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I had stated that I support the government’s policy initiatives aimed at encouraging vaccination against COVID-19, and further, that I would support strengthening those measures. I stand by that position. However, I am concerned that the administration may be making the dangerous mistake of neglecting the enforcement of other containment and mitigation measures while putting all our eggs — that is, our lives — into the “vaccination basket.”
Editor, all credible scientific data supports the position being repeatedly articulated by experts. That position is that masking, distancing, hand washing, avoidance of face-touching, travel restrictions, and so on, in addition to vaccination, are the means toward the goal of containment and elimination of COVID. Unfortunately, it appears to me that in Guyana, the PPP government has abandoned the enforcement of all measures — with the exception of vaccination. Yes, officials continue to pay lip service to the other mitigation protocols, but it is my belief, based on observation, that unenforced rhetoric is the limit of government’s commitment to those containment recommendations.
If government is serious about its stated objective of achieving herd immunity, placing all of Guyana’s eggs in the vaccination basket is the wrong approach. Please permit me to elaborate. It takes only a single mutation, and the transmission of that mutant virus or variant to produce a new wave of disease that may be more dangerous than those which are currently in circulation; the Delta Variant, for example, most likely started as a mutation in a single host. A larger number of infections, therefore, will necessarily result in a higher probability of a mutation that produces a more dangerous variant. At this point, the production of a variant that can evade all available vaccines is probable. This is so because all widely available vaccines — whether of the mRNA variety such as the Pfizer jab, or the vector-virus DNA type such as Sputnik V — target the spike protein on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. As such, a genetic variation that is able to fundamentally change the structure of the spike protein while still remaining pathogenic to humans, would likely be able to evade the antibodies produced by humans in response to currently available vaccines. That is why the number of infections must be reduced, and that is why government must enforce all recommended mitigation measures.
Editor, I conclude by reminding those whose responsibility it is to make and enforce public health policies of the parallel situation with regard to bacterial diseases and the antibiotics that are used to treat them. As it is, many bacteria have evolved to the point where they are able to defeat all commercially available antibiotics, even though the various antibiotics fight bacteria in vastly different ways — some antibiotics prevent microbes from forming a protein coat; some prevent reproduction, while others inhibit various enzymes necessary for bacterial survival. Contrast this scenario with the vaccines’ single-target means of preventing COVID-19 infections, and one may immediately see how vulnerable we are to a super-variant. Editor, government needs to begin enforcing ALL of the recommended measures before we all end up in a bad place in the “vaccination-only handbasket.”