Wednesday, April 24, 2024

From the Ridge: Better to back science and facts

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At the time of writing, which is several days before you read this, our covid-19 elimination strategy hangs in the balance. The daily cases reported have come back down into the teens and all of them are household contacts of known cases.
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At the time of writing, which is several days before you read this, our covid-19 elimination strategy hangs in the balance.

The daily cases reported have come back down into the teens and all of them are household contacts of known cases.

Given Auckland’s continuing lockdown, it should completely fizzle out. If everyone plays by the rules that is.

And as we have seen with the self-entitled people who escaped lockdown for a spot of skiing in Wanaka, not everyone does.

However, the vast majority of New Zealanders have stuck to the rules in a genuine effort to protect themselves, their families and their communities.

It seems like aeons ago, but it was only on August 17 that New Zealand’s first community case for some months at that time that no link to the border was discovered.

Because it was the infectious Delta strain, the Government under health advice acted immediately and put the entire country into a Level 4 lockdown that midnight. No one sensible argued against that action.

We have the advantage of seeing what has happened in Surat, Suva and Sydney.

They couldn’t have acted any faster and yet the one case in managed isolation that somehow leaked out has resulted in nearly 900 cases.

Sydney’s experience where the unmasked and unvaccinated limo driver transporting air crew has turned into more than 15,000 cases and is steadily growing. Their health system is now under incredible strain.

What is not reported is where hospitals around the world are inundated with C-19 cases and the deaths of people who had heart attacks and strokes, but no ambulance was able to get to them in time, or the lives lost in accidents that would have been saved if a paramedic was there instead of incubating a patient with the virus. Not to mention all the scheduled operations that are now repeatedly postponed.

We know that this is our future because we cannot remain with hermetically sealed borders as a hermit kingdom or suffer continuing lockdowns for much longer. The economic impact on many businesses and the psychological load on people is too great.

The elimination strategy has served us well to date. We have mostly lived what was termed ‘normal lives’ for the past 18 months, as well as any nation on the planet.

It has bought us time to get vaccines into arms. Seventy percent of the eligible population have had one shot, or both, and there are another 10% booked, so we are getting closer to the sort of levels we need to acquire some type of herd immunity, although 90% or greater would be preferable. This will help those of us vaccinated when the inevitable happens. But also, those who can’t be vaccinated, those who choose not to be but more importantly, children who at this stage are not being vaccinated will have some protection. There are 800,000 children under 12.

There are calls from some like David Seymour to put aside the elimination strategy now because of the economic impacts, but it is too soon. We have this one chance with this current outbreak and if successful, it will buy us some more precious time.

But I’m not sure about the next time we have community transmission.

At some point we will have to learn to live and die with this virus.

Those unprotected from the vaccine have a tenfold greater chance of being seriously ill in hospital and of dying.

This is not opinion, its fact born out of misery and suffering elsewhere. These are significant odds and spell out the risk clearly of a poor decision.

When this begins to happen, as it will, I believe many vaccine-hesitant folk will sensibly put their reservations aside and get the shots.

After all, it becomes more real when you know people who are struggling to breathe on a ventilator or attending their funeral.

Requirements to show proof of vaccination to get into various venues and events will also incentivise them to become protected.

The hard core anti-vaxxers of course won’t change their minds but they are a relatively small group and it is after all their lives.

But instead of distributing leaflets around Auckland to disseminate their misinformation, they should keep their views to themselves on the off chance they might be wrong and that the herd immunity that has protected their kids from other serious illnesses over the years might just offer their families some protection from this pandemic.

I had my first shot several weeks ago and just after that, the UK evidence came out that the longer intervals between doses offered more protection. I went and read the paper in the British Medical Journal and was surprised to see that it was as much as a twofold increase in antibodies. It’s still good if your interval is 3-4 weeks, but better with 7-12 weeks.

I postponed my second shot taking some risk on the current outbreak getting into the regions and vaccine availability and getting it next week.

I live in the 21st century and consequently prefer to believe in science and facts.

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