When humans and the virus variants can safely co-exist

Most countries tries throughout the world are seeing an increase in new Covid-19 cases as highly contagious variants continue to spread, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Some of these new strains, notably the Brazil and UK ones, are already in Ireland which may account for the daily numbers being infected remain stubbornly high.
New cases worldwide increased by 8% in the last week, the fifth week in a row that the WHO has seen an increase in transmission, Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s technical lead for Covid-19, told reporters during a press briefing.
Cases in Europe, where the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant is rapidly spreading, increased by 12%, Van Kerkhove said. The WHO has also seen a 49% increase in cases in the Southeast Asia region, an 8% increase in the Eastern Mediterranean region and a 29% increase in the Western Pacific region, driven by an increase in infections in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, she said.
The Americas and Africa saw a “slight decline,” Van Kerkhove said, but she said the case numbers overall are “worrying.”
“There is pressure to open up in many of these countries, and there are difficulties in people and individuals and communities to comply with proven control measures,” she said, adding that there has been a “slight increase” in deaths across the world. “We’re also seeing that vaccination distribution is uneven and inequitable.”
The WHO’s comments come as health officials in Ireland and across the world grow concerned that reopening too quickly amid a rise of new, highly contagious variants could reverse progress in the global pandemic. Some countries, such as the US, have seen an increase in new Covid-19 cases even as they vaccinate millions of their citizens each day.
The Expert Insights website at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reports expert immunologist Andy Pekosz as saying there is “some strong data from the UK that suggest the [variant of the] virus is more transmissible”.
He said that to be certain it was the virus sequence changes that were causing this, “we need to see if this variant spreads as easily in other countries”.
He said: “There are currently two theories about what, specifically, makes this strain more transmissible. One is that this variant virus is ‘stickier’, meaning it requires a smaller amount of virus to cause
infection because it’s better at adhering to your cells. Another theory is that this variant causes people to harbour more virus particles in their noses and throats, which means more virus is expelled when people talk, cough, or sneeze.”
Mr Pekosz said the lack of social distancing factors could help a more transmissible variant spread even further, but wearing a mask, ensuring physical distance, and hand washing would still help.
Meanwhile, the roll-out of vaccines in Ireland has been slow amid growing criticism but evidence is emerging also that being vaccinated does not mean you will not become infected by Covid-19, in particular the new strains. In fairness, this has always been known by the medical world, though not often debated.
By the end of January, a slow trickle of post-vaccination infections had begun in the US. These cases — discovered in people more than two weeks after they received their final Covid-19 shot — will likely continue to grow in number.
But that’s absolutely no cause for concern.
‘Breakthrough infections’, which occur when fully vaccinated people are infected by the pathogen that their shots were designed to protect against, are an entirely expected part of any vaccination process. They are the ‘data points’ that keep vaccines from reaching 100% efficacy in trials; they’re simple proof that no inoculation is a perfect preventative.
Even the jab for the annual winter flu is not 100% efficient.
Furthermore, the post-vaccine sicknesses or side-effects documented so far seem to be mostly mild, reaffirming the idea that inoculations are powerful weapons against serious disease, hospitalisation, and death.
The goal of vaccination isn’t eradication, but a détente in which humans and viruses co-exist, with the risk of disease at a tolerable low.

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