Health

Omicron exposes global anti-epidemic vulnerability


Experts say that inequality in vaccines and the lack of disease response plans at the global level cause Covid-19 to persist, mutate and multiply.

After two years of the pandemic raging, scientists agree that the world needs to learn to live with Covid-19. The virus will wane as it enters its third year, resurgence with new strains, then further weakened by vaccines, control measures, and community behaviour. In the event that the virus is never destroyed, human immunity will gradually improve and adapt. Covid-19 eventually becomes a seasonal, non-dangerous pathogen.

“For many months now, most infectious disease experts have agreed that nCoV will stay on earth. Our children and grandchildren will still catch the virus. But Covid-19 will become a part of history, as the disease progresses like flu like the flu. common sense,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.

The question is how long will it take the world to reach that stage? According to experts, the answer does not depend on the element of chance. The pandemic will be receded through human efforts, including vaccine development, contact tracing, genome analysis, community-based prevention measures, and international cooperation. In short, the world has a toolkit to end the pandemic as quickly as possible.

However, after more than 20 months, those tools are still not being used optimally. Andrea Taylor, assistant director of the Duke Institute of Global Health, said: “The main problem is that we’ve never had a plan at the global level. Until now, we haven’t. We’re not very good at dealing with crises. global crisis, there’s really no infrastructure, leadership or accountability.”

When it comes to fighting Covid-19, some countries have better results. But to reverse the pandemic quickly, many experts, including Taylor, call for a new global approach, especially in vaccine development, treatment and information sharing.

Here’s how to end Covid-19 early. If not, humanity will live under the specter of a pandemic until the end of 2022 and beyond.

“We know for sure what will happen if the epidemic is based on nationalism, but still choose to do it. Now we are living with the consequences of that,” Mr. Taylor said.

The most important tool by far is still the vaccine, according to Roberto Burioni, professor of microbiology and virology at the University of San Raffaele in Milan. Scientists have made miracles by developing highly effective vaccines in preventing disease progression and death.

However, vaccines alone are not enough. Even in developed countries, where supplies are available, herd immunity gradually declines. The emerging variant, coupled with skepticism, suggest that authorities need to ensure extremely high vaccine coverage to prevent further waves of infections.

Prof Burioni said: “What we need to do is vaccinate the majority of the population. If the majority of the population is vaccinated, the possible scenario is that the virus continues to circulate, but without causing much damage.”

The emergence of the Omicron strain in sub-Saharan Africa, where vaccination rates are low, once again underscores the importance of vaccination in poorer countries.

“The problem is not just economic capacity. There are large areas of the world where vaccine coverage is unacceptably low,” Taylor said.

A woman is vaccinated against Covid-19 in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 8. Photo: Reuters

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than 8% of people in low-income countries receive a single dose of vaccine. This figure in developed countries is 63.9%. In the US and European Union, about 70% of people have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

The consequences of this disparity are increasingly clear. New strains appear in places where there is a large outbreak, low vaccination rates, or authorities do not control the disease. Alpha was found in the UK last December, Delta appeared in India in February this year, the latest is Omicron in South Africa.

Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “Vaccine inequality will prolong the pandemic. The best way to protect yourself is not to be selfish. Countries should provide. vaccines for the world”.

Experts suggest a number of solutions to this problem.

The first, Pharmaceutical companies need to increase supply steadily. The WHO’s Covax program in September forecasted that the amount of vaccines to be delivered to developing countries was 25% less than previously committed.

“It’s kind of like a ‘full of food.’ “, Taylor said.

According to Mr. Head, when countries receive vaccines through Covax, they are often expired, without freezers or specialized equipment for transportation. He called for the establishment of new vaccine production centers in Africa to stabilize the supply.

In addition, experts say that the implementation of epidemic prevention measures at the national level is still extremely important. Head thinks that the next wave of infections will hit many countries, at different times. Countries need to respond to their own experiences and capacities.

“Every individual should continue to protect themselves and those around them by wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance and getting vaccinated,” said Ana García, professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Valencia. in Spain, said. “We’ve talked about globalization for a long time, in terms of trade, finance, tourism. The pandemic and climate change are like a test. It seriously requires us to act in a certain way. Global”.

Thuc Linh (Follow CNN)

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