| Photo by Emin Baycan on Unsplash
More than a year since the COVID-19 outbreak, the coronavirus continues its rampage all over the world, with the Delta variant deemed to account for the majority of new cases, prompting many places to impose fresh lockdowns. Sydney, for instance, has requested additional military personnel to help impose home quarantine rules that include tightened movement restrictions; Malaysia’s Parliament has gone on a 14-day lockdown after several staff members tested positive with the Delta variant, and Thailand has issued new travel limitations in several tourist destinations.
Some countries in Europe are likewise imposing restrictions, among them Ukraine that has extended a state of emergency until Oct. 1 due to a surge of infections attributed to the Delta variant that is more contagious than the previous versions of the coronavirus. The CDC has, in fact, characterized the Delta variant to be as easily transmissible as chickenpox with viral loads that are 1,000 times higher than the original strain.
According to leading American epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant who was at the forefront of the World Health Organization team that eradicated smallpox (the only disease that has been officially declared as eradicated), what we’re seeing is only “closer to the beginning” of the pandemic rather than the end, “and that’s not because the variant that we’re looking at right now is going to last that long.”
“He warned, however, that the coronavirus could become a “forever virus” like influenza, with new variants continuing to emerge “unless we vaccinate everyone in 200-plus countries.”
Describing the Delta variant as probably “the most contagious virus ever,” he also noted that since the infections spread very quickly, the virus will “run out of candidates” to infect, basing his prediction model on the outbreaks in San Francisco and New York whose patterns are similar to the ones seen in the UK and India, where they first identified the presence of the Delta variant.
He warned, however, that the coronavirus could become a “forever virus” like influenza, with new variants continuing to emerge “unless we vaccinate everyone in 200-plus countries.” While there is a low probability of a “super variant” that could render vaccines ineffective, he says that this potentially “catastrophic event” should not be ruled out and reiterated the need for everyone in the world to be vaccinated.
Clearly, the game-changer in this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic are vaccines, with worldwide scientists pointing to mRNA technology as the biggest scientific breakthrough that enabled the development of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines at “lightning speed.”
“The mRNA vaccines, specifically the ones developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, have demonstrated high efficacy against COVID-19 even in the wake of the Delta variant, preventing the onset of serious illness and even death when “breakthrough” infections occur among the vaccinated, …”
The mRNA vaccines, specifically the ones developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, have demonstrated high efficacy against COVID-19 even in the wake of the Delta variant, preventing the onset of serious illness and even death when “breakthrough” infections occur among the vaccinated, with such risk reduced by half with the mRNA vaccines, according to studies. Not surprisingly, some countries such as Australia and Canada are planning to build mRNA vaccine facilities not only for COVID-19 but other respiratory viruses such as seasonal flu.
Compared to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that resulted in 500 million cases of infection and 50 million deaths, scientists say we can deal with the COVID-19 pandemic better because of the vaccines and drugs available today, unlike before. In fact, the WHO is conducting solidarity clinical trials for three promising new drugs that could potentially reduce the risk of death for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. One of these is used as a treatment for inflammatory conditions and has shown considerable “efficacy and safety in restricting broad spectrum inflammation, including in elderly populations who are most clinically vulnerable to COVID-19,” the WHO said.
Booster shots have rapidly been developed since the immunity provided by vaccines could wane after some time – perhaps within a year – resulting in lessened protection against new variants. This is similar to the seasonal flu virus that keeps changing, so people need to get booster shots with updated vaccines that can fight prevalent strains during the flu season.
According to top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, one group that needs booster shots the most are those who are immunocompromised or have weakened immune systems, like people who have undergone organ transplants. Last Friday, the US FDA already gave emergency use authorization of booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna for immunocompromised people.
Israel – which has led the way in terms of vaccination rollout – did not even wait for the US FDA’s approval and already went ahead in giving booster shots to immunocompromised people a few weeks ago, expanding the coverage to people over 60 years old on Aug. 1, with plans to include those above 50 as well. To date, more than 600,000 people above 60 and 2,000 immunocompromised individuals have been given Pfizer booster shots in Israel.
“Global scientists are confident this pandemic will be fully under control by the second half of next year based on worldwide vaccination, especially with the rapid deployment of mRNA vaccines.”
I met with Sec. Galvez, Sec. Dizon and DOF USec. Joven, and informed them we need to be ready to make reservations for the booster shots to prepare for the next variants that are predicted to emerge beyond Delta. Some people saying that it is not morally right for us to reserve for booster shots clearly lack foresight. We cannot sit and wait for new variants to emerge and spread before deciding to secure booster shots. If we dilly-dally, we could end up at the tail end of the supply line since other countries are already lining up to secure booster shots. Clearly, we need to be proactive instead of reactive.
Global scientists are confident this pandemic will be fully under control by the second half of next year based on worldwide vaccination, especially with the rapid deployment of mRNA vaccines. Predictably, science will eventually win the war against the coronavirus.