WHO warns of “long road back”

“The World Health Organization warned on Monday that, despite strong hopes for a vaccine, there might never be a ‘silver bullet’ for COVID-19, and the road to normality would be long,” and “exhorted all nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing,” Reuters reported on Aug. 3, 2020.

Read story at NBC News website here. (For a story about Australia reimposing social restrictions, click here.)

Expanding on this, WHO added, “There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work, or its protection could be for just a few months, not more. But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know.”

News on vaccine development is encouraging, but I’ve wondered about that. The common cold also belongs to the conoravirus family, and despite inflicting misery for centuries, we don’t have a vaccine or treatment for it. That suggests to me coronaviruses are intractable beasties.

But experts think there will be Covid-19 vaccines. Probably several, for different kinds of patients, and a need for booster shots and annual shots, and providing incomplete protection. Much like flu shots.

It could be even worse: The vaccines might not be able to prevent Covid-19, just keep it from being really bad. And there will be many hurdles to making them and getting the population inoculated. For a rundown on the science, and a discussion of the potential limitations of Covid-19 vaccines, see this article in the Atlantic.

The first vaccines may arrive this fall for distribution to first responders, front-line health workers, and high-risk populations (e.g., nursing home residents). Better vaccines may follow, but won’t be available for wide public distribution before the middle of next year. Many people may choose not to get them.

Progress also is being made in developing improved treatments that save lives and shorten hospitalizations, but Covid-19 is still a terrible disease that kills many people, makes others very sick, and leaves some survivors with damaged bodies. Treatment breakthroughs alone won’t be a complete solution.

Even if there are 100% effective vaccines and treatments within a year or so — and even if there aren’t, the pandemic may burn itself out — the economic effects will linger for years. Many businesses will go bankrupt rather than reopen, and those jobs will never come back. Unemployment is likely to remain high for a long time, some of our living and shopping habits will permanently change, and some aspects of our way of life may never return. Covid-19 has changed our lives, probably forever. And Covid-19 may be with us from now on, controlled, but not eradicated.

It could be worse. Envision a lethal superbug against which we’re defenseless, or a full-scale nuclear war. This, at least, we can try to deal with. Some threats are beyond dealing with.

Photo: Covid-19 virus. Nasty looking little bugger, isn’t it? 

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