Why are vaccines not shortening the length of the pandemic?

The Covid-19 virus was first encountered at the end of 2019 though the World Health Organization only declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020, and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Total global deaths now exceed 5.6 million and after over 2 years, the pandemic continues. We received our first doses of vaccine in April 2021, the second dose in June 2021 and the third, booster shot in December 2021.

The major difference – for a layman – between the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920 and this Covid pandemic is that there were no vaccines available 100 years ago. The Spanish flu hit in 4 major waves; one in March 1918, the second (the deadliest) in August 1918, a third, mainly in Australia, in January 1919 and the final fourth wave in early 1920. By March 1920 the Spanish flu was less deadly than common influenza and the pandemic was over. With no vaccines of any sort available, the Spanish influenza pandemic lasted just 2 years. It is estimated that the total number of deaths was somewhere between 17 and 50 million and that up to 500 million were infected.

With Covid-19, vaccines were available first about 11 months after the outbreak though most received vaccines in the second year of the outbreak. A remarkable achievement. The logistics of carrying out mass vaccinations has been equally impressive. So far over 5 billion of the 7.3 billion global population have received at least one dose. Around 4 billion have received two doses. Close to 60% of the global population has been vaccinated to some extent. Around 360 million are thought to have been infected and around 5.6 million have lost their lives.

There is little doubt that the quality of health care after being infected is orders of magnitude more effective than 100 years ago. It is also reasonable to conclude that the vaccines have prevented many deaths. Numbers infected are similar to 100 years ago (360 m / 500 m) but number of deaths are drastically lower (5.6m / 17 – 50 m). Yet the pandemic continues and the earliest it may recede – we think – is this autumn of 2022 which will be 3 years after it started.

It would seem that vaccines have not reduced the length of the pandemic at all. In spite of all the advances in health care and the huge medical/pharmaceutical efforts in understanding the virus and creating vaccines, we are entirely reactive in our response. Vaccine development is reactive. Getting vaccinated is proactive but defensive and does not harm the virus. Health care is reactive. We have no means, it would seem, of taking the initiative and attacking the virus. We are forced to rely on natural mutations eventually reducing its virulence. Our actions, being reactive, would seem to have no impact on the length of the pandemic. Epidemiology has not impressed me during this pandemic. Every so-called mathematical model (which depends finally upon human behaviour) was wrong. (Of course epidemiology is a discipline of clerks and statistics – a social “science” if it must be called a science). They have not been able to do more than regurgitate the same advice as from 700 years ago at the time of the Black Death. Avoid the infected, wash your hands, wear a mask, burn your dead!


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One Response to “Why are vaccines not shortening the length of the pandemic?”

  1. JohnM Says:

    Shhhh! You are not allowed to ask questions like these, just obey.

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