A Call for Cautious Optimism

Originally posted by David Price L.Ac on November 17, 2020.

Now that the traditional cold and flu season is upon us, predictions of a second wave of COVID-19 have become an all too grim reality. The epidemic is worse than ever before with Texas, where bodies are literally pilling up faster than the local morgues can make room, becoming the first state to surpass one million infections. There is, however, good news: both Pfizer and Moderna have announced extraordinary outcomes in sizable vaccine studies, a ray of hope welcomed by a weary world in these dark days of despair.

Originally developed by Chinese doctors almost a millennium before Edward Jenner figured out how to use cowpox to reduce the risk of contracting smallpox, vaccines have evolved from the use of actual tissue from infected individuals to the live attenuated and inactivated vaccines we know today. Now the newest vaccines utilize the novel method of harnessing messenger RNA, allowing for improved safety profiles and more rapid development.

Pfizer stocks soared on the news that their vaccine might offer 90% efficacy, while Moderna upstaged the latter with the report that their vaccine could be as much as 95% effective. In both cases, we have yet to see the raw data to confirm these claims, and these numbers seem almost too good to be true. Approval is, nevertheless, likely to occur rapidly via emergency access, and some Americans—most likely the healthcare workers at highest risk—might receive their first dose of one of these two vaccines as early as next month.

Absent the typical due diligence which takes time, it may be months before the full picture of the efficacy and safety of these vaccines comes into clear focus. In the meantime, health officials must tackle the daunting task of convincing a skeptical American public, many of which are unwilling to even wear a mask or follow social distancing rules, to take what is essentially an investigational drug. As more doses are administered, reports of worrisome adverse events and failed efficacy are increasingly likely, further impeding efforts towards the final goal of reaching the 50% herd immunity needed to rein in the pandemic.

Based on his study of the history of epidemics, Yale medical doctor and sociologist Nicholas Christakis and author of Apollo’s Arrow has predicted that the pandemic will probably persist through 2022. As much as we would all prefer an easy way out via some miracle drug or a massive vaccination program, even the basic logistics point towards at least another year before we can begin to let our guard down. If the recent surge in COVID infections is any indication, a false sense of complacency may ultimately be as dangerous as the virus itself. Especially during this convivial holiday season, please, take precautions, be careful, and stay well.

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