After a full year of the pandemic, it was almost inevitable that our morale would gradually collapse and eventually a kind of depression would emerge among the population.
It must be said that listening to recent news reports can frustrate even the most optimistic person. Whether it is the third wave of infections and the associated increase in hospitalizations or the emergence of new variables, one might think that for a year we have not made any progress in our fight against the virus and that life will never regain a semblance of normality.
However, this bad news obscures a more positive fact. Science is at war with this new virus and the progress is remarkable. At least four main factors should allow us to remain optimistic about our chances of defeating this pandemic in the near future:
1. We can rely on exceptional vaccines.
It is the vaccines currently available that provide the main argument that allows us to be optimistic about the imminent outcome of the current crisis. It was produced in a very short time. These vaccines are not only good, but are in fact among the most effective vaccines in the history of science. Studies show that the protection they provide is very strong and long-lasting (much stronger than that usually seen in response to a coronavirus infection) and that it almost completely eliminates the risk of severe forms and death from COVID-19. Recent data also indicates that vaccinated people are less likely to spread Coronavirus infection, which means that in addition to protecting against the virus, vaccines prevent its transmission from person to person and thus have the potential to end the epidemic. Finally, it should be noted that these vaccines are very safe, even in the case of those produced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson: the incidence of thrombotic side effects is very low, for 1/100000. In comparison, the risk of venous thrombosis after a plane flight of more than 4 hours is about 1 in 7,000 …
2. The vaccination campaign has been a great success.
With 1 in 4 immunized people, Quebec is ranked 6the Global rank, ahead of all countries in Europe, Asia and South America. At this rate, we plan to vaccinate all adults by the end of June and we can actually expect a significant drop in diagnosed COVID-19 cases as well as hospitalization in the coming months. Because we must not forget that the increase in infections currently observed in younger adults is mainly due to the fact that this population has not yet been vaccinated, and not to the fact that this population is more vulnerable to the virus, as we hear unfortunately often. One only needs to look at the situation in Israel, the world leader in immunization, where 85% of the population 16 years of age or older has already been vaccinated, to understand how mass vaccination can drastically reduce the incidence of COVID. -19: Since the peak of COVID-19 recorded in mid-January, just 3 months ago, disease cases have decreased by 98%, hospitalizations in intensive care have decreased by 93%, and deaths have decreased by 87%.
A similar phenomenon has been observed in Quebec for the elderly, who have prioritized immunization due to their exposure to the virus. For example, on the same date last year, there were around 100 deaths per day, the majority (80%) affecting the population of CHSLDs. A year later, the death toll has decreased tenfold, and a small minority of them affect this population. Therefore, the current gloom should not make us forget the remarkable progress that has been made over the past year.
3. Vaccines are effective against variants.
Another reason for optimism is the effectiveness of vaccines against the currently circulating variants of the Coronavirus. There is a lot of concern about some variants (especially South Africa) that show increased resistance to neutralization by the immune system, but our vaccines are so effective that this slight decrease in the immune response has no effect, and can be measured on the protection they provide. The protein that these vaccines target (the protein S of the spicules of the outer layer) is really necessary for infection of the virus, which explains why any immune response directed against this region, even if it is incomplete, makes it possible to limit its entry into it. Cells.
Pessimists will say it is only a matter of time before the virus can find mutations that allow it to completely evade the immune system and fight off current vaccines. Nothing is impossible, and we must remain vigilant in the face of the emergence of new variants, but this horrific vision remains unlikely: the evolution of the virus is a completely random, mutant phenomenon that completely escapes immunity. It does not appear by a miracle. Moreover, most of the vaccines that we have designed over the years against a variety of viruses are still active after several years, despite the mutations that viruses inevitably suffer (a rare exception is the influenza virus). Unless proven otherwise, the most plausible scenario is that vaccinating a large portion of the population over the next few months will make it possible to adequately contain the virus and prevent it from successfully generating more resistant variants. But even if these variants appear, here or elsewhere, we must remember that with RNA vaccines, we have the scientific possibility to reformulate existing vaccines very quickly, within a few weeks, so that they adapt to these new forms of the virus. .
4. We know a lot about the biochemical mechanisms of the virus attack on the body.
Unknown almost a year ago, we now know that the coronavirus is a very special respiratory virus, which leads to a strong inflammatory reaction and clotting disorders (formation of clots) capable of causing massive damage not only to the lungs, but also to many other vital factors. Organs (heart, kidneys and brain). So the damage from infection can be greatly reduced by specifically treating these disorders, even without specific antiviral drugs. For this reason, very common anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids or anticoagulants, have been shown to be among the most effective in reducing deaths in patients with severe forms of COVID-19. The availability of monoclonal antibodies that neutralize the virus with a very high degree of affinity is another promising treatment method that has proven effective.
The human mind is programmed for anxiety, because awareness of the dangers around us promotes survival, whereas recklessness can cause death. Faced with an uncertain future as it currently is, we have a natural tendency to ditch and imagine doomsday scenarios. It can become very frustrating and disabling. Surprisingly, some seem to enjoy conveying these future nightmares.
However, we must realize that we are winning this war against the Coronavirus. At the start of the epidemic last year, we had absolutely nothing to confront the virus and were hoping for a vaccine to arrive in an uncertain future. A year on, we already have four high-performance vaccines that have already saved a great number of lives and over a hundred more in clinical trials.
So it is not the time to abandon our collective system, which we can be proud of, especially after all the sacrifices we have made over the past year. Over the next few months, the majority of Quebecers will be vaccinated, and with the return of the good weather, we will spend a lot of time outdoors, greatly reducing (95%) the risk of transmission of the virus.
It remains to expand the scope of vaccination to include the entire world, including less wealthy countries, to reduce the emergence of new variants, but it is clear that we are on the right path. We have the best minds on this planet devoting their talents to it and all the weapons of modern science to defeat this virus in the near future.