death brings nervousness in life and prospects of avoiding it is a cause for optimism. This is what the world is facing today — anxiety about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine!
And with the arrival of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech in Britain, the first Western country to begin vaccinating its population against the pathogen on Monday, people in other parts of the world have become more anxious about its availability even as there are huge logistical and infrastructural challenges to its rollout!
Yet there is now an extended anxiety after reports that the US, Canada, Malaysia, Japan, India and many European countries are getting ready for introducing the shots to their people. Like in other parts of the world, public expectations and anxiety is growing about the vaccine’s arrival in the Sultanate.
Even though there have been deliberations about the availability and the effectiveness of the vaccine, I heard an unmatched question asked in a group discussion that who would be getting it first in Oman despite government announcements that the elderly and vulnerable in the society and frontline staff will get them in the beginning and then in a descending order of priorities. It amazed me as if the question was raised out of the eagerness in availing the vaccine or wanted to become the first in the fray!
But for the government it will definitely be a Herculean effort if it is to take delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored at the ultra-cold temperature of -70°C. This means the vaccine must be kept in specialised freezers. It is also a resource-intensive task that even the world’s most sophisticated systems have them in their possession. It involves the kind of logistical support, coordination and synchronisation of other state machinery as it is the first time that such an initiative is being undertaken.
To help with distributing its vaccine, Pfizer claims that it has developed a shipping container that can maintain the required temperature for up to 10 days unopened. With regular refills of dry ice, it can maintain that temperature for up to 30 days.
So the government and the society need to come together to be able to get the vaccine across to the length and breadth of the country regardless who will get it first. And our government is up for the challenge and is just waiting for the time.
It is worth mentioning what Dr Margaret Harris of the World Health Organization said in response to a question at a Geneva briefing, “Vaccines are a great tool, they will be very helpful, but the effect of the vaccine in providing some kind of immune barrier is still far off. The things that must be done to prevent an increase, an uptick, a surge or whatever you want to call it are the public health measures.”