The fully eradication of COVID-19 takes a united global effort
COVID-19 numbers have plummeted and plateaued in North America and Europe. India has seen a steady decline in cases after a surge. Africa has yet to see a massive wave of infections. China and Australia enjoy nearly a COVID-19 free environment.
The question we are most asked at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic is:
“Globally, where do we go from here? Will COVID-19 be part of our lives forever?”To better understand this, bear in mind that COVID-19 has two parts: the disease which is the symptomatic clinical illness and the infection which includes asymptomatic with no illness, yet both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases can spread the virus to others.
In managing the disease, the first rung of the ladder is treating and controlling the severity of the disease and saving lives. This requires sufficient hospital and ICU beds, oxygen supply and recommended drugs to care for the severely and critically ill.
For controlling infection, local public health mitigation measures, ranging from mask mandates and social distancing to lockdowns are essential when widespread community transmission is occurring.
The second rung in controlling COVID-19 is containing the infection, which can be asymptomatic or with disease symptoms. This requires all of the above plus aggressive testing and contact tracing and close follow-up of cases. Vaccination adds to infection control.
The third rung in controlling COVID-19 is elimination, both of the disease and infection. Here large scale vaccination in a particular nation or population is essential. The availability of vaccines with varying efficacy has proven to be a critical tool for COVID-19 elimination. We laud the medical research community for their successes.
Lastly and most importantly the final rung in controlling COVID-19 is eradication.
Eradication means deliberate efforts are taken to permanently reduce the global incidence of COVID-19 infection to zero. This will mean that nowhere on earth should the disease rear its ugly head and if it does, not just the local community but the international community takes collective action to exterminate it.
Smallpox virus was a leading cause of death in the 18th century with a 30% mortality rate and now the virus only exists in two high security laboratories, in Atlanta and in Russia.
Polio, a virus that caused hundreds of thousands of children to be disabled or die in spite of iron lung, has now been nearly eradicated. How was this possible?
A concerted global effort, including effective vaccines, was essential. The same effort will be needed to eradicate COVID-19. Yet, at present, we do not see that even discussed in public forums.
Eradication requires not just having a vaccine but global vaccine equity. We are far from this. The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, established by the World Health Organization, reported earlier this month: “Serious inequity has emerged in vaccine procurement and actual vaccination rates…” Five rich countries and the European Union have secured vaccines for 200% population coverage (meaning they have enough to vaccinate all their population twice over), while many low-income countries struggle without any.
A structure for achieving equity and eradication exists. COVAX, the global platform created for vaccine equity, has promised vaccines to cover 27% of low and middle income countries. But it is not fully funded to provide the vaccine nor does it have the influence to persuade the high-income countries who are hoarding the vaccine beyond the needs of their population.
(FROM THE CLARKSVILLE LEAF CHRONICLE)