York County Medicine Winter 2020 - 14

YO R K C O M E D S O C . O R G

FEATURE:

AFTER TRUMP'S DIAGNOSIS:

VACCINE OR NOT, COVID-19
ISN'T GOING AWAY
By: Dr. Richard E. Besser, Opinion contributor
USA TODAY Opinion*October 5, 2020

T

he news that the president and first lady have been
diagnosed with COVID-19 should serve as a stark
reminder that this pandemic isn't going anywhere soon.

We've been living in a world with conflicting narratives about
the scientific understanding of the coronavirus, and what the
path forward is to prevent suffering and to save lives. People are
understandably confused about what to believe. This confusion
becomes all the more dangerous as we enter flu season and as the
optimism about a vaccine might tempt the United States to let her
guard down.
I was acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention at the dawn of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, and
we understood at the time that a full-blown pandemic as we're
experiencing today would be a marathon, not a sprint. This moment
is an opportunity for our nation to bring clarity of mission and
focus to a pandemic that should be apolitical. Here are five reasons
why the finish line of the coronavirus pandemic is nowhere in sight,
and why Americans and our government must remain vigilant:
1. A gold-standard vaccine isn't a certainty. Vaccines vary in
how protective they are and how much they reduce transmission.
Whereas the smallpox vaccine and measles vaccine are more than

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York County Medicine | W I N T E R 2020/2021

95% protective, the influenza vaccine - still the best way to reduce
the risk of flu - some years reduces the risk by less than 50%. At
this point we cannot be certain that there will be a vaccine, and even
if there is, how effective it will be.
2. Cold weather and low humidity are the virus' friends. The
hope that the summer heat would cause the coronavirus to wilt
never came to be. The U.S. experienced the opposite, in fact, as
Americans began to relax, socialize and resume pre-pandemic life.
These behaviors led to spikes across the Sun Belt and other parts of
the country. As we now see infection levels decline in many of those
former summer hot spots, we must remember that cold weather will
drive us indoors, where close proximity makes spread more likely,
and the change in weather keeps viruses in the air for longer periods
of time.
3. Most Americans are still vulnerable to infection. Though
this year might feel like a lifetime for many of us, the pandemic is
still early in its lifecycle. The deaths of more than 200,000 people
in this country is a weighty and tragic milestone, but it is not an
indication that most people have been infected. CDC Director
Robert Redfield asserted this past week that 90% of the U.S.
population is still susceptible to the virus. This is an indication that
the risk across the nation has not been significantly diminished.


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York County Medicine Winter 2020

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