Jun 22, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Even as concerns about a new variant surface, information out of the Ministry of Health suggests that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) fatalities are currently limited to persons who are unvaccinated – a state of affairs that should encourage vaccine uptake. But with a mere 48 percent (just over 225,000) of the adult population being vaccinated with at least their first dose, the achievement of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination programme leaves much to be desired.
Taking note of this in his most recent column, Emergency Medicine Specialist, Dr. Zulfikar Bux, expressed concern that with continued vaccine hesitancy, persons will continue to die. The vaccine while not a cure is said to be able to prevent an individual from developing the severe form of the disease that could lead to hospitalisation and eventual death. In promoting vaccine uptake, Dr. Bux said, “I am at a loss trying to understand why some would choose to die rather than be vaccinated and be part of the solution to this pandemic.”
The local Ministry of Health has recorded 449 deaths from 19,000 plus cases. Appalled that the last two months have proven to be the deadliest thus far despite the availability of vaccines, Dr. Bux intimated, “if someone had told me six months ago that by mid-2021 Guyana’s death rate would be at its peak while vaccines were readily available for all, I would not have believed.”
Noting that only 20 percent (95,000) of the population is fully vaccinated, the Emergency Medicine Specialist said, “it is unfortunate, but we will be losing many more lives while we try to convince everyone to be vaccinated…this pattern will continue for the foreseeable future as only one out of every five eligible persons is fully vaccinated. The other four are at a higher risk of becoming infected and dying from COVID-19.”
Describing the continued infection rate as “madness,” Dr. Bux is convinced that it will only stop when more than 85 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated.
Being vaccinated, he added, “is not only about you, it is about us all coming together to save ourselves and unite against a common enemy. COVID-19 will not go away if we let our guard down. It will continue to take many lives unless we work together and achieve the ‘vaccination for all’ goal earlier rather than later.” He is therefore advocating for persons to “Be responsible! Be part of the solution! Get vaccinated!”
Variant of Concern
According to Dr. Bux, every time a variant of concern surfaces, the death and hospitalisation rates spike significantly. Alluding to the recent devastation in India which was primarily from the new Delta variant, he said that this variant is more deadly and infectious than any of its predecessors and has already reached the shores of Europe and the United States.
According to a Medical News Today (MNT) report written by Maria Cohut PhD, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 — scientifically known as the B.1.617.2 lineage — was first identified by scientists in December 2020 in India.
In April 2021, Cohut noted that Delta became the most commonly spread variant that caused new COVID-19 cases in India. Since then, this variant has been reported in 80 countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Recently, there have been concerns — particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States — that the Delta variant could give rise to another COVID-19 wave, thus setting back national and international efforts to ease pandemic restrictions, Cohut added.
According to the latest report from Public Health England (PHE), the Delta variant may have become the dominant variant in the UK, with “74 percent of sequenced cases [of SARS-CoV-2 infection] and 96 percent of sequenced and genotyped cases” being caused by this variant.
In the US, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the proportion of new COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant at 2.7 percent. This is the most recent genomic surveillance data dating to the two weeks ending on May 22, 2021.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, has reportedly warned that “any country that has the delta variant should be concerned that there will be a surge of infections, particularly if that particular country does not have a substantial proportion of their people vaccinated.”
“We’ve seen that when Delta variant spreads among non-vaccinated people, it can become dominant very, very quickly,” the MNT quoted Dr. Fauci as saying.
Based on the data from the UK, the Delta variant is about 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was previously called B.1.1.7. Alpha, in turn, is more transmissible than the strain previously dominant in the country.
Wendy Barclay, professor of virology and head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London in the UK, explained that this variant is more transmissible than previous ones because of some key mutations in the spike protein, which allows the virus to penetrate and infect healthy cells.
Given the patterns of spread of previous variants, Dr. Bux noted that it may only be a matter of time before it reaches Guyana. “If this occurs then there is a good possibility of us experiencing similar devastation to what occurred in India (but) so far, the vaccines are holding up against this variant and is the most effective tool we have against it,” he asserted.
New variants have been popping up at higher rates than before and Dr. Bux noted that the number of dangerous ones is also rising. The more persons a virus infect, he added, the more it will mutate into newer variants.
According to the doctor, COVID-19 infections have increased and spread more in the past eight months and, as a result, mutation rates and variant formation has increased. This trend, he said, will continue unless preventative measures and vaccination rates are drastically stepped up in many countries.
“Every time the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutates into variants of concern, it is evolving into more dangerous forms that pose new threats to our lives. This virus can only mutate if we allow it to spread from person to person. Every time it infects someone, there is a risk of it mutating,” Dr. Bux explained.
If the virus is not stopped in its track, there are plausible concerns that it could mutate into vaccine resistant forms which will evolve and sustain the pandemic resulting in the loss of many more lives. As such, Dr. Bux noted that in addition to preventative measures, rapid vaccination is the key to preventing the virus from evolving into forms that will cause even more destruction.
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