By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical Center
Kaieteur News – You should be fully aware that we are in another phase of the pandemic where there is a surge in infections worldwide. Scientists are associating this surge with the new variants that are currently circulating and their ability to thrive and further mutate as humans continue to behave irresponsibly. In Guyana, it is no different as the general disregard for the current situation continues to rise. This has obviously led to a rise in cases and deaths to the point where we are in the middle of another epidemic. This period of rise in infections and deaths will last for weeks to come and our outcome will be determined by how we behave during this time. We now have ways to get to the end of the tunnel but our current choices and actions will determine if we do and the number of casualties we face along the way. Today, I will share with you the possible outcomes that we are now left with given the current situation.
Fully eradicate the virus and return to normalcy
While this seems more unlikely as mutations and infections continue to rise, there is still a small possibility of it occurring. It will take a few years and will mean that there is worldwide cooperation to ensure equitable vaccine coverage. In addition, there will have to be drastic change in behavioural patterns to curb the spread of new mutations of the virus as the more the virus mutates, the likelier it will become a permanent fixture with us. I am not optimistic that this option will occur given the current behavioural patterns and the inequitable and slow vaccine distribution thus far.
Recurrent surge accompanied by deaths
The cyclical rise and fall of infections and deaths is the pattern that we have been faced with thus far. We have so far experienced periods of high infections and deaths followed by periods of low infections and deaths. There seems to be a correlation between the rise in deaths and infections every time we are exposed to a new variant of the virus. If we are not careful, this virus will continue to mutate and evolve into forms that are more deadly and vaccine resistant. Should this occur, then we will be stuck with it for the foreseeable future and be faced with cycles of infection surge followed by increases in deaths. There is a decent chance of this option being the long-term reality once we continue to be irresponsible and do not achieve the desired vaccination rates.
Tame the virus sufficiently for us to thrive
There is a strong possibility of this option occurring by the end of this year but it will take more commitment and responsible behaviour. First, we will have to ensure stricter adherence to prevention guidelines so that we prevent the virus from spreading and mutating to more infectious and vaccine resistant forms. This will then buy us sufficient time to ramp up vaccination rates and decrease the spread of the virus and its ability to mutate into deadlier and more infectious forms. While we may not be able to fully eradicate the virus with this option, we may be able to weaken it sufficiently so that it can be contained and cause milder infections similar to the common cold or flu. This seems to be the likely path for us at this stage but stricter adherence to prevention guidelines, along with universal vaccine coverage is needed.
Vaccinate! Vaccinate! Vaccinate!
We have only managed to vaccinate a section of Guyana’s population thus far. But our goal of 80 percent vaccination is needed to contain the epidemic. The existing vaccines are not currently approved for children. This means that close to 100 percent adult vaccination is needed if we are to control the virus and be able to return to a semblance of normalcy here. Should we fail, then there is a possibility of vaccine resistant strains forming and this will cause more devastation for years to come. This means all of us have to play our part in getting vaccinated and ensuring we educate and encourage others to do the same.
Falling short is not an option given the consequences that lie ahead for us. Get vaccinated and be part of the solution to this pandemic rather than being part of the problem.
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