Herd immunity can save lives

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Achieving herd immunity in the fastest possible time is the best way to save lives. While this is yet an unknown for Sars Cov-2, historical data for viruses usually places it in the vicinity of 70-80 per cent.

We are all at risk for vaccine overload. This novel Covid-19 virus is voraciously sapping all our energies as we responsibly try to keep abreast with the new and ever- changing information that has become a part of our daily diet. What is obvious to us all is the diversity of human, financial, technical and scientific knowledge needed to keep track of a potential demon that promises to devour any and everything that stands in its pathway.

One repetitive theme however that remains constant is the fate of the unvaccinated when compared with those receiving the completed course of vaccination. From a statistical viewpoint, it really does not matter too much what vaccine one receives: Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. The body reacts through the immune system to mobilise antibodies, T-helper cells, indeed a cascade of events designed to recognise and phagocytose (eat up), the foreign antigen. This occurs even in those immunocompromised.

Quoting from the article written by Carla K Johnson of AP News on June 29, 2021, ‘Nearly all Covid-19 deaths in the US are now among the unvaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been. Earlier in June, Andy Slavitt, a former adviser to the Biden administration on Covid-19, suggested that 98 per cent to 99 per cent of the Americans dying of the coronavirus are unvaccinated. This translates to at least 120 times the chance of dying if the jab was refused. For statisticians that computes to 12,000 per cent increased risk, a mind-boggling figure.

All kudos to Dr Rowley and his indefatigable team at the Ministry of Health. Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh MP, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, Dr Avery Hinds, Dr Michelle Trotman and Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards have all become household names. Their unifocal goal is getting the population of Trinidad and Tobago safely vaccinated as swiftly as possible, to arrive at herd immunity. This vaccine roll out is admittedly different from any other we have witness in our living history. As its apt name suggest, the novel coronavirus, Sars CoV2 is a disparate entity, the dislike of which threatens to eradicate young and old alike. We the elders can remember the mad rush to be vaccinated, so as not to develop polio, a virus that could not only kill, but maim for life. No comparison here!

One’s sentiments may reflect one’s political affinity, but as medical doctors we univocally have the country’s health and well-being at heart.

Let us leave the procurement process, vaccine access, finances for vaccine acquisition, surveillance, contact-tracing, quarantine policies, expansion and augmentation of the parallel health care system, tracking and spread of variants, rare but sometimes present vaccine side-effects, to the experts. The re-opening of borders seems long over-due, but due caution and diligence must continue to be the safe-guarding principle.

The capable teams are working in close collaboration with each other, the government; its medical and technical arms inclusive of the CMOH, RHAS and its allied partners PAHO, CARPHA and other Caricom governments. The COVAX facility promises a steady supply of affordable vaccines.

Dr Paula Henry
Medical Doctor/Director HaiT&T Foundation