Her article provides an excellent summary of the ongoing debate over whether, in light of the paucity of available COVID-19 vaccines, it might be worthwhile to hold off on administering the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in order to provide more people with their first shot more quickly.
As Boyd notes, the argument in favour “is that it’s better to give more people the limited protection a single dose appears to deliver [52% rather than 95%] and they can still get their second shot, just a little later.”
I am more convinced by the arguments against, and there are plenty.
Dr. Alan Bernstein, a member of Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, offers eight, ranging from the dangers of tampering with “vaccines based on RNA technology that have never been tried on humans before,” to providing individuals with insufficient protection, to undermining faith in the integrity of public health recommendations, to upsetting Pfizer to the point that the company refuses to ship us more product.
Regrettably, Bernstein’s list of reasons does not appear to be sufficiently compelling to prevent some of our provinces, not to mention a number of Canada’s major allies, from planning to experiment.
So here is one more reason worth considering:
The global vaccination effort is no longer just a public health challenge; it has also become part of an ongoing diplomatic competition between China and the Western world.
For years, Beijing has tried to reshape the international order to better align with its interests.
To oversimplify, Chinese foreign policy has aimed to convince members of the global commons that Beijing’s illiberal approach to domestic and world affairs is superior to the liberal, democratic model typically championed by the United States and much preferred by the rest of the West.
And it seems to be working. Global confidence in democracy has been waning.
Most recently, Beijing has pointed to how its heavy-handed lockdowns and intrusive contact tracing methods have largely held the virus at bay, allowing the Chinese economy to rebound while the West continues to struggle.
So far, however, Beijing has not come close to demonstrating superiority in terms of its vaccines.
A recent article in The Economist details a Chinese approach to immunization that has included risky mass inoculations of untested products, inconsistent data, and a failure to match the 95% efficacy of Pfizer or the 94.1% efficacy of Moderna.
For now, then, it remains possible that when this pandemic finally ends, Western scientific discoveries could help discredit the Chinese model.
In that context, experimenting with the Pfizer vaccine – never a good idea in the first place – becomes an absolutely terrible one.
Against an adversary like China, we need all the soft power we can get.
I don’t follow a lot of people on Twitter, but I’m really impressed by the way that Lieutenant-Commander Amber Comisso (@cdnnavylady) uses her account. The tone and content of her tweets should make the Canadian Navy proud.
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