The end is finally in sight

The uncertainty regarding the scope and length of this pandemic has been drastically reduced. Does that mean we are going back to normal? How excited should we be about the vaccines announced in the past few days? What does the recovery timeline look like? How excited should we all be about this news? In this short report, I’ll walk you through the latest developments and offer you some concise insight on what to expect from now onwards. We all should be super optimistic as the root cause of the crisis is solved. Still, there will be challenges in the upcoming months to re-adjust to a new normal through 2021.

I have been sharing our insights on the outlook for our industry through the pandemic. Today I am happy to report the best news since the crisis started back in March: the uncertainty regarding the scope and length of this pandemic has been drastically reduced.

Back in March, we all had an impossible challenge: hunker down for a winter that everyone knew would hit hard, but nobody could tell how long it would last. Here I will sum up why the news from the past few days is reassuring.

There will be obvious challenges in the upcoming months to re-adjust to a new normal through 2021, but at least now we can model for that.

What you need to know

The Pfizer vaccine

Efficacy is above 90%. This is a huge deal and should be the cause of cautious optimism.

What does this mean? If you were to get the vaccine, your risk of getting COVID-19 is reduced by 90 percent. For context, the 2019–2020 influenza vaccine had an efficacy of 45%. This result is well above industry expectations.

Moderna vaccine

Efficacy is 94.5%. This is tremendous news as both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA-based vaccines. This is a completely new type of vaccine and there was great uncertainty surrounding its potential. The fact that two separate companies arrived at these results is reasuring. Note that the most typical “Viral Vector Vaccines” are also in phase 3 large scale clinical trials (notably the efforts by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca).

How excited should we all be about this news?

As epidemiologist Larry Brilliant said in a recent interview, “We never had treatment for smallpox; this could have gone that way. We don’t have a vaccine against HIV/AIDS; this could have gone that way.” So the fact that high-efficacy vaccines will be available in the short term is amazing news.

When will these vaccines become available?

We expect both companies to be filling for emergency special approval with the FDA by the end of November or the first couple of weeks in December. Note that both vaccines are already in production. Pfizer will have about 25 million doses by the end of the year and Moderna will have another 20 million. Between both companies, they plan to produce 800 million to 1.6 billion doses in 2021.

At this point, it is highly likely that vaccination will start in early 2021 (I am personally guessing it will be mid-January). Early COVID-19 vaccine recipients will most likely be health care personnel, other non-medical essential workers, those with high-risk medical conditions, and adults aged 65 years or older.

How does the timeline look after that?

We will see a ramp-up in production and availability during Q1 2021. It is expected that by spring there would be enough Covid-19 vaccine for general public vaccination campaigns.

Are we going back to normal?

I assess that we are never fully going back to normal. There will be some safety and general hygiene protocols that are here to stay. That said, I believe the recent news means that the dining out experience will highly resemble the pre-pandemic times by summer 2021.

I am confident there is enough time now to implement the necessary procedures that will allow the industry to operate at full capacity by summer. The exact timeline will be dependent on local authorities and the approach they take in the coming months.

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