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As COVID-19 continues to circumnavigate the globe, the question on many people's minds is, "When will this end?!"
According to some of the top experts in the field of infectious diseases, - such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the US White House Coronavirus Task Force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, - and Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy - it will likely take a while.
Dr. Osterholm frequently explains that approximately 60-70% of the population will need to have immunity from the disease in order for the pandemic to end. (Most countries only have approximately 5-7% of individuals who have contracted the disease so far, and "herd immunity" may simply not be effective for this virus.)
According to an article published in the "Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly," Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box explains several reasons why herd immunity may be tough to achieve.
The "Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly" article explains,
“Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune,” according a guide from the Mayo Clinic about COVID-19 and herd immunity. “Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold.”
It is possible to achieve herd immunity by recovery from infections alone. However, in order to achieve it, a huge number of people would have to become ill and then recover.
Achieving herd immunity for COVID-19 currently faces several hurdles.
First, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. While several vaccine trials are in development, it could be several months more before an effective vaccine is tested, approved and deployed to the wider populace.
While vaccines could inoculate large amounts of people, that effort could also be hampered by people who choose not to get vaccinated. A small percentage of Americans already choose not to get vaccines and conspiracy theories on social media about COVID-19 vaccine development have already spread months in advance of one being developed.
Second, since COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus — a new disease not encountered prior to its recent discovery — health officials do not currently know what level of immunity people gain after recovering from COVID-19.
With some diseases, people can gain a lifetime immunity if they recover from it, or immunity that lasts years. For other diseases, defense against re-infection is much more short term.
“It isn’t yet clear if infection with the COVID-19 virus makes a person immune to future infection,” the Mayo Clinic states. “Research suggests that after infection with some coronaviruses, reinfection with the same virus — though usually mild and only happening in a fraction of people — is possible after a period of months or years. Further research is needed to determine the protective effect of antibodies to the virus in those who have been infected.”
When asked July 8, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box also noted that the science about COVID-19 immunity is unclear at best at this point. Other coronaviruses, like those that cause the common cold, do not create lasting immunity.
“The coronavirus people get, they develop some brief immunity the ability to fight that virus off ... but unfortunately that immunity doesn’t stay around and that’s why we keep getting the common cold over and over again,” Box said. “Even individuals that develop immunity, develop antibodies unfortunately those antibodies in many cases are disappearing.”
Therapeutic drugs, such as medications produced by pharmaceutical company, "Regeneron" could possibly be available by the fall, if all goes well in clinical trials. And multiple vaccines are currently in trials as well.
BUT WHO WILL BE VACCINATED FIRST?
The question that also needs to be answered as soon as possible is, "Who will receive the medications and/or vaccines first?".
The New York Times published a very interesting article addressing this question regarding who could be at the front of the line to receive a vaccine. It could be a rather complicated process, and there are several issues being discussed - including the issues of vaccinating high-risk individuals, as well as providing protection for minority groups who could be disproportionally affected by the illness.
The article published in the NY Times today says,
"Federal health officials are already trying to decide who will get the first doses of any effective coronavirus vaccines, which could be on the market this winter but could require many additional months to become widely available to Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside health experts in April began working on a ranking system for what may be an extended rollout in the United States. According to a preliminary plan, any approved vaccines would be offered to vital medical and national security officials first, and then to other essential workers and those considered at high risk — the elderly instead of children, people with underlying conditions instead of the relatively healthy.
Agency officials and the advisers are also considering what has become a contentious option: putting Black and Latino people, who have disproportionately fallen victim to Covid-19, ahead of others in the population.
In private meetings and a recent public session, the issue has provoked calls for racial justice. But some medical experts are not convinced there is a scientific basis for such an option, foresee court challenges or worry that prioritizing minority groups would erode public trust in vaccines at a time when immunization is seen as crucial to ending the pandemic."
Click here to read the entire article in the New York Times.
And click here to read the above-referenced article in "Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly."