Doctors warn of ‘never-ending pandemic’
Doctors have outlined a nightmare scenario of "never ending pandemic" if political leaders fail to vaccinate the entire world.
As European countries squabble to secure COVID-19 vaccines, experts have warned that any move to stockpile could create more "mutant" strains.
It means that even if Australia achieves herd immunity, the failure to vaccinate our region and the world could create new and virulent strains that render our own vaccines ineffective and bring the pandemic roaring back to life.
One of the world's most eminent COVID-19 experts, Dr Ashish K. Jha, is a physician and dean of the school of health at Brown University. He warns the threat is real.
Despite debate in Australia over which vaccine is best and "waiting" for the best vaccine, Dr Jha said any delay would be a mistake.
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"There is only one solution to put this nightmare pandemic behind us,'' Dr Jha said.
"We absolutely need to be vaccinating many more people as quickly as possible, probably our single most powerful tool in the short run.
"Get outbreaks under control everywhere."
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The biggest risk to the creation of new mutant strains that have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and possibly Los Angeles are out of control outbreaks with mass infections.
"Letting viruses run wild, like the US and Brazil did, endangers everyone,'' said Dr Jha.
A solution where rich countries are vaccinating citizens but poor countries are not will not end the pandemic.
"Imagine this. Some nations are largely vaccinated. But outbreaks are surging elsewhere,'' Dr Jha said.
"What might happen? We might see rise of variants that eventually escape the vaccines
"And make everyone vulnerable again."
That would require the world to update the vaccines and vaccinate everyone again.
"It's the nightmare scenario of a never-ending pandemic,'' Dr Jha said
In the United States and the UK, where outbreaks continue to rage out of control, better masks are also important.
"Probably all of us need to be upgrading the masks that we're wearing. I think the standard cloth masks we've worn through 2020 are probably not good enough for this variant. We need better-quality masks,'' he said.
Dr Jha said all countries have an international responsibility according to scientists and doctors not to stockpile vaccines but share the scientific breakthrough with the world.
"Want to end the pandemic? Lets marshal global manufacturing effort to make lots of vaccines quickly,'' Dr Jha said.
"And vaccinate everyone. Because large outbreaks anywhere can give rise to variants that can escape vaccines everywhere
"At the end of the day, we really are in this together."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already warned that the "war" to obtain more vaccines in Europe could impact on Australian imports.
"What I've learnt through this entire process and what we know through this entire crisis is things can change and they can change quickly,'' the Prime Minister said.
"So I'm just being careful with Australians to be very up front with them."
Asked when we can expect change after the vaccine rollout by A Current Affair's Tracy Grimshaw on Monday night, Mr Morrison offered a cautious response.
The Prime Minister said while the vaccine will stop you from dying or hospitalisation it's not yet clear if some vaccinated people can still transmit the virus if they come into contact with it.
"We still don't know at this point to the extent at which it stops transmission,'' he said.
"That doesn't mean it doesn't. It just means that it's too soon from the evidence that we have."
Originally published as Doctors warn of 'never-ending pandemic'