These all need to be studied meticulously in order to end up with a safe and effective vaccine that could potentially go to the global market and be administered to millions (if not billions) of people.
Long terms side-effects should be at the forefront of our concerns, to use an extreme but appropriate example, the Thalidomide tragedy has been among the biggest lessons in medical history underscoring the vital importance of ensuring safety and effectiveness of medicines.
In the absence of a vaccine—therefore in the absence of plausible herd immunity—the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of the general public are now more important than ever in the fight to contain the spread of this virus. Social and physical distancing, wearing of masks/face-coverings and strict hand-hygiene have all been highly recommended as precautionary health behaviours to be adopted by the public.
It should be noted that these recommendations—additional to the flurry of vaccine research and yo-yoing political opinions—are probably our best shot at stopping this virus in its tracks.
Given we exist in the age of misinformation and rife conspiracy theories, it should be acknowledged that the virus has one simple objective, to continue spreading. The Ebola virus was eradicated following a militant test and trace regime in West Africa.
Different test and trace regimes have yielded varied results around the world and the statistics given to public and graphs demonstrating curves being flattened have given false hope and prematurely emboldened the public to ignore social and physical distancing under the impression that the worst is now behind us.
Of course when governments start talking about ‘mystery cases’ and new outbreak clusters, these are all demonstrative of deficiencies in the testing and contact tracing regimes. Bluffing your way out of a pandemic is not an option, the bluff is always short-lived and inevitably truth rears its ugly head, which it always does.
Recently there has been surveillance of sewer systems to help detect any residual virus—this of course is simply ridiculous. Testing greater numbers of people is going to give us a clearer indication of the situation in our communities, not digging around in sh*t.
Our current predicament has increasingly turned into a health vs. economics debate with the understandable caveat that everyone is desperate for things to return to normal or some form of ‘new normal’. The pandemic has seen job losses en masse and lockdowns have literally cost livelihoods.
The devastating economic effects of this pandemic are undeniable and governments have put temporary measures into place to help maintain some form of economic stability and social order. These measures however are unsustainable in the long run and therefore the longer it takes to contain this virus the worse the economic impact will be.
Returning to the instrumental role of the general public; the grave consequences of prolonged lockdowns can be curtailed by figuratively jumping in with both feet in embracing the precautions necessary to stopping the spread of this virus.
As mentioned before, we cannot rely entirely on the scientific community delivering a safe and effective vaccine in record time and we certainly cannot play political-point-scoring games with this virus. What is needed is vigilance and a collective public effort to contain the spread of this virus.
A virus that cares not about public discourse and political agendas but one whose sole objective is to continue spreading from one human host to the next.