The old Chinese saying about living in interesting times continues to be apt in 2021. At time of writing different countries and even states or regions within countries have different approaches to Covid 19. There are currently eight vaccines at variable stages of development. Some are already in use.
Arguments continue to rage about which is the best approach. It is absolutely fair to say that 12 months ago we had little idea. The virus was new and there was negligible data. We now have the best part of 12 months data and the ability to compare outcomes.
In Australia we have seen the state of New South Wales (NSW) take a proportionate response to risk. Where cases emerged, mainly from returned overseas travellers, specific areas were locked down, neighbouring areas subjected to lesser restrictions and the remainder of Sydney continued largely as is. Regional areas were not impacted.
Surprisingly and disappointingly this proportionate approach which seeks to balance the risk of the virus against the damage of lockdowns was criticised. Predictions of massive outbreaks were made. Each and every one of these predictions were wrong (the doom and gloom merchants are yet to apologise or even admit they were wrong) and the state demonstrated again that it is possible to crack the egg without use of the proverbial sledgehammer.
Australia has been fortunate to have a warm climate, low population density (overall) and be an island. This is not due to cleverness on anyone’s part. It is just the world as it is.
Yet some have confused this natural state with cleverness on their part. And as also has been written from ancient times, pride cometh before the fall.
Australian states which criticised NSW have found themselves with cases and have resorted to the sledgehammer.
If a person has a sore thumb, this can be “cured” by amputating the arm. The sore thumb will be gone. Is this the only or best way to tackle the problem? The answer is no.
Yet there remains a resistance in many quarters to the notion that harsh lockdowns are not the only option and may not be the best in all circumstances.
Sweden has been criticised for taking a “laissez faire” approach. Data shows that in terms of deaths per million population it sits at 23 in the world. This is far below countries like Italy, Belgium and the UK which had harsh lockdowns. Critics have also been quiet on data showing no excess deaths in Sweden in 2020. In other words the annual number of deaths was no greater than the five year average, even before adjustment for total population and age.
After a year there remains no correlation between lockdowns and outcomes. Like cutting off the arm, supporters will rightly claim that harsh lockdowns work. However, they do not work better than more “surgical” approaches.
Meanwhile the much criticised USA has administered over 26 million doses of vaccine (more than the entire Australian population) in the last six weeks. Not surprisingly there remain questions about which one is “best”. There is currently no answer to this.
The rates of immunity in trials vary from 60 to 95%. The latter is unusually high given the flu vaccination has about a 60-70% “take rate” (the percentage of people who have the shot develop immunity).
How long immunity lasts, whether the already multiple strains are covered and if so to what extent are also still not known. There have also been questions raised in some countries about efficacy in older age groups who are the most vulnerable.
At present, the only approach individuals can take is to go with the vaccine offered in their country. Over time one may emerge which is “better than others” but not necessarily. It may also emerge that one has a better side effect profile but again not necessarily.
Through all this we need to return to the basic question which is how serious the virus is. After nearly a year it increasingly resembles a bad flu in its behaviour. The elderly and those with medical issues are most at risk, the average age of death is comparable to the average life expectancy. A third and maybe more have no symptoms at all.The other factor that never gets airtime is how to support your own immunity. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, managing stress and a diet low in processed carbs and sugars supports the body’s immune system. Add to that adequate intake of vitamins A C E and D as well as essential minerals and omega three fatty acids. Without a competent immune system we can not deal with viruses or mount a response when immunised. It remains a mystery as to why information about supporting the immune system is never provided
No matter where you live you need to continue to follow local advice. However, panic and fear are neither helpful or needed. Every single pandemic in human history has passed. This one will too.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.