Sunday, January 31, 2021

Variant COVID-19 Strains Coming to America

 This past week, I received my 2nd Moderna vaccine uneventfully.  Leaving science aside for a moment, I marveled that a small amount of clear liquid thrust into my upper arm could shield me from a contagious and invisible invader.  Indeed, with the many public health failures we have suffered this past year, the development of safe and effective vaccines in record time has been a monumental scientific triumph.  Obviously, these successes were the result of decades of medical research and development that created a ladder that today’s scientists could ascend.  This is how medical science works.  While it is true that medical breakthroughs can occur ex nihilo – out of nothing – more typically new scientific achievement builds on prior successes and failures. 

We've added a few more rungs this past year.

Even with the advent of vaccines, this remains an uneasy time.  Yes, there will be additional vaccines added to the armamentarium.  Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is expected to be granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in the near term.  But, new potential disease threats have appeared and others are surely lurking in the shadows.   We are aware of variant strains of the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.  Do we not think that these and yet undetected mutant strains are already present in other corners of the world?  While many of these variants may contain innocuous mutations, others may confer advantages to the virus with respect to transmissibility and virulence.  At some point, we may need to call for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 to create new vaccines and therapeutics to combat new viral threats.

I feel that we are engaged in global cat and mouse conflict.  It seems unfair that the goal posts are shifting.  But disease and illness are unfair.  They strike and afflict the innocent.  But, we are not defenseless.   We have robust protective techniques available as public health experts have admonished us for months.

The scientific community and the public have learned so much this past year.  And without doubt, these lessons will save many lives when the next pandemic strikes.  We’ve created a few more rungs in the ladder that scientists and researchers will climb in the future.

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