Over on Twitter I put up a poll: Cure or Vaccine? I don’t have a huge Twitter reach but of the 50 people who have voted so far, 75% say cure, 25% say vaccine. Of course one can embrace the power of “and” and have both and I think that is where we are heading.
Personally, I am all for “cure” over vaccine for a number of reasons. First off, COVID is not a very deadly disease if you are not over 80, in long term care and suffering from some other serious condition. An overall recovery rate of greater than 99% is not to be ignored. You certainly don’t want to get COVID and taking reasonable precautions and lots of Vitamin D makes a lot of sense.
The medical establishment has become significantly better at treating COVID using an array of techniques – everything from “proning” patients, to no invasive oxygen supplementation to certain steroids and anti-biotics to treat the symptoms of the virus. People are, sadly, still dying of COVID but unlike in the early days of the pandemic, clinicians have a variety of protocols which reduce the lethality of the virus.
Early intervention seems to be important. And there is where, if there is to be a “cure” we are likely to find it. (I will leave HCQ out of the discussion simply because it has become so political.) Ivermectin, a cheap, readily available anti-parasitic drug, taken early with daily doses of vitamin D3, vitamin C, quercetin, zinc and melatonin seems to work as a prophylactic and as a means of radically reducing the severity of a COVID infection. In fact, ivermectin shows promise as a means of preventing infection all together.
In the West we are going to be rolling out the vaccines in the next few weeks. There is a bit of debate as to who should get what will, initially, be a limited supply but there is a consensus that people most at risk from COVID and those who care for them should be first in line. We’ll see how the vaccine is tolerated by the elderly and there have been warnings that it may kill the very old and the very frail. Which, sadly, makes sense as the population of any long term care facility will always have several people who are on the brink of death.
It makes sense to vaccinate the very elderly because, unlike the rest of us, they do not enjoy a 99.0% recovery rate. More like 50% and worse if there are other conditions. And it makes sense to vaccinate caregivers as they are at greater risk of contacting the virus and, sadly, or transmitting it.
Now, what about the rest of us? And does the answer to that question change if we have effective treatments for COVID. With a 99.9 percent recovery rate for the under 80s with current treatment regimes, the urgency of vaccination, once the elderly and their carers have been vaccinated is much reduced.
Oddly, one of the principle arguments for mass or even mandatory vaccination is to “get things back to normal”. If everyone is vaccinated, the argument goes, then we won’t need lockdowns and, eventually, we won’t need masks. Of course, this argument presumes that lockdowns and masks have had significant effects on the rate of transmission of COVID. Cracks are beginning to appear around the efficacy of both lockdowns and mask mandates, especially as implemented in the West. (Personally, I don’t think it is a lockdown if you can shop with few restrictions at Costco or Walmart.)
However, if we have effective treatments for COVID and the recovery rate remains very, very high, would there remain any rationale for lockdowns, travel restrictions or mask mandates? Every year (except 2020) we have a flu season which kills people in significant numbers and for which there is a mildly effective vaccine. The survival rate in a hard flu season is roughly comparable to COVID. We do not lock down, close schools, demand masks; we just get on with life
The vaccine roll out will, I suspect, begin to restore the public’s confidence. For the last eight months we have been subjected to a relentless barrage of bad case numbers and models which suggest our hospitals will sink under the weight of cases. The arrival of a vaccine may reduce the case numbers a bit although not by a lot because of limited availability. But if it turns out to work, it should end worries about overwhelmed ICUs.
However, the real end of the pandemic will occur when the general public realizes that there are treatments and even “cures” for a disease which was not very lethal to begin with. We still have several months of public worry to endure but, as Spring arrives and the case numbers fall in the normal course for a respiratory illness, COVID will finally be in the rearview mirror.