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Scientists Advocate for ‘Vaccines-Plus’ COVID-19 Strategy

Scientists Advocate for 'Vaccines-Plus' COVID-19 Strategy

Key learning points

  • More than 100 scientists have signed an open letter demanding that WHO adopt strategies beyond vaccines to fight COVID-19.
  • The global strategy includes recognizing that the virus is in the air, promoting the use of high-quality face masks, effective ventilation, establishing consistent safety measures and providing support to achieve global vaccine equality
  • The specialists warn that vaccines alone will not save us from the pandemic

More than 100 public health experts, clinicians and scientists have signed an open letter Urges the World Health Organization (WHO) to adopt a so-called ‘vaccine-plus’ strategy in the fight against COVID-19. This type of strategy uses a combination of vaccination, public health measures and financial support.

The letter, published in the BMJ last week, states that while vaccines significantly reduce the risk of serious illness and death, they are not enough to fight the rapidly mutating virus. For example, compared to previous variants, Omicron is much more likely to infect those who have been vaccinated or exposed to previous COVID-19 variants. The result is an uncontrolled transmission of COVID-19, leading to more lockdowns, further disruption to education and additional economic blows.

What exactly does a vaccines-plus initiative look like? According to the authors, there are five main recommendations. Here we explain them all.

Call COVID-19 an airborne pathogen

Scientists began urging the WHO to recognize COVID-19 as an airborne virus since July 2020. While the WHO has since clarified that airborne transmission, as well as droplet transmission between close contacts, spreads COVID-19, that coverage is still murky in certain countries.

“Public health authorities in Sweden still claim that COVID only spreads through droplets at short distances,” one of the signatories, Emil J. Bergholtz, a professor of theoretical physics at Stockholm University, at Verywell. “In fact, they have argued several times that face masks can actually increase the spread of the disease.”

Promote the use of high-quality face masks

While the benefits of wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19 are well known, the authors say there is confusion about when people should wear a mask and which one is best. In addition, the ever-changing public health messages have led to resistance to wearing masks.

“There’s this idea [in the U.K.] that even simple measures, such as masks, are restrictive”, Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London told Verywell. “We were told that masks were ineffective when most of Southeast Asia already wore masks.”

To provide clear guidance, the signatories propose that WHO clearly promote the use of masks at indoor gatherings and other high-transmission settings. The preferred options should be respirators such as N95, P2/FFP2, or KF94.

Advice on effective ventilation

Opening windows is good for the circulation of air, but it is not enough. While the team behind the letter didn’t offer many meaningful ways to “ensure that all public buildings are optimally designed, constructed, adapted and used to maximize clean air for residents” as they demand, they referenced a handful of studies that suggest good air. filtration can actually reduce transmission of COVID-19 by as much as 37%.

Establish criteria for imposing (or easing) measures to prevent the spread of COVID

Depending on the levels of COVID transmission in a particular community, specific safety protocols must be put in place. But right now, there’s nothing specific or consistent about when a security measure, such as a lockdown, should be introduced or lifted.

Gurdasani adds that while methods such as contact tracing, quarantine and isolation are invaluable in containing the spread of COVID-19, they are not realistic if people don’t support them.

“We had the COVID app in the UK, but usage was very, very low and the public messaging around it was very, very bad,” she says. “Being pinged or isolating was seen as an inconvenience, when in fact it is a very important public health measure to contain the spread.”

During the summer of 2021, after the lifting of most of the major restrictions, the term “pingdemicbecame popular in the UK. It refers to the annoyance of being told you have to isolate yourself by the UK’s COVID-19 app

Plus, people won’t want to isolate themselves if they can’t afford it.

There are a few countries do a good job by providing financial support during isolation or quarantine. In PortugalIf you have simply been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you are entitled to your full salary for 14 days. In the Czech Republic, employees are entitled to 60% of their wages for 14 days if they have to quarantine (after which a health insurance policy comes into effect).

  • Quarantine is the term for what you do when you have only been exposed (in close contact with) someone who has COVID.
  • Insulation is the term for what you do when you have a confirmed COVID infection,

Support actions to achieve global vaccine equality

While the letter’s authors call for the suspension of vaccine patents and the establishment of regional vaccine manufacturing centers, one problem with vaccine equality is the delicate nature of the vaccines themselves.

For example, Pfizer’s vaccine initially had to be stored in freezers at about minus 70 degrees Celsius, which can be difficult in low-income countries. However, since approval, the company has submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showing that the vaccines can be stored for up to a month at 2 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius, the temperature of a standard refrigerator.

“Transporting and distributing vaccines that need to be stored very frozen is complicated and that kind of infrastructure needs a lot of support,” Gurdasani explains. “It’s not as simple as donating X number of doses because that won’t fix the underlying cause.” [distribution] problem.”

What this means for you?

Unfortunately, relying on vaccines alone will not save the world from this pandemic. What the group of specialists proposes will provide us with short and long-term solutions that will ensure that health services are not overloaded and that the most vulnerable members of society are not those who suffer the most.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available as you read this. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page,