Transparency needed in securing a vaccine
The world over, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken lives and devastated livelihoods, businesses and industries. An effective and safe vaccine is the best hope of ensuring a return of normalcy, but that depends on whether one can be developed and quickly manufactured and distributed. China is at the forefront and Hong Kong has significant medical and financial resources, so residents expect the government to ensure early access. While officials have announced a procurement strategy, the paucity of details raises questions as to whether enough is being done.
Health Secretary Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee last week said resources had been reserved to procure vaccines from companies that had potential and that help was also being sought from Beijing. The government had also joined the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, in part led by the World Health Organisation, in effect an insurance policy to ensure supply should other efforts not bear fruit. Although work is under way on more than 150 vaccines around the world and just seven are in the final stage of testing, there is no certainty that any will prove effective. Of them, four have Chinese connections and three of these are involved in overseas trials.
There is a race by research facilities and scientists to be the first to create a trustworthy vaccine and development, approval and production time frames have been sped up from the usual 10 to 20 years to ensure availability in the next 12 to 18 months. Governments, the United States by far the most aggressive, have already struck advance-purchase agreements with pharmaceutical companies to improve the odds and guarantee supplies. The deals are often in the billions of dollars and are in effect investments that could pay off or turn sour. While the world urgently needs a vaccine, it is still guesswork whether any will meet standards and requirements.
Which companies or institutions the Hong Kong government has struck deals with and the amount of financial commitments pledged have not been revealed. Citizens everywhere expect their governments to safely guide them through the pandemic, the worst health and economic crisis in a century. Lives and livelihoods are at risk. There has to be as much transparency as possible.