The Informer: A word of warning before celebrating 'biological jiujitsu'

A word of warning before celebrating 'biological jujitsu'

It's just what you expect form 2020 - good news. Then the qualifier. The "but" that makes you second guess whether it's good after all.

For instance, news of a COVID-19 vaccine. Surely time for some jazz hands and a socially-distanced high five? Well, a quick celebration if you're lucky.

No sooner had news of Britain becoming the the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19, than the warnings started. (Well, if you scratched just a little beneath the surface they've been there for a while.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had to pull through a life-threatening bout of COVID-19 earlier this year, gushed as you would expect of him about the "biological jujitsu". It was an historic moment - and leapt upon by a man whose handling of all this virus-related hasn't won him many friends.

Hold your horses, BoJo.

It was back in September when World Health Organisation chief Tedros Ghebreyesus suggested: "Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it."

As Laura King wrote in a piece published by The Canberra Times today: "The Rand Corp. warned in a report this year that vaccine nationalism - including practices such as countries pushing for first access to a vaccine supply, or hoarding key components could cost the global economy up to $1.2 trillion a year if they result in unequal allocation."

And here's the rub: "Only about four dozen British hospitals will initially be authorised to administer the shots. Although the vaccine's makers have reported no serious side effects, it is still not known whether asymptomatic people who have been inoculated can still spread the disease. And how long the protection lasts is not yet known," King writes.

Australia's medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, is moving cautiously. It will wait for more data before approving a coronavirus vaccine.

Let's not forget the state of affairs in the UK: winter is coming and yesterday alone there were 16,000 new cases. Any wonder Mr Johnson wants to move quickly.

And while BoJo will "strongly urge" people to get vaccinated, he also said it is "no part of our culture or our ambition in this country to make vaccines mandatory."

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