Viewpoint: Creating a COVID vaccine may turn out to be the easiest part. Logistics pose a global nightmare

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Credit: UNICEF

Governments deserve credit for supporting [COVID vaccine] advances through public subsidies. But that was always going to be the easy part. The real challenge now is managing expectations amid growing anxiety and impatience. Looking ahead, it will also be up to policy makers to ensure a vaccine is distributed in a timely and fairly way, and that pseudoscientific theories do not prevent people from accepting inoculation.

Rather than engaging in cheap electioneering, our political leaders should be focusing on an efficient vaccine rollout plan. There are two risks in particular that will require careful handling: In the short term, there will be enormous pressure from many individuals to obtain the initial doses, which will inevitably be scarce. After a few months, the challenge will be getting enough of the population to receive the immunization, so as to achieve “herd immunity.”

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These two threats demand, first of all, that the development of vaccines is shielded from political pressure. It’s one thing to cut unnecessary bureaucracy, it’s another to gamble on safety — and scientists are best placed to distinguish between the two… Politicians should not stand in their way. This is essential if we are to avoid catastrophic accidents after a rollout, which could cause both health issues and a dangerous backlash against immunization.

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