Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos is among the first to get inoculated | Photo by MMDA via Wikimedia Commons
There is absolutely no doubt that science is now taking the upper hand in the war against COVID-19. According to a study conducted by Yale Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, the US has been making remarkable progress in the fight against the pandemic through its aggressive vaccination rollout, preventing up to 1.25 million hospitalizations and about 279,000 additional deaths. The United States is leading the world in proving this by administering over 300 million vaccines against the deadly virus, with an estimated 160 million Americans having been fully vaccinated.
However, there is major concern about the rising cases of infection in states where vaccination has been low or below average, with the highly contagious Delta variant (about two to three times more infectious) driving the new cases in states such as Arkansas, Missouri, Utah, and Wyoming as well as Mississippi that has the lowest vaccination rate in the US with only 47 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Increased hospitalization has also been noted in 19 states, with the highest per capita recorded in 10 states where less than 45 percent of the population is fully vaccinated: Missouri, Arizona, Mississippi, Arkansas, Nevada, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky, Indiana, and Louisiana. Authorities also say the Delta variant accounts for half of all the new cases across the United States. But while the numbers are now much lower compared to the time when the vaccine rollout was not in full swing, what is significant is that most of the deaths seem to occur among those who have not been vaccinated.
“But while the numbers are now much lower compared to the time when the vaccine rollout was not in full swing, what is significant is that most of the deaths seem to occur among those who have not been vaccinated.”
A report from The Economist noted that many countries are also seeing a new wave of infections mainly due to “incomplete vaccination,” among them Malaysia experiencing “a wave of infections six times more deadly than the surge in January.”
The World Health Organization has also issued a warning about the third wave in Africa getting worse with the emergence of new variants such as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreading to more countries. Less than two percent of the population in Africa has been vaccinated, with more than 251,000 new cases reported last week, described by the WHO as the “worst pandemic week ever.”
To date, more than 4 million people all over the world have succumbed to COVID-19, while the number of cases has reached more than 186 million. But compared to the Spanish Flu or the 1918 influenza pandemic that lasted for more than two years, infecting more than 500 million people and wiping out 50 million of the population, the world today is in a better position to win this war against COVID-19 with the vaccines and medicines to combat secondary infections and other complications.
While new variants or mutations may emerge, scientists and vaccine manufacturers are already one step ahead by developing booster shots to provide additional protection against new variants. Thick in the fight is Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccines have been proven to be highly effective in preventing infection among adults and adolescents.
“Scientists explain that booster shots may be needed primarily for two reasons: vaccine-induced immunity may wane naturally over time, and new variants could emerge that may necessitate a shot with an updated vaccine.”
Moderna says its vaccine is effective against several variants of concern, including the Delta variant that is now spreading across 96 countries, including the US. Early this year, the company began developing a booster shot with results showing increased antibodies against the original COVID-19 strain and providing added protection against the Beta and Gamma variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.
Pfizer is also developing a booster shot targeting the Delta variant, saying a third dose may be needed within six to 12 months after full vaccination. Company executives confirmed that data have been encouraging in the ongoing booster trial, offering the highest levels of protection against known variants, including Delta.
Scientists explain that booster shots may be needed primarily for two reasons: vaccine-induced immunity may wane naturally over time, and new variants could emerge that may necessitate a shot with an updated vaccine. The mRNA technology used in developing the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines also makes it possible to modify current versions faster – critical in staying ahead of the coronavirus. Experts are also looking at a combination of COVID-19 and flu vaccines since seasonal flu continues to be a global health threat.
As noted by Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Anna Durbin, “We have a global need for vaccine doses now, and the best way to reduce transmission and reduce the number of variants is to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
In the Philippines, Secretary Charlie Galvez is optimistic that the first-dose vaccination of 70 million Filipinos could be achieved by November, with the rollout gaining traction as more doses continue to arrive. Secretary Galvez and I have been regularly communicating, and we are targeting the 130-million mark of vaccine supplies by yearend.
“In the Philippines, Secretary Charlie Galvez is optimistic that the first-dose vaccination of 70 million Filipinos could be achieved by November, with the rollout gaining traction as more doses continue to arrive.”
We are also happy to note that vaccine hesitancy is waning, with Filipinos “eagerly” awaiting their turn for a shot, according to WHO representative to the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe. More than 12 million vaccine shots have been administered nationwide, with the daily vaccination rate now at over 250,000 but expected to increase to a target of 500,000 daily.
Hopefully, politics will take a back seat for a while – or at least until December – as we concentrate on getting more people vaccinated all over the country to bring us closer to herd immunity.
As I have repeatedly been saying to those who are still hesitant about getting vaccinated, the choice is obvious and simple: Get the vaccine, or chances are you will get very sick or worse – die.