Ideas

Beyond Science, The COVID-19 Vaccine Is A Question Of Trust

The halting of AstraZeneca's vaccine trial is not only a reminder of the challenge of finding a cure, but will feed growing public mistrust of states and scientists.

Anti vaxxer during a protest in the U.S.
Etienne Lefebvre

PARIS — It was a prickly reality check. We learned yesterday that the clinical trial conducted by AstraZeneca to find a vaccine against COVID-19 was put on hold. The incident, altogether quite common in the scientific world, has cast a chill across an entire world hoping for a quick miracle cure to contain the virus.

The race for a vaccine is bound to follow a tortuous path. The scale of the resources committed around the world might offer hope — the European Union, for example, has just initiated a sixth pre-order for vaccines. But for now, nothing is settled either on the effectiveness of the treatments or on the required deadlines. We will therefore have to go on for months without a cure. And to take decisions regarding our health as if there was no imminent vaccine.

During this time of global uncertainty, there is a great risk of seeing a new increase in scientific controversies, after those regarding the efficiency of masks or hydroxychloroquine. These controversies will be fueled by the states themselves.

Mistrust is widespread, as the low rate of flu vaccinations demonstrates.

Vladimir Putin set the tone by turning the Russian vaccine project into a political weapon. Beijing is posed to ambush and Donald Trump is closely following the Russian president, putting strong pressure on U.S. health authorities so that a treatment is approved before November's presidential election. All of that with the risk of promoting vaccines with limited efficiency. A rare occurrence: in a joint statement, the heads of nine pharmaceutical groups have just raised the alarm regarding any hasty approval of a new vaccine.

All this will not help to reverse the already declining trust of the population in vaccines. The evolution of opinion is worrying across the Atlantic, but also in France. The latest polls show that the French would rank among the world's populations most reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if such treatment were available. It's a shame in a country that has historically been at the forefront on scientific research.

""Say no to mandatory vaccines'" in the UK — Photo: Joel Goodman/London News Pictures/ZUMA

Convincing the entire population to be vaccinated will not be the first priority though. Due to limited time and availability, it will be necessary to start by vaccinating people who are deemed ‘at risk": health workers, the elderly and/or people suffering from certain pathologies, and so on. But even among these groups, mistrust is widespread, as the low rate of flu vaccinations among nursing staff in hospitals and nursing homes shows.

Indeed, the flu vaccination campaign that is starting will thus serve as a test, as France has ordered a larger number of doses, with the aim of limiting those who catch the flu to avoid additional pressure on its health system. Any initiatives facilitating these campaigns — such as vaccination by pharmacists, which is yielding results — will be welcome. Just like respecting social distancing, vaccination is not just an act of individual protection, but one with even greater collective benefits.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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