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Vaccines alone won't suppress COVID surge4
HSVG misson P.O. Box 206, Hagatna, GU 96932, USA
(01/17/2022)Did G20 learn lessons from the Delta? When the world welcomed 2022, many people were actually calling the new year “pandemic year 3.” If we have had it enough and do not want “pandemic year 4,” year 5 or year 6, let’s encourage Indonesian government step forward with its Group of 20 (G20) presidency to call for an international campaign helping people around the globe fearlessly live with the coronavirus and adopt the new normal as soon as possible. Quite a number of public health experts had advised before COVID vaccines became available that the human society was inevitably going to live with the coronavirus for a while and only sustainable measures would help everybody get through the pandemic. Unfortunately, most governments , with certain high-profile scientists and celebrities, put so much faith in lockdowns and looked forward to seeing COVID vaccines would work perfectly like a silver bullet even though, at that time, almost every vaccine developer was apparently targeting at lowering the numbers of severe patients and death victims instead of guaranteeing no infections after getting vaccinated. The Delta variant’s attack last summer was a wake-up call. Many countries, after enjoying reopening and sort of returning to normal brought by successful vaccine rollouts, experienced the Delta variant of the coronavirus caused a new wave of case surge, made hospitals overwhelmed again, and, sadly, took many people’s lives. It was the time that people started being familiar with a term called “breakthrough infections.” For example, Singapore surprisingly reported 28,901 new infections and 40 deaths in September 2021 after the vaccination rate was beyond 80%. Their COVID death number was zero in September 2020 when there was no CIVID vaccine at all. The epidemiological investigation and laboratory results concluded the changed situation was mainly caused by the Delta variant. Singapore was not the only place having a bad September last year. As of 31 August 2021, 80.43% of the residents 12 years and older were fully vaccinated, but Guam, an US island territory in the Pacific reported 47 COVID-related fatalities in September 2021. The figure was higher than the death number of 39 reported in September 2020 when no vaccine was available at that time. With almost the same land size, Guam is home of less than 200 thousand residents and Singapore has a population of 5.7 million. It means the highly-contagious Delta variant was influencing everywhere, no matter a busy and crowded city or a relaxed and rural place. In addition, obviously, vaccines alone are not suppressing the coronavirus. Europe’s experience reminded that nobody should drop his/her guard even thought the population reached a high vaccination rate. European Union has been leading its member states to keep precautions and try reopening in a gradual way. The continent has maintained a basically downward curve of infections as well as hospitalizations and deaths since its successful vaccine rollouts in association with well-managed medical capacity, even though the Delta variant did make a noticeable, but not really harmful, spike. However, it seemed that most parts of the world did not learn lessons from the Delta and implement proper measures when the Omicron came. The World Health Organization did not wait for sufficient morbidity and fatality data to be collected. Its warning message on the Omicron variant released late November last year triggered many countries’ panicked decisions of tightening COVID restrictions. It’s sad that South Africa’s variant identification efforts, which should have been appreciated, made its people punished by the almost worldwide travel ban. The wait wasn’t even long. Before last Christmas, at least three scientific researches caught the media’s attention and proved the Omicron variant may be much more contagious but it’s mostly causing mild cases. However, the chaos has hurt people. For example, Guam, which finally saw a little bit tourism recovery last November, immediately suffered from more than 5000 travel booking cancellations right after the Omicron panic widely spread. More variants will definitely come and we definitely do not want more chaos. While the Omicron has shown the new variants in the future are very likely to be less lethal and the COVID vaccines are actually promisingly reducing severe cases, plus the antiviral medicines are available, the whole world really needs a leadership that urges every jurisdiction to guide people fearlessly living with the virus by using more appropriate strategies to respond to every emerging variant. Let’s try to recall whether the system was encouraging people to get tested during the flu season to try to contain flu viruses. Were we worried so much when we experienced flu-like symptoms or got diagnosed as having flu? Wasn’t the goal of flu control to avoid severe complications and save people’s lives? The best tools helping us achieve the goal are always personal hygiene and flu vaccines although so-called “breakthrough infections” did happen to flu vaccines as well. COVID is not flu, but flu control experience could apply to COVID response, especially to the current situation of “pandemic year 3,” a year that G20 presidency returns to Asia, where people totally have no issue with wearing a mask and helped prove this measure could effectively prevent COVID spread. Indonesian government needs to work with its G20 partners and make history.(Published in The Jakarta Post on January 11, 2022) http://www.hsvg.org/hot_414422.html Did G20 learn lessons from Delta variant? 2022-01-17 2023-01-17
HSVG misson P.O. Box 206, Hagatna, GU 96932, USA http://www.hsvg.org/hot_414422.html
HSVG misson P.O. Box 206, Hagatna, GU 96932, USA http://www.hsvg.org/hot_414422.html
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Vaccines alone won't suppress COVID surge


 

The recent wave of COVID infections since August is not the first frightening surge in Guam. The island community experienced something similar last August and September, and actually the situation was even getting worse in the fourth quarter.

 

While vaccines have been rolled out and, as of Aug. 31 this year, 80.43% of Guam residents 12 years and older were fully vaccinated, our island reported a total of 47 COVID-related fatalities in September, which was surprisingly higher than the death number of 39 reported last September, when no vaccine was available at that time.

 

Obviously, vaccines alone aren’t suppressing the surge.

 

Guam is not the only place having a bad September. Singapore reported 28,901 new infections and 40 deaths in the month after the vaccination rate was, exactly like Guam, beyond 80%. Their COVID death number was zero last September. The epidemiological investigation and laboratory results concluded the changed situation was mainly caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

 

So, Guam and Singapore have been using the same effective vaccines, have reached the same high vaccination coverage, and then encountered the same more contagious variant. However, Guam, with less than 200 thousand residents, relatively reported much more COVID deaths (47) than Singapore, with a population of 5.7 million, did (40) this September. It is very likely that, under the same conditions, Guam had more severe cases than other places. Perhaps that consequently resulted in more fatal tragedies.

 

Of the 60 COVID patients in the hospital on Oct. 7, five were children, ranging in ages of 1 day old to 8 years old. However, the worldwide data show that children usually do not develop serious illness once they are infected with the coronavirus. More information, therefore, is needed. For example, if these little patients have any underlying health conditions, to help Guam figure out the factors.

 

For adults, Guam also needs to investigate if the high prevalence of obesity, diabetes, renal issues and heart disease might be the reason why Guam is, relatively, having more severe COVID cases than other places. If it is the case, the system has to pay a bit more attention to the control and prevention of those chronic diseases and consider it an important part of the long-term strategy in the post-COVID era.

 

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien-Loong emphasized in his Oct. 9 national address: “When the number of cases grows very large, even 2% of a very large number will translate to many patients needing hospital and ICU beds. Our healthcare system would rapidly be overwhelmed.”

 

Singapore therefore further expands health care capacity and strengthens case management so that they can “better identify COVID patients with mild symptoms to recover at home” and make sure the system can “properly care for those who fall seriously ill” as well as continue to attend to many non-COVID patients who also have urgent medical needs.

 

It seems Guam needs to do what Singapore is doing now. Guam also needs to learn from Palau’s effort to promote a healthy new normal after their vaccination coverage reached 80%. Thoroughly adjusting to the new normal might be the reason why Palau is still a paradise of extremely low COVID risk. Guam should take its inspiration from the neighboring island’s success.