My Latest Thinking About the Pandemic – March 8, 2021

“It’s sort of like getting into a cold pool,” said virologist Angela Rasmussen of the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security. “You go in and you get a little deeper, and you get a little deeper, and finally you’re in the pool and it feels normal.”

“The Short-term, middle-term, and long-term future of the coronavirus” March 4, 2021 Stat

Reporters Andrew Joseph and Helen Branswell discuss the future of the pandemic in an excellent piece in Stat, a media conmpany that focuses on health and medicine (The Short-term, middle-terms and long-term future of the coronavirus) in a March 4, 2021 article. It brings up the key points in predicting the course of coronavirus transmission. Because it is a global pandemic, the huge range of severity and timing of spikes in cases in different regions amazes me. I listened during an AAIE Zoom meeting last week to an international school director in Brazil say that his school is back to Virtual Learning and the country is in lockdown with the P1 variant transmitting like wildfire in his school community (10 staff members are currently in isolation). Here in Tashkent as you can see on the chart below, we had our big spike in July/August and a second spike in October and since then it has been quiet. Our last cases recorded in our faculty and staff are November 9 and December 9 with one case each instance.

World Health Organization Uzbekistan COVID-19 Situation Report 4 March 2021

Although I am concerned about the impact of variants when/if they reach Uzbekistan, my biggest current preoccupation is access to vaccines. There is no word yet from international authorities (embassies, WHO, TIC, etc.) of when foreign faculty and staff will be able to get one of the COVID vaccines. I fear that our employees will be delayed in returning to Tashkent next school year, awaiting a first or second vaccine inoculation. I would prefer to get everyone vaccinated before we leave for school holidays in June.

Experts are predicting a surge in cases next autumn but not the severe symptoms that were typical of previous waves. I think we will definitely have to continue wearing masks during the 2021-2022 school year, especially since adolescents and children will not likely to be vaccinated next year. This also will eliminate international student travel. What school will risk sending an unvaccinated soccer team or Model United Nations delegation to another country? I predict we will be able to hold larger, public gatherings (full faculty meetings, community events like UN Day, theatre and music productions) and hopefully, interscholastic sport matches with other schools from Tashkent. I also imagine that we would keep a database of who is vaccinated and when we do get a case, we’ll react less drastically if a large portion of the population is vaccinated. Vaccines are proving almost 100% effective against hospitalization and death, which is what we are trying to avoid.

How serious future outbreaks will be in terms of disease will be influenced by whether vaccines can continue to prevent severe outcomes, as well how many people are vaccinated, how long vaccine-derived immunity lasts, and how the virus evolves. Those factors will also shape how often people need vaccine booster shots and whether vaccines need to be adapted to better match a changing virus, a possibility that vaccine makers are already exploring.

“The Short-term, middle-term, and long-term future of the coronavirus” March 4, 2021 Stat

Media reports that there will be two vaccines widely available in Uzbekistan, the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese/Uzbek joint produced ZF-UZ-VAC 2001. The Uzbek government claims the Chinese/Uzbek vaccine is 6x more effective than the Moderna vaccine against the new strains of COVID. Close to 7,000 people participated in the first trial of the ZF-UZ-VAC 2001 vaccine. I am not sure expatriates in Uzbekistan will have access to these vaccines and how many would volunteer to take them. As always, unpredictability is the theme of the future of the pandemic.

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