From Flu Shot to Covid-19 Vaccine: How should we think of vaccination?
Author: Leon Ling Editor: Julie Ng Guest Speaker: Gian Polastri
In the last few weeks, the increasing global COVID-19 cases stirred up public concerns about the second outbreak in some countries. Seemingly news of COVID-19 vaccines has brought some hope to people behind the masks. WHO started its campaign to raise public acceptance of the vaccine, but the comments that followed were full of objections and concerns.
From flu shot to COVID-19 vaccines, the anti-vaccination movement has never stopped informing the public about how these medicines affect the human body negatively, which poses much ambiguity to the general masses who might need vaccination.
Mr. Gian Polastri was born in Italy and grew up in California. He switched his studies among Engineering, European History, and Microbiology in Germany, and finally obtained his Bachelor in Bacteriology in Berkeley, California. Then he started viral vaccine development research in Germany in 1979. After working for 22.5 years in Genentech, Gian became Senior Scientist and Director of the Cell Culture & Fermentation Development Department. In 2006, Gian semi-retired and was working as an independent consultant for novel biopharmaceuticals development.
“Some viruses can spread so easily like the Coronavirus, and you can have somebody suddenly spread to hundreds of people in the family and the neighborhood who is unvaccinated and unprotected. If you end up with less than 70% of the population get vaccinated, you can end up with a major outbreak of the disease,” said Gian.
Some viruses, like Pertussis, Measles, and influenza, will lead to significant deaths among children without vaccination. It is socially responsible for vaccinating children, and some vaccines in Canada, the U.S, and Europe already safe and perfectly used for the past decades. It is a lack of scientific proof that helps Anti-vaccine movements build their claims.
Using chicken eggs, injecting viruses, cultivate the cells, purified and stabilized virus, Gian shared some typical process for vaccine development. In a highly protected condition, all the researchers need to be vaccinated before dealing with viruses. Gian had helped develop several viral vaccines. However, in terms of COVID-19 vaccines, Gian showed some concerns.
“COVID-19 is unusual and challenging; everyone is in a rush to develop a new vaccine. It presents a different risk about the vaccines,” said Gian.
On the one hand, researchers might need to take one or two years to collect enough vaccine development data. The global competition might end up getting with vaccines released to the population long before proven to be safe and effective. On the other hand, the media reported that mutated viruses are found in some countries; the released vaccine might not work against this virus’s mutated strain. Meanwhile, many companies are forced to use advanced technology to develop vaccines in a short time, which is another challenge COVID-19 has brought.
However, the public could hold a positive attitude towards vaccines that have been used safely in the past few decades. It is still a long journey to end the pandemic and to have a valid vaccine to COVID-19. While adapting to the new normal, practice social distancing, face coverage, and individual hygiene is still an effective way to prevent the virus from spreading.