Temper COVID-19 vaccine expections, says Hirji

Temper COVID-19 vaccine expections, says Hirji

Niagara’s acting medical officer of health says the public should temper expectations of how effective a future COVID-19 vaccine will be, saying physical distancing and masks will be a part of life for some time to come.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji’s comments come as Russia is reported to have deployed the world’s first novel coronavirus vaccine — a vaccine for which there have been no peer-reviewed scientific papers published — and it will be given to the public soon.

“We don’t know how safe, or how effective, (the Russian vaccine) is,” Hirji said. “I don’t even know if someone in Canada wanted the Russian vaccine that they could even get it.”

Critical phase three human trials have not been done on the Russian drug in contrast with the massive trials currently underway in the United States and the United Kingdom for two possible vaccine candidates that are not expected to show results until the end of the year.

Hirji said while either or both of those vaccines could be safe for human use, he is skeptical about how effective they will be and worries a public exhausted by the pandemic are setting themselves up for disappointment.

“We could be looking at something that is 35 per cent or 40 per cent effective, and not something as close as the MMR vaccine, which is nearly 100 per cent effective,” he said.

Hirji said vaccines usually take up to 10 years to develop with the record being four years. The COVID-19 vaccine effort is historically unique because “we have the whole world working on it,” but creating an effective immunizing shot is neither simple nor easy.

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