new vaccines, minor colds and an unknown

The Covid statistics have been showing week by week, worldwide, a sustained reduction on the number of deaths. Infections vary by country. In Argentina, although the number of tests is low, the number of cases marks a decreasing trendeven with winter weather, unrestricted social activity, the distracted preventive guard and the decline in the use of the chinstrap.

The planet seems to be starting to turn its back on the pandemic. This last weekend they coincided in different countries various popular festivals, which the Covid had interrupted for the last two years, such as the Glastonbury Festival in England; LGBTQ Pride Day celebrations; or the festival of San Juan, in Salvador de Bahía.

An image of the LGBTQ+ Pride Day parade in San José, Costa Rica. Photo: Reuters

This scenario of the coronavirus, apparently last, shoots some questions: Is it the epilogue of the nightmare? Is the end of the pandemic really near? Or does the lure of dwindling risk reserve some hysterics to undermine so much optimism? And specifically: Can even more contagious and aggressive variants appear?

“The probability of new variants always exists. What happens is that now that probability starts to get smaller. Mainly because the speed of appearance of new variants is not as fast as before”, says Roberto Debbag, president of the South American Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

The variant Omicron turned seven months old (after being detected in South Africa in November 2021) and has added a large family of subvariants: B.1.1.529, BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4 and BA .5. Some scientists argue that one of these must have deserved another letter of the Greek alphabet.

Roberto Debbag, president of the Latin American Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.  Photo: Lucia Merle

Roberto Debbag, president of the Latin American Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Photo: Lucia Merle

“The subvariants of Ómicron BA.4 and BA.5 are the ones that can probably give in the coming months an increase in the number of cases,” says Debbag, but adds a key element: “What happens is that changed the risk situation of having a complication or a fatal end due to the infection”.

The expert attributes the main change to two fundamental factors: “The vaccination rate with two doses (although the ideal is three doses, so that the virus circulates less and new variants do not appear) and the amount of population that in Argentina has already been infected. Although they can be reinfected, they are cold pictures.”

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What will happen in the future with these infections? “The final blow to end the pandemic goes through two or three strategies what are you going to produceand for this end of the yearand that in Argentina we will surely have them next year, which are the tailor-made vaccines or ‘tailor shots,’” says Debbag.

Against the grain of the rest of the world, strict quarantine controls in Beijing this Sunday.  Photo: AP

Against the grain of the rest of the world, strict quarantine controls in Beijing this Sunday. Photo: AP

What are the ‘tailor shots’? “Combinations of what is circulating. The same as the flu virus vaccine, modified annually and of which an annual dose is applied. That is what is possibly going to give the final touch”, considers the specialist.

Pfizer and Moderna have already announced in recent days their new vaccines adapted to Ómicron and its different lineages. According to the Pfizer trial, one month after people receive their combination vaccine they have a 9- to 11-fold increase in antibodies that fight this variant.

To this Debbag adds “some other vaccines, called protein -in Argentina the ARVAC in phase 1– and others that are administered nasally. Those three elements are the ones that are going to give, if a new variant does not appear – and we hope that this does not happen – the final touch to the pandemic.”

The development of the Argentine vaccine ARVAC against Covid.

The development of the Argentine vaccine ARVAC against Covid.

Then it’s time to decide what to do with the first generation of vaccines, whose role has been crucial in preventing the damage caused by the pandemic from being greater. There are experts who believe that the best option would be to combine doses of the new formulations with those made against the original Wuhan virus.

An investigation published last Friday in The Lancet magazine, signed by researchers from the Imperial College of London, calculated that the vaccines saved the lives of 20 million people in the year between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021.

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According to this study, most of the deaths avoided have been due to direct hit of the vaccines, by allowing people to be immunized, and the rest by the indirect effects of the “herd immunity” and the desaturation of the sanitary system. As of today, the number of deaths from Covid in the world is 6.34 million.

The first generation of vaccines prevented some 20 million deaths from Covid.  Photo: Reuters

The first generation of vaccines prevented some 20 million deaths from Covid. Photo: Reuters

As the pandemic is currently unfolding, with a weekly average of 8,500 global deaths, is it correct to consider that the Covid virus is already a danger flu-like? “Yes, we could consider that right now, yes,” says Debbag. But he narrows down a nuance.

“What happens -he continues- is that what we are experiencing with Covid is also a tsunami of what happened: the Covid prolonging and its aftermath. I am much more concerned about how Argentina’s health systems are going to respond to this issue, which has to be addressed.”

Debbag details that “between two and three people out of ten have been left with Covid prolonged. People with cardiac or neurological sequelae. Added to this are the people who have not accessed the health system and have delay in diagnosis of diseases such as cancer. Finally, we must continue to monitor both this virus and others.

Otro tsunami

El tsunami It’s not just healthbut also psychological and social. There are added more doubts and questions: What will the post-pandemic world be like? Can one think of a “forgetting” of the lived trauma Or will what happened accompany us and continue to affect, at least the generations that have gone through the experience?

The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Pedro Horvat, former member of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, believes that “before giving a general answer, we must mention the people who were specifically traumatized. That is, those who suffered the loss of loved ones, the loss of an economic project or dreams that were cut short. In them, the trauma will endure, not from the pandemic, but from the concrete loss.”

On the other hand, “as a general response, as a society, if this was the last pandemic I believe that the effects that we still observe today are going to change slowly and disappearing. Especially those that have to do with introversion, the difficulty to go back outside, to connect with people and communicate with the real world”, adds the psychoanalyst.

Horvat also believes that “there are positive effects of the pandemic that will probably last: he installed in all of us the idea of ​​health as a collective fact. In other words, the health of the whole affects individual health. We had no record of something like this and that may imply good behavior in terms of healthy distancing and care in means of transport. I wonder, for example, if the chinstrap will not continue to be used by many people.

In the list of positive post-pandemic balances, the expert adds “a increased awareness regarding vaccination, not only for Covid, but for the flu, pneumonia and other diseases. and a growing trust in science. The fact that the vaccines did not eliminate the disease but did contain the danger of death in a huge percentage, is what relieves the traumatic situation and what will allow us to live better”.

For the end, Horvat raises an unknown: “Before I said ‘if this was the last pandemic’. And this is installed as ghost: What will be next? What will happen? Is it some strange zoonosis, a virus that we don’t know about? Is it some other tremendous way to die?

The psychoanalyst identifies there “a kind of alert and one sees it, if something happens in China or there is talk of monkeypox. If nothing happens for years, surely the ghost will fade, but if pandemics happen again the traumatic and vulnerable situation for the whole of society is going to be installed”.


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