The growing stream of positive news about the effectiveness of candidate C19 vaccines is indeed phenomenally good news. Yet the journey to the good type of herd immunity based on an immunised population will be long and winding. and yes we really are nearly there but how nearly is near. With a second RNA vaccine announced to have 95% protection and several others in the pipeline none of which suffer from the same cold-chain logistics challenges in principle, the path to population immunity is clear. Yet there remains an enormous challenge to get sufficient uptake for things to be getting back to normal by this time next year and indeed at all. As the inventor of the Pfizer vaccine noted 80% must be vaccinated by autumn to beat major outbreaks next winter. This is a very tall order. Further, there are huge trust issues among those who are not naturally classical anti-vaxers. Despite the tragically high levels of deaths and risk in the US, a recent poll suggested 50% of Americans did not intend to take the vaccine. This problem is exacerbated because many of the candidate vaccines deploy totally novel mechanisms of action with no real-world long term use. Further, they are messenger RNA which lives in the cytoplasm of the cell and plays a downstream role in the production of protein. Though nominally genetic material it can’t cause changes to the genetic code of the cell, although specious, conspiracy theories are already on the increase suggesting jus that. Thus raising unwarranted fears that these vaccines may cause long term genetic changes. It is also highly likely that many people may not vaccinate their children who after all remain at-risk because they experience the illness in its mildest form. They will likely remain a potent vector for continued transmission.
In addition plans for passporting to prove immune status are potentially on the cards, particularly in special circumstances like travel, mass gatherings and for key sector workers, The privacy issues raised by are a quagmire and passporting is likely to be highly politicised with the potential for a two-tier nation of Susceptibles, who for whatever reason are not vaccinated, and Immunes is likely to lead to all sorts of complications, foreseeable and unforeseeable, some such examples include restrictions on travel, distortion of the job market etc. It will be important that brands steer away from being associated with one political perspective or another.
We will be living with Covid for a long time to come and it may be seasonal and always around. Mitigations will remain and protecting the economy will depend on finding ways to shorten the lockdowns and lengthen the time between them. We must continue to adopt extra measures which reduce R0 and so permit more nuanced approaches to the restrictions in different commercial sectors whilst also reducing unwarranted fear among business staff, customers and visitors.