Why this is the year we can defeat the virus
Sara Al-Mulla / Arab News:
This winter may be reminiscent of those dark and precarious months when the COVID-19 pandemic first surfaced and wreaked havoc across the globe.
The past two years have been calamitous, with the coronavirus infecting more than 300 million people and claiming the lives of more than 5.5 million. With the recent emergence of the virulent omicron variant of the virus, news headlines have been bleak and many nations are once again struggling with overwhelmed healthcare systems and movement restrictions.
Nevertheless, our ingenuity and resilience have taken us light years ahead in managing the pandemic and mitigating its risks. In just two years we have uncovered innovative prevention mechanisms, rapid diagnostics, effective vaccines and boosters, and lifesaving treatments. Scientists across the globe are continually discovering enlightening information about the virus that is then shared on global research databases, such as the one managed by the World Health Organization.
We have made stellar progress with vaccination rates, with nearly 9.5 billion vaccine doses already administered in 220 countries, protecting more than 3 billion people. At current rates, 70 percent of the world’s population will be double-jabbed by the end of February. Epidemiologists have estimated that herd immunity can be achieved once 70 to 85 percent of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19, making it less likely to spread.
At the same time, COVAX, a global initiative co-led by the WHO, is accelerating the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines, and providing equitable access to disadvantaged populations. Many governments have also pledged to donate millions of vaccines to low-income countries, such as the generous donations by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the UK, US, and several European countries. With the disease transitioning to endemicity, similar to the annual flu season, healthcare systems will have to introduce annualbooster doses to provide protection for waning immunity and against emerging variants. Meanwhile, a string of innovative and game-changing treatments are also becoming widely available. Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration approved two over-the-counter oral treatments, Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir, to treat mild-to-moderate symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Paxlovid reduces risk of hospital admission or death by about 89 percent for high-risk patients and 70 percent for standard-risk patients.