How will the pandemic end? There seem to be two possibilities

    22-Sep-2020
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Courtesy Times of India
We are inching closer to the tenth month of the pandemic and there seems to be no respite from the highly infectious contagion which is ravaging the world. As of now, the number of coronavirus cases has crossed the 30 million mark across the world and has already resulted in 9,56,881 deaths. What first emerged as a pneumonia-like illness in Wuhan, China in December 2019, has engulfed 213 Nations across the globe. While scientists and medical experts around the world have been working at breakneck speed to launch a vaccine to contain the spread of COVID-19, there is one question that everyone has-- how will the pandemic end?
How will the pandemic end ?
There isn’t an exact answer to the question, even when throughout the course of history, several pandemics and epidemics have plagued humanity. However, theoretically, there are two scenarios which may mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic. The first one being a medical ending and the other option is the social ending. The medical elimination of the pandemic stems from the development of an effective and safe vaccine for the novel coronavirus and following the social protocols strictly.
India is recording a rising surge of cases
The crisis seems to be unfolding in India in a worse manner than we could have imagined. While the official caseload has touched the 5 million mark, experts suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic will peak at different rates in different regions of the country. Hence, our response to the pandemic has to be more localized and effective, to get rid of the pandemic from the root level.
Even when a vaccine reaches us, we would need prioritization and regulation in place to ensure that a COVID-19 vaccine reaches all corners.
How will we reach the medical ending of the pandemic?
As of now, more than 165 vaccine candidates are currently in different stages of preclinical and clinical trials and more than 33 of them have reached the critical last leg of human trials. The good news is that even if the vaccine is not completely effective (given the accelerated timeline of its development), it will still be effective in controlling the spread of the pandemic.
A 50 to 60 per cent effective COVID-19 vaccine is also acceptable
According to Dr Anthony Fauci, who is the US’s top infectious disease expert, a vaccine which is safe and 50 to 60 per cent effective will also be acceptable, even though the scientists are aiming to produce a vaccine which is 75 per cent effective. Early data of preliminary studies have shown positive results for several vaccine candidates and we may cautiously expect a moderately effective vaccine by the first quarter of 2021.
Vaccines: A step forward in ending the pandemic : Once safe and effective vaccines are launched for public circulation and the process of mass vaccination begins, the cases will slowly start to go down as will the mortality rate. Vaccines will arm the world with a good fighting chance against the contagion and take the burden off of the overwhelmed medical care system. This may be considered a step forward in ending the pandemic.
The social ending : The other ending of the pandemic, as observed in the case of the world's deadliest pandemics, the Spanish Flu, could be the social ending. The deadly pandemic which infected 500 million people across the world and wiped out 1 per cent of the world’s population at that time, ended after two long years when people gained immunity against the virus. This type of ending may play out when a large section of the population gets tired of the restrictions and starts stepping out of their houses.
When people go back to business as usual, more and more people will get infected from the disease and develop immunity against the virus. However, herd immunity and the social ending may come at a price which will be beyond our comprehension.
We may not be able to end it, but we can slow it down : According to health experts, there is no one way of ending the pandemic in sight, instead, we need to bring the focus on controlling the spread of the disease. It can only be achieved through a degree of herd immunity, following the social distancing norms and a safe and effective vaccine. The combination of all three measures will help in slowing down the spread of the disease.