A Virus and a Vaccine

A Virus and a Vaccine

The administration of vaccines is a positive sign – but the road to recovery is still long and winding

Margaret Keenan, a 90-year old British national, made history on 8 December 2020, when she became the first person in the world to be administered a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine outside formalised trials. Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine was soon joined by the administration of several other vaccines in countries around the world, such as the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine in the UAE, the Moderna vaccine in the United States and Canada and the Oxford-AstraZeneca in Qatar (not to mention the Sputnik-V which the Russian government claimed to be using since September itself).

A long-awaited solution

The administration of these vaccines could prove to be a turning point in the life cycle of the COVID-19 crisis. These first batch of vaccines, developed at least four times faster than any other at any point in history, has brought about a fresh wave of optimism for a new normal going into the new year. This is also set to be the “largest simultaneous global public-health initiative ever undertaken”, thereby requiring mass collaboration between professionals and governments from around the world in order to safely deliver vaccine doses and address challenges relating to storage, distribution, logistics and data tracking. The vaccine supply chain will necessarily need to be dynamic, adaptable and affordable over the medium run, especially given recent news about potential mutations in the virus strain.

Figure 1: Source: McKinsey &Company

The road, however, isn’t going to be straight for the vaccine stakeholders. Several consumers worldwide still remain sceptical of COVID-19 immunisation. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “to reach herd immunity, analysis suggests adoption ranges would need to be greater than those of vaccines for the flu and other diseases. The vast majority of US consumers surveyed believe the vaccine is important to facilitate a return to life as it was, but nearly half are “cautious adopters,” preferring to defer vaccination for up to three months to a year, after more data is available.

Figure 2: Source: McKinsey & Company

To boost acceptance, healthcare leaders will need to dynamically engage consumers through information campaigns using trusted, influential sources.Publicly taken vaccinations, such as that by the United States President-Elect Joe Biden may prove to be extremely beneficial in swaying public opinion.

An economic buffer

According to McKinsey, the “COVID-19 has revived the social contract in advanced economies—for now.” This has, of course, been made possible by the massive government spending on a global scale, to “shield individuals from the economic consequences of the pandemic, reversing a long-term trend of institutional pullback in the social contract.”


For context, the G-20 economies alone have announced fiscal packages worth over $10 trillion, which, in real terms, would amount to about three times the support provided during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and almost thirty times the volume of the Marshall Plan, used to rebuild Europe after the Second World War. At least 22 countries worldwide have had their governments increase fiscal spending (as a percentage of their GDP) to almost 20%. This has been augmented by major private sector interventions, such as employee protections, thereby producing a sort of economic buffer for those hit worst by the crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has also caused a paradigm shift in business operations for companies all over the world. The effects of high-consequence low-likelihood risks have forced businesses to rethink their degree of preparedness for such extraordinary risks and how to place themselves in a position of greater resilience. Research from McKinsey has shown that companies are chiefly concentrating on two aspects.

“A new global survey of more than 800 executives reveals that companies are prioritizing business building for organic growth, launching new businesses at an accelerated rate and, in turn, growing faster. The strongest companies are also reinventing themselves through next-normal operating models, capitalizing on this malleable moment and the resulting spread of agile processes, nimbler ways of working, and increased speed and productivity.”

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