With coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-1) keep on taking its toll around the world, the future is somewhat volatile and despondent. If it could not be successfully contained soon, about 80% of the total population are in danger.

“With a 1% mortality rate, this would mean that 70 million people would die of the disease,” says Dr. John Scales Avery, an associate professor emeritus at the H.C. Orsted Institute of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “With a 2% mortality rate, the total number of deaths would be twice that number.”

Comparable numbers of people have died in the tragic wars and pandemics of the past, he said. “There is a serious danger that it might happen again,” said Dr. Avery, who was part of a group that shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

The best way to avoid such a tragedy, he said, is to swiftly develop an inexpensive and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  “We know with certainty that if a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus is not developed quickly and distributed widely, enormous numbers of people will die,” he said in a statement which EDGE Davao obtained.

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) recommends hand washing, community quarantine, and physical distancing as some possible methods to protect people from being infected.

All these approaches may save lives but they only buy time for the development of vaccines. Physical distancing, although a tried and tested method, only slows down the pace of epidemic spread.

The solution is still a vaccine.  “The first vaccine trial has begun, just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press conference in Geneva. “This is an incredible achievement.”

The WHO chief is hoping the vaccines currently under trial will work.  Even if these vaccines are not yet available, he said that the world “have to prepare so that the vaccines can reach everybody who needs them because this vaccine should not be for the haves; it should be for those who cannot afford it, too.”

Dr. Tedros was just reiterating what he had said previously.  “Even if we get a vaccine that’s effective, we have to have that vaccine available to everybody,” he said.  “There has to be fair and equitable access to such a vaccine, not just for ethics reasons; because the world will not be protected until everyone is protected.”

A vaccine is the only way people can be prevented from getting sick.  “About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create such a vaccine, at least four of which already have candidates they have been testing in animals,” reports The Guardian in its March 20, 2020 issue.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime leader of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that developing the vaccine will take at least a year and a half – the same message conveyed by pharmaceutical executives.

“The world has learned many lessons of the mass use of vaccines and there’s only one thing more dangerous than a bad virus and that’s a bad vaccine so we have to be very, very, very careful in developing any product that we’re going to inject into potentially most of the world’s population,” says Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.

In the absence of a vaccine, Dr. Tedros urges people to continue looking after their physical and mental health.  “This will not only help you in the long-term,” he said, “it will also help you fight COVID-19 if you get it.”

First, he recommends eating a healthy and nutritious diet, as it helps the immune system to function properly.  “Second, limit your alcohol consumption, and avoid sugary drinks,” he advised.

The third recommendation is not to smoke.  “Smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease if you become infected with COVID-19,” he pointed out.  

Exercise is the fourth recommendation. The WHO recommends 30 minutes of physical activity a say for adults, and one hour a day for children.  “If your local or national guidelines allow it, go outside for a walk, or run or a ride, and keep a safe distance from others,” Dr. Tedros said.  “If you can’t leave the house, find an exercise video online, dance to music, do some yoga, or walk up and down the stairs.”

The fifth recommendation: look after your mental health.  “It’s normal to be stressed, confused and scared during a crisis,” Dr. Tedros said.  “Talking to people you know and trust can help.  Supporting other people in your community can help as much as it does them.  Check in on neighbors, family and friends.  Compassion is a medicine.

Other advises: “Listen to music, read a book or play a game.  And try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious.  Get your information from reliable sources once or twice a day.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Tedros commended the researchers around the world who have come together to systematically evaluate experimental therapeutics.  “Multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives,” he said.  

In union, there is strength, so goes a saying.  “This virus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat but it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy, an enemy against humanity.” – ###

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