Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021 08:00 [IST]
Last Update: Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021 02:24 [IST]
Future pandemics could be even more lethal than Covid-19 so the lessons learned from the outbreak must not be squandered and the world should ensure it is prepared for the next viral onslaught. Let us not forget that the novel coronavirus has killed 5.26 million people across the world, wiped out trillions of dollars in economic output and turned life upside down for billions of people. And now, we have mutations after mutations, the new one supposedly deadlier then the last. According to one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the next one could be worse. As worries grow over the highly mutated Omicron variant, which has already been detected in more than 30 countries, Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, the creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, warned that this pandemic is not done with us.
It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both. This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The latest Omicron variant’s spike protein contained mutations known to increase the transmissibility of the virus. There are additional changes that may mean antibodies induced by the vaccines, or by infection with other variants, may be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron. Until we know more, we should be cautious, and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant. To defend against pandemics, she said, we must invest in people, research, manufacturing and institutions just as we invest in armed forces, intelligence, and diplomacy to defend against war.
A timely warning has come from the scientists who say that the world should make sure it is better prepared for the next virus. Several states have stepped up vaccination, surveillance and containment measures as India detected over 23 cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus on Tuesday. Amid growing concerns over the new variant, a parliamentary committee has recommended that the efficacy of Covid vaccines must be evaluated and concerns with regards to the new strain developing immunoescape mechanism critically addressed.
The advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost. Efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic have been uneven and fragmented, marked by limited access to vaccines in low-income countries while the “healthy and wealthy” in rich countries get boosters, health experts say. A panel of health experts set up by the World Health Organisation to review the handling of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has called for permanent funding and for greater ability to investigate pandemics through a new treaty. One proposal was for new financing of at least $10 billion a year for pandemic preparedness. Until then, maintain social distancing and wear mask. This is the only way out.