How long will we have to live in morbid fear of the coronavirus Sars-Cov-2? While we grapple with that question, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have attained relentless momentum.
The answer of course is that we will have to wait until an effective vaccine is found.
Only a vaccine can restore our confidence in a world stricken by a virus that has infected 14.5 million people in a bit over six months and killed 600,000 of them and is adding a quarter of a million cases a day in all areas - urban and rural. Healthcare systems have been overwhelmed. Hospital beds are scarce from San Francisco Bay to Bangalore.
There is a silver lining in the form of expedited vaccine trials, some of which have reported progress. None of the 224 vaccine trials that are currently going on may promise a one-shot immunity.
Trials by Oxford University (in association with the Jenner Institute and pharma giant AstraZeneca) with their high-tech RNA and adenovirus vaccine may be the frontrunner at the moment as it promises the generation of not only antibodies but also virus killing T-cells in the body.
A highly anticipated Lancet study on the trial corroborated the vaccine’s efficacy saying there were no adverse side-effects either. T-cells are white blood cells that may ensure Covid-19 infected cells are not only detected but also killed off, actively or passively.
A word of caution about the efficacy of vaccines is that they have not eliminated any disease in 100 years except smallpox and, to an extent, polio. Booster shots may be required to fight this virus.
However, a vaccine against Covid-19 is the sole passport to a saner world in which not only can people hope to resume a life without a fear psychosis but also for society to revive livelihoods so that a lack of them will not cause collateral damage by way of job losses and outright hunger and starvation that may get even bigger than virus-induced mortality.
The stress on the success of vaccines and faith in them regardless of what the anti-vaxxers may believe is a clear giveaway that most nations have failed their citizens in the battle against Covid-19.
A litany of reasons from initial scepticism that delayed lockdowns to bureaucratic muddles, faulty models projecting misplaced confidence and hubris or Cassandra-like overstatement, outright sloth or corruption in medical materials procurement and politicians passing the buck and the blame after promising to follow the science can be listed to prove how the world fell, from the best-equipped and wealthy USA and Europe to many clueless States in India down to poorer Africa and South America.
Given the experience of this universal pandemic, a vaccine may only be the start of a new journey. Getting billions of doses, first to the most vulnerable and the workforce, in orderly fashion may be an even bigger challenge to a leadership that has now veered to the view that God alone can help now.
T-cells on their own generate immunity too and prayers may have to be aimed at a new decade, new millennium God who has been residing all along within our own body.