TURNING POINT: The Global Imperative

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 06 April 2021) — To save the world from the pandemic, no country should be left behind in the vaccination campaign.

A patch of unvaccinated earth may yet become the home ground and springboard of the rapidly changing and quickly spreading virus which may put the vaccination gains all over to naught.

Hence, vaccination should be pursued as a global not a country effort to end the suffering of mankind. The production, distribution and administration of the vaccine ought to be done faster than the mutation and spread of the virus.

Already, a number of SARS-CoV2 variants have been identified and are found to spread more easily and quickly than the original. Studies are underway to determine how they affect the efficacy of the currently authorized vaccines..

The first variant found in UK dubbed B.1.1.7 rages in Europe and forced new lockdowns in UK and in other countries. This variant is apparently responsible for the surge of infection cases in the Philippines, that reaches as high as 15,310 in a single day last week, overloading health care facilities and forcing another stringent lockdown in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.

Fortunately, studies so far suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with the currently authorized vaccines recognize this variant and some other variants, which means that the vaccines remain a protection so far. Thus, mass vaccination should be given a great push everywhere to put mutating virus under control.

The South African variant, B.I.351 also causes alarming spikes in the continent. It has mutated further into E4E8K, nicknamed Eek by scientists, which, accordingly, is getting more resistant to current vaccines authorized for emergency use.

Around 70% of coronavirus patients tested at a Tokyo hospital last month carried Eek. The mutant, accordingly reduces vaccine protection, announced public broadcaster NHK. The Eek mutation was found in 10 of 14 persons who tested positive for the virus at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Medical Hospital in March, said a report.

The P.1 from Brazil are particularly blamed  for the surges of infection among the younger population causing overcrowding in hospitals across the country and spiking death rate.

The reduction of new infection cases in the US since January 2021 alongside the massive vaccine rollout is an inspiring light in the dark pandemic tunnel. But the light might have been dimmed by the arrival of the various coronavirus variants in its shores. The threat is palpable because, so far, only 18.5% of the US population has been fully inoculated. Moreover, two more locally originated variants, B.1.427 and B.1.429, identified in California in February 2021 have joined the fray; they were classified as variant of concerns (VOCs) the following month.

Indeed, in the advent of the alarming viral mutations and spikes in our midst, faster and rigorous vaccination of the populace worldwide is imperative. No country should be left behind. All should join hands in meeting the challenge. In the interim, everyone is encouraged to strictly comply with, and not to eschew, compliance with existing public health infection mitigation strategies, such as physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, avoiding of crowds, and observance of isolation and quarantine protocols to help in arresting the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental)