The Latest COVID-19 Updates
As we go through winter in the US, the virus is still spreading, mutating, and the vaccine effort seems daunting to bring us to a level of herd immunity.
First of all, it is winter, and winter is when viruses typically thrive. Not to mention Christmas, New Years and the most recent big event, the Super Bowl, bringing people together in a way that can only contribute to the spread. The spiking in cases seems to be tapering off, and some states are reporting a decline in cases. That makes sense as time passes from the holidays and holiday celebrations. It will be interesting to see what happens after the Super Bowl.
Secondly, what we are seeing now are typical mutations and variations of the virus which is the same sort of thing we see with the flu every year. Viruses naturally mutate and change creating variants, meaning they are not exactly the same as the original. This continues as long as the virus exists and will probably result in a new vaccine every year for the novel coronavirus.
Recent news that people who have had the virus and now don’t have antibodies is most likely to be expected. The way the immune system works is not to keep antibodies in the blood stream. The way it does work is to “teach” the immune system what to do if it encounters the antigen (the virus) again. How long that lasts is still almost completely up in the air. We just don’t have the experience we need in order to determine that. In other words, that will take more time.
Think of it like this, if you do something very complicated for the first time, it is probably a lot more difficult then the next time you do it. Part of doing the job the first time is a learning process so when you do it again, it’s a lot easier. When the body is exposed to an antigen it learns. When you get a vaccination, it is designed to teach the immune system what to do next time, so it’s easier. It may not mean you won’t get sick, but your body will be a lot more capable of dealing with the sickness. This type of protection is likely to last for a long time, but we won’t know until we actually see, which will take time.
The question also arises that if you have been infected with the virus, do you really need to be vaccinated? Trying to find a definitive answer for that question seems impossible. A study of science and the literature available seems to indicate that if you have had the virus, then you have essentially been vaccinated against it, and you really don’t need the vaccine.
The creation of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is such a short time seems like some kind of miracle. It is a tribute to the combined effort of the best minds on the planet, and may portend favorably in the advent of the next pandemic. However, the slow and disorganized rollout of the vaccine is not only frustrating, it is hard to even comprehend.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved in December, a few months ago, and still it seems almost impossible to get the vaccine. At this pace, we could be stuck where we are for a very long time. It is hard to find a good explanation for “why” this rollout has been so slow. There do not seem to be reasonable answers.
We have the Defense Production Act and all the manufacturing capability in the world, yet we can’t seem to even make enough syringes to administer the vaccine. Health departments are challenged to keep schedules and delivery sites running. To many people it seems like a huge lack of effective leadership and organization. It is very difficult to understand.
President Biden committed to a million doses a day for 100 days. That’s 50 million people vaccinated. At that pace it will take two years to vaccinate the American people. It is hard to comprehend that that is a reasonable goal or any kind of a solution.
Just this past week, Johnson and Johnson applied to the US FDA for emergency approval of their vaccine. The information on their vaccine is that it is a 1-dose vaccine, and doesn’t require the strict refrigeration of the Pfizer vaccine. In a large international study, it was found to be 85% effect against severe illness from the disease and 66% effective at preventing mild cases.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has seemed the best hope for defeating COVID. It has been approved in some countries, including Canada, yet there doesn’t seem to be an emergency approval by the FDA studied. The suspension by South Africa of this vaccine is of concern, of course. It appears the vaccine would protect against severe cases of the disease but the data is hard to gather. It is easier to distribute and comes at a lower cost. This is just part of the ongoing trials and tribulations of dealing with the contagion.
Having said that, the news is a lot better than it was a year ago. We have vaccines, 100’s of millions of doses have been ordered, companies are making them, distribution sites are coming online and if everything goes really, really well, we could get this thing under some kind of control in the coming months.
Until then, be responsible, be safe, and protect the people around you.