Covid-19: 'We cannot estimate yet when a vaccine will be available'
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Cape Town - Several institutions around the world are working on vaccines. Realistically nothing will become available before mid-2021 at the earliest.
This is according to the Head of the Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University, Professor Wolfgang Preiser.
Preiser said it is expected that the healthcare system will be under severe strain and that the people at high risk of contracting Covid-19 (the elderly and chronically ill), should get the annual influenza vaccine shot to decrease the number of flu cases for the season.
“Should someone get both together, especially if they belong to one of the risk groups, it would likely cause serious illness. And last but not least, the two diseases are very similar the way they present. So one could have influenza but be suspected of having the coronaviruses, and be put in isolation while being tested.”
He said every year, more than 11 000 South Africans die due to influenza, on average. Many of these deaths could be avoided with vaccination.
General Practitioner Dr Batsi Tawengwa said scientists are scrambling for a vaccine with conflicting studies being released.
“One hundred years ago, a deadly influenza virus infected hundreds of millions of people globally. As the panic of imminent death descends on the population, people are scrambling for everything from high dose Vitamin C, respiratory masks, hand sanitizer to chloroquine as possible preventative and curative measures.”
“We are all at risk. Human beings are hosts for coronavirus. Exposure to sick people will increase risk.”
He said infection control measures such as decreased contact, handwashing/sanitising especially if coming in contact with people, giving masks to sick people as this is more effective.
“The source and origin of this virus is still not well-established. If we do not have any ‘natural immunity’ as in if the virus was actually animal-borne initially, then we are definitely up for a serious challenge.”
“Scientists are working round the clock to find a cure or at least a vaccine that can be distributed to the general population before casualties reach apocalyptic proportions,” Tawengwa said.
He added that we cannot estimate yet when a cure or vaccine will be available and that for now, people everywhere should reduce unnecessary gatherings, put in place infection control measures and to show kindness to symptomatic people and their communities.
Member of the Steering Committee of the People's Health Movement, Professor Louis Reynold said he was not aware of any efforts to find a cure or vaccine for Covid-19.
“But that doesn't mean there aren't any. Just don't fall for fake news on this; check everything out carefully.”