THE OBJECTIVE of herd immunity has mostly faded from the lexicon of the expert community. Not enough of the world's population got vaccinated quickly enough to forestall the emergence of more potent variants. These iterations are pushing the first generation of vaccines to their limits.
Given delta's debut on the community stage, there is a possibility of a return to a version of lockdown in Trinidad and Tobago, even as aspects of largely ineffective restrictions endure. The majority of the population is unvaccinated and uptake appears to have dwindled. It's reasonable to expect delta will take advantage of this fertile ground, making quick work of the “faithful,” the sceptical, and the faithfully sceptical.
It was initially forecast that covid19's stranglehold on the world would begin to loosen toward the end of 2021. Another tea-leaves reading put it somewhere in mid-2022.
We are probably looking at years, not months, before there is an appreciable change in the pandemic's influence on global health and economies. Moreover, there is already talk of the necessity for booster shots amid fears of waning protection in vaccinated populations.
Here at home, any thought of booster shots would seem like a needless and needle-less preoccupation. Too few are fully inoculated anyway and soon-to-expire vaccines are earmarked to be shipped off to other countries that could make better use of them.
One of the major missteps made by TT and several other countries was messaging that pushed a neat and tidy end to the pandemic.
Here's a fun experiment: go to the Googles and type in just these two words, “when will...” Go ahead and do it right now. I'll wait.
It's absolutely amazing that people think the pandemic is like a movie, with a set run-time.
Hoping to accelerate vaccinations, many countries linked getting the shots to a return to normal. Being not dead isn't enough of a sweetener to push people back from a bran tub of vaccine fears and objections. Populations had to be seduced with the promise of being able to socialise, go to the beach, be with friends and family, and enjoy the “mother of all Carnivals” to encourage vaccine uptake.
The pandemic is, however, a protean menace that's shape-shifting at a pace quickly rendering messaging outdated. This is why in the US, for example, chief medical adviser to the President Anthony Fauci warned several months ago that dropping mask mandates is risky. Worrying over future surges, Fauci was wary of the invasive perception that as vaccinations pick up pace, everything is good to go.
As populations grew increasingly frustrated with this pesky pandemic, they became convinced vaccinations will quickly end all this masking and physical-distancing nonsense. Life in many parts of the US has returned to normal, but the pandemic rages on. Covid19 has now killed as many Americans as the pandemic of 1918.
For this reason, it was more than a bit shocking to see unmasked crowds of partygoers packed cheek by jowl at a soca concert in Miami. Life, it seems, goes on even as it ends.
The success of vaccines in gelding the pandemic was predicated on inoculating as many people as possible over the shortest time frame to close the gap on emerging variants. As that plan failed, now the only hope of riding out this pandemic may rest on a combination of continuing vaccinations and continuing infections. Every last man, woman and child must either be vaccinated or infected to stop the virus from spawning new, deadlier strains.
Vaccine reluctance persists for several reasons. It's a mistake to assume all people advancing anti-vaccine theories have Nicki Minaj-level credibility. There are intelligent, highly-educated people powering vaccine hesitancy at home and abroad.
Pretending that side effects of vaccines are either non-existent or negligible does nothing to answer legitimate concerns. For sure, smug superiority from the medical establishment won't undermine people's reservations about getting vaccinated.
Vaccines, though, aren't the entire story. Ideally, continued rigorous protection protocols like masks, sanitisation and physical distancing should be applied until statistics weigh more in our favour than covid19's.
While mask mandates remain in place in TT, adherence to mask-wearing and other crucial protection measures was always weak. Already we're seeing a gradual return to lax attitudes that suit delta nicely. This column consistently preaches, albeit in vain, the importance of creating a culture of vigilance.
We're in for the long haul with covid19. There is no going back to normal, only getting back to living with a pandemic in the best way we can.