2020: The Year of the Caped Invader
The vaccine means the same thing to everyone, the world over, in 2020. It assuredly refers to COVID-19 and the global race for a cure. From China to India, Russia to the UK, here in America and the world at large, scientists are laboring simultaneously to find an injectable cocktail that can offer a much needed protection against a virus which has invaded the entire world and brought it to its knees. A nanoparticle which is neither visible to the naked eye, nor discriminating of its potential host, has morphed into a superhero of the virus world. Tiny viruses are rejoicing at their new caped hero who has eluded the world’s net for 9 months and counting. We remain uncertain as to its origin: a wet market, a visitor in, who knows. However, we know that the virus managed to travel continent to continent within days of its arrival. Data from the American Red Cross reveals antibodies to this novel coronavirus evident in America as early as December. So even as we were not informed of its relevance to this nation until March, scientists were tracking its course. Please suffer not the origin story at this point. I wish to discuss the way out so we may all hug and gather, work and rebuild, and live again.
The vaccine is a concoction that usually consists of a killed or partially live portion of the original virus which is then suspended in a formulation that does not denature at a specified temperature. In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, a new technology has been employed – one that teaches the body to create the very particle itself, using our genetic replication factory, once it is introduced to our cells. A novel technology for a novel virus. The goal of either formulation is the same: teach the body to recognize the invader and then set about killing it. The immunogenicity is what is at the heart of a vaccine- its ability to provoke a response in our bodies that regards the virus particle as foreign. What happens next: an immunocompetent host (one that can launch an attack) can then build its army of defenders – known as antibodies. Our immune system is our body’s army, navy, air force and marine – capable of responding to an invader with deft and deliberate warfare. We already do that when we see viruses which have already taken a hold of us- our colds are less severe, our fevers less robust, and our ability to bounce back more reliable.
This coronavirus is novel – our bodies have had no prior introduction. So, we have no means of fighting or defending ourselves. Moreover, this virus has a asymptomatic period of time when the virus is building but our symptoms are not evident. We may be infected and even infectious through our laughter, speech and cough, without our realization. An effective virus is one that can multiply, evade and remain asymptomatic while spreading to 2, 3 even 1000 people before detection. There are individuals in this pandemic who were dubbed as super spreaders- capable of spreading beyond the n=2 or 3 that was originally calculated.
We may choose to call it for what it is: deadly and strong or choose to ignore it. To do the latter is to engage in a game of roulette, watching for the marbles to fall where they may, and leaving this as a game of chance. Or we may do our part, donning non pharmaceutical interventions such as masks, and gowns, gloves and the like. No more than I wish for my dentist, medical doctor or surgeon to blow infection into my face or surgical field, would I wish the same of self or of you.
This virus has claimed 1.6 million people the world over, and the numbers continue to climb. In the United States, 350,000 lives have been claimed, and we are watching 3000 people fall a day – more than any single day’s loss in human history. Why must we ignore these numbers? Does it have to befall you to matter? Of course not. There is nothing more sacred than life, so a piece of cloth over one’s mouth should not equate to a loss of it. To the contrary, a piece of cloth is what keeps us safe and marks a place in line for that cocktail that has reached our cities in ultracold freezers for dispensation. Scores of people have worked tirelessly to create a proper antidote to this serial killer, so we may live again. I am for the vaccine. Moreover, I am for knowing that thousands, on the order of tens of thousands have been tested with these vaccines prior to their approval. No other vaccine in history has made it to the world’s soil at the pace of this one – a function of science, necessity and death. We owe our scientists a debt of gratitude. We owe the initial volunteers our medals of courage. And we owe one another a fighting chance at eradicating this virus through collective ownership and understanding. If you do not understand, appeal to a trusted physician who has the time and heart to address your concerns, fears or questions. Do not go it alone. You do not need to. The isolation of these past nine months must not include knowledge. If I may answer your questions and allay your fears, please allow me to do so. Together we must fight off this caped invader so we may gather once more and live again.