HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRIPE-VINE: OUR NEW ABNORMAL
If you’ve been following the COVID news lately, then you’ll be aware of the surge in cases that disturbingly accompanied our entry into the month of December. Was this quarantine fatigue, complacency over the worth-celebrating positive vaccine news, or the persistent absence of any comprehensive plan that involves mass testing and contact tracing? Or a combination of all the above?
My billion-dollar question is do we even scientifically know the reasons behind this surge? If we’re strictly controlling the influx of visitors, returning OFW’s and residents, then how do we account for this surge? And are there steps beyond a more stringent lockdown, or selective and localized ECQ, to arrest this worrying development?
As a duly registered, card-carrying senior citizen and high-risk individual, I’d like to know if our only hope to put COVID-19 in our collective rear view window are the highly touted vaccines we keep reading about. Pfizer was the first vaccine to get US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and the UK MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) approvals, with Moderna following suit in the USA, and AstraZeneca waiting in the wings (at the time I wrote this); and if their arrival on our shores is the metaphorical straw we’re grasping for, I honestly don’t see any of them being administered locally in mass numbers until the second quarter (if not third quarter) of 2021.
In the meantime, let’s review what we know about these vaccines; and I invent a word, coining this our Facts-ination Report:
Can the medical experts please chime in; but from the literature I’ve read about the vaccines, Pfizer’s would be the most inappropriate to even try and bring to this country in bulk quantities. The ultra-cold storage requirements are downright challenging for us. From transport, to releasing, to airing to the provinces; there are so many factors that could jeopardize the efficacy of the vaccine shots by the time it reaches the priority individuals they’re meant for. And the hard, inescapable possibility that looms is that we may administer the shots, but won’t know if they’re still worth the money invested, and if they’ll be working.
I mention Pfizer first because there were news reports about how we were on track for a June delivery from this American company, but apparently, “someone dropped the ball,” and we’re back at the “end of the line.” There’s been official DOH reactions to that since. Me, I’m just wondering if that’s not a mixed blessing of sorts – as this just doesn’t seem to be the vaccine meant for us, with the logistical nightmare it would impose.
Moderna (USA) and AstraZeneca (Sweden/UK) do not require such stringent transit requirements — just regular freezing; but admittedly Moderna’s is the most expensive of the three. But the good news about Moderna is that it’s been reported that not only do the symptomatic recover and the negatives find themselves protected/immune; even the asymptomatic are no longer “spreaders.” That would make Moderna the most likely candidate for bringing about herd immunity. Moderna is the vaccine with the highest score of 94.5% success; and while the new finding about the asymptomatic is tracking lower, at least it’s being recognized.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine is by far the most economical. Highest scores emanated from the trials when only a half dose was administered first, with the full dose given two weeks later. This is the vaccine the local private business group placed orders for; but no one has reported as to when it’ll arrive here. AstraZeneca has officially called this the vaccine of the people, and they’ve sworn to be mass-producing this at cost.
Then there’s Sinovac from China, Sputnik from Russia; and several other American companies such as Novavax (with vaccine-producing capabilities coming out of India), are also doing their own “race against time” to be counted among the medical “saviors” of this now year-long pandemic.
Uniformly for all the vaccines, no one knows how long the immunity is good for. The actual physical time just hasn’t happened in “real time” to observe and draw conclusions. Some say it may mean one has to be vaccinated yearly – but honestly, who really knows?
The other big news coming from the USA is how their FDA just approved an All-Home COVID test-kit. This means one doesn’t have to head to a doctor or medical facility to be tested – one just purchases the kit, and from the comfort of home, test every member of the household, as often as needed.
The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One test kit retails for around $50, and is a single-use molecular test using a self-collected swabbed sample. Right now, it’s only available in Florida and California, but is expected to be widely available in the US by March or April. As to when our underground economy will start offering this remains to be seen. At $50, it’s obviously not inexpensive; but what it means in terms of testing capabilities is immense. And now, every member of the family can experience the same trepidation young women feel when they take a home-pregnancy detection kit – anxiously waiting for the hoped-for negative result.
So the second billion-dollar question is when will our country be a #VaccineNation? It can’t come any sooner, as so much economically hinges on resuming some form of normalcy. It may not be exactly how it was pre-pandemic; but anything approximating that would be a welcome respite from the fear, paranoia, and precautionary regime we’ve all had to live under these past nine months.
Am wishing everyone a Happy New Year. If there’s something the Filipino can always be counted on for, it’s living with a deep reservoir of Hope, and the Faith that things will get better.