B1617, which has plunged India into a catastrophic third wave of COVID-19 and is spreading globally, is the latest “variant of concern” that has emerged since the pandemic began over a year ago. Many leading infectious disease experts are warning that our failure to contain the spread of the virus, with dozens of high population countries nowhere close to acquiring vaccines, has created the ideal conditions for dangerous new variants to emerge threatening the efficacy of vaccines. They say that only a strategy of maximum global suppression using all the public health tools at our disposal in combination with a massive ramp up of vaccination rates in every country will prevent COVID-19 from becoming a serious, endemic illness capable of killing millions annually. Critics of this view say that once again we are over-estimating the severity of COVID as well as our ability to control the virus’s spread. They say that the mutations it generates are a normal part of the evolution of all viruses and COVID-19 is no exception: there have already been thousands of new variants over the past year and the majority are not associated with a change in infectiousness or deadliness. Mutations also tend to repeat across variants making it possible for vaccine makers to target the changes that are associated with increased risk of infection and death with booster shots. Herd immunity achieved by vaccination and naturally occurring infections among healthy individuals, will steadily bring COVID-19 to heel making it a manageable disease for humanity.
Arguing for the motion is Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and CAPRISA Professor for Global Health at Columbia University. He is a member of the WHO Science Council, the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus, and the Lancet Commission on COVID-19.
Arguing against the motion isRichard Schabas, a former Chief Medical Officer of Health for the province of Ontario, Canada and Chief of Staff of York Central Hospital during the SARS outbreak.
Sources: CNA, CNBC, BBC, Tom Woods TV, AFP News Agency, ABC News Australia, Global News
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