Two things we need lots of more to really wrestle the pandemic into submission – patience and cooperation. Two things we aren’t very good at – patience and cooperation!
After struggling without great success in most countries to try to contain this new, highly contagious virus about which the world’s medical experts knew nothing a year ago, vaccines are now available and everyone sees hope. Sorry, folks, but while having vaccines does offer a glimmer of hope on the horizon, it remains a distant horizon.
Because a significant minority of people (and some leaders) in most wealthy countries have ignored the requirements to stay home and stay safe/wear your mask/social distance, not only has the virus continued to spread, but we have provided the virus with the ideal environment in which to mutate. That’s its main purpose in life: to mutate so as to become more transmissible and more viral. And that’s where we are now. We know about the UK variant, the South African variant, and the Brazilian variant. They have already spread far and wide. Do you really think those are the only variants the virus has come up with?!
The arrival of vaccines is a great step forward, for sure. The fact that the world’s scientific community has been able to develop effective vaccines so quickly – in 9 months rather than the more typical 9 years – is extraordinary and welcome. It’s a miracle, really. Its speed is a tribute to the scientific techniques that have been under development for the past decade or more, supported by government funding in many countries, including the U.S., Germany, UK, China, and Russia. However, as has been stated recently by chief health experts in both wealthy and poor nations, this virus is not contained until everyone in all countries has been vaccinated. The virus knows no borders. Cooperation among nations is essential.
It’s wonderful if you are vaccinated. But it’s not a panacea. Not just yet. Probably not for many, many months or longer. Vaccinating everyone in your region, or country, is a step forward, but if the people in the next region or next country or getting off the next plane are not vaccinated – or are not wearing their mask and keeping their distance – then the virus is happily able to thrive. It can continue to spread, and even better from its perspective it can continue to mutate, becoming even more contagious and more virulent. So get vaccinated as soon as your category comes up in your jurisdiction, but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is your passport to do whatever you want to do. It just doesn’t work that way. Wear your mask and keep your social distance, vaccine or no vaccine. Patience is a virtue.
Currently, access to the vaccine has become a political football. Which government can vaccinate the most citizens most quickly is the name of the game. My country can vaccinate more citizens than yours. I’m going to keep all the vaccines produced in my country, even if the private company that produces it has already signed contracts with other countries. The EU and Brexit’ed UK are at each other’s throats at the moment over vaccine access. Patience and cooperation would go a long way towards lowering the temperature and helping smooth access to the vaccines for all.
Unless nobody wants to travel outside their country’s borders for the foreseeable future, or outside their region for that matter, it won’t help all that much if 40% of your country’s residents are vaccinated while only 2% of another country’s residents are vaccinated. Keep in mind that we may have miraculous new vaccines, but the manufacturers can’t necessarily produce billions of doses overnight. And if the wealthy countries don’t keep an eye out for ensuring vaccines reach poor countries, then the virus will always have plenty of places to keep spreading and mutating, eventually boarding a plane for one of the wealthy, well-vaccinated countries. That’s the modus operandi of the virus. And the vaccines won’t necessarily protect everyone from new variants. We need to pay attention to how we protect the whole world with respect to this virus; it’s not just a good idea, it’s in all of our best interests.
Just yesterday, the chief medical officer in my province, Dr. Jennifer Russell, made the following observations during her daily COVID-19 update:
Public Health is bracing for a dangerous, variant-driven third wave of the pandemic in New Brunswick and is making changes to the province’s colour-coded recovery levels because of it.
Speaking at live-streamed COVID-19 update on Friday — the one-year anniversary of the province’s first pandemic news conference — Dr. Jennifer Russell said that because of the variant threat, no region will move past the orange level for “many weeks.”
“The third wave is going to be upon us soon, and it is going to be much worse than the first and second wave combined,” Russell said, noting there are “four variants we are concerned about – and there will be more.”
“The variants are going to come to New Brunswick, they may already be here. They’ll arrive without us knowing … they will spread quickly, and they will outrun our ability to contact trace.”
This is from the chief medical officer of a small out-of-the way province whose borders to both the U.S. and Quebec have been closed since March, a province where more citizens follow the rules than in many jurisdictions, a province with few cases compared to most other provinces and all states. She understands that it doesn’t take many rule-breakers for the spread to start. Folks, this is our reality. We need patience. We need to cooperate with the government officials who are trying their best to keep us safe. Our government officials need to cooperate with other government officials. We’re in this for the long haul, like it or not. Patience and cooperation is what will help us achieve a positive outcome.