THE CORONA ENDGAME
At the beginning of the year, every big city in the world celebrated 2020 with colorful fireworks, church services, and wild parties. Some of you just slept and woke up in the next year. As everyone planned their annual calendar and goals they want to achieve; Earth had other plans. No one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed and had invaded the humankind territory. When the first few cases were confirmed in Wuhan, we had no imagination that this would spread across the whole world; and so, countries watched from afar. Currently, the number of infection cases has surpassed the 1.5 million mark with over a hundred thousand deaths. With daily new infections being reported daily, the big question is how the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak will end?
From a few talks with my friends on how this will end, most of them answered only God knows. Yes, that is true. Forget the ongoing rumors on 5G and Bats. They are yet to be authenticated. The lives of future generations will depend much on the decisions we make now and by the losses that we endure from those decisions.
The message “STAY AT HOME” has become the clarion call to flatten the curve. But how long will this take for the whole world to flatten the curve simultaneously? Even in China, new cases have started presenting themselves. This is because it will only take one traveler to spike new infections. With this in mind, there are several possible endgames.
One is that every country manages to contain the virus, as was the case with the previous SARS outbreak. However, the novel coronavirus is spreading very fast than the original SARS, and this might take a long time before global synchronous control is achieved.
The second option and the option that I think is best is that the world continues to operate normally and only isolate older adults and young children. This would ensure that the most significant part of the population gets exposed to the virus and acquires herd immunity. With so many immune survivors, the virus would have a hard time finding new viable hosts. This method has worked with previous flu pandemics, but it would come at a terrible cost. First, because SARS-CoV-2 spreads at a faster rate than any other flu infection. This would leave millions of dead bodies and broken health systems. Initially, the UK considered this method but backtracked it after dire consequences.
The third option is what the world is currently doing, trying to contain the virus through measures aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus. This model will contain the outbreak until a virus is found. However, it provides the opportunity of having multiple outbreaks. If the current outbreaks end in October, with no vaccine found, there’s a likelihood of having another outbreak early next year. We are likely to have multiple quarantine periods until a vaccine has been found and has been widely distributed.
Coming up with a virus for the SARS-CoV-2 requires a lot because, unlike other flu viruses, the researchers have to start from scratch. Several potential vaccines have undergone clinical trials. However, this is a lengthy process because it involves testing whether the vaccine is safe and whether it prevents the infection. This testing will involve animal tests and large-scale clinical trials to examine the side effects of the vaccine. Other tests will address whether the vaccine works on aged people, what dosage is required, and whether it requires other forms of boosters for it to work effectively. Manufacturing the vaccine on a massive scale would also be a big hurdle. This is because the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine involves introducing its RNA instead of the typical viral fragments that are used in many viral vaccines. A proven vaccine is likely to take 12 to 18 months for full development and deployment. This does not mean that we will be under lockdown until 2022, but we should be ready to have multiple quarantine seasons.
Nature does not always follow the science. We can only hope that Earth gives us a break, and somehow miraculously, the outbreak ends or a vaccine is obtained soon.
I do not work for the government. I can only do science, and that is why I advocate for letting people get herd immunity despite the terrible cost of millions of deaths. This option would make us get back to normalcy pretty quickly.
FACT: the SARS-CoV-2 has multiple strains; however, the mutations do not affect vaccine development.