30 December 2021

2022 and victory over covid-19

I'm going to go out on a limb here with one prediction for 2022:  this will be the year we finally defeat the covid-19 pandemic and life returns to something like the pre-2020 norm.

This doesn't mean I think the disease will entirely vanish.  That's probably not achievable in the foreseeable future.  My criteria for success are that (a) covid-19 becomes no more deadly or burdensome than the ordinary flu as it was before 2020, and requires no more onerous precautions to deal with; and (b) it becomes safe to resume most in-person activities as before 2020 without masks.

Before 2020, the death toll from the ordinary flu was a few tens of thousands per year in the US, and people needed to get a new flu shot every year to deal with the constant emergence of new strains.  If we reach the point where the death toll from covid-19 is similar, and the only precaution people need to take is a vaccine booster shot every year or every six months, then we'll be in a situation we know we can live with, because we were living with it all along before covid-19 emerged.  And if people can go shopping, attend public events, and socialize with strangers without the need for masks, life will feel normal again.

I base this prediction partly on the likely trajectory of changes in the virus, and partly on technological progress.  Natural selection tends to make disease germs more infectious but less deadly over time, and the characteristics of the omicron variant suggest that this is already happening with covid-19.  Data from South Africa indicate that the omicron surge is already subsiding there, barely a month after it began, even though that country's vaccination rate is much lower than that of the US.  Also, growing numbers of treatments, some of them available in pill form, are showing promise for fighting covid-19 infection.  And vaccine research continues; the US Army claims it will soon have a vaccine which will be effective against all covid-19 variants, including possible future ones.  If so, this will be a game-changer, since the new vaccine will have been developed by the Army rather than a private company and thus will not carry any patents barring it from being widely produced and distributed in poorer countries.  Even if the Army vaccine doesn't pan out, research is continuing all over the world and we can expect new treatments and vaccines at an accelerating pace.

These developments are rooted in a more fundamental factor.  We can think; the virus cannot.  The virus changes, but those changes are driven by the blind forces of mutation and natural selection.  We can study and understand the virus, and devise new plans and treatments based on what we learn.  The virus cannot understand what we are doing, or plan anything.  This is an example of the observation in my profile:  "in the long run, human intelligence is the most powerful force in the universe."  Given enough time, the power to understand and think and plan can out-maneuver and defeat almost any mindless process.

It's true that the US will continue to be plagued by vaccine rejectionists (as are several other countries, for various reasons).  But their numbers will erode.  Most covid-19 deaths now are among unvaccinated people.  The number who are vaccinated keeps creeping up as less hard-core rejectionists come around for one reason or another.  Those who are infected and survive will gain some immunity, even if it's far inferior to vaccination.  Vaccine improvements and other treatments will reduce the danger to the vaccinated.  Far more importantly, the vast majority of unvaccinated people are outside the US, so that's where the main danger lies that a pool of unvaccinated is enabling the emergence of new variants -- delta and omicron originated outside the US.  The danger posed by unvaccinated people is the same regardless of where in the world those people are.  And most of them are unvaccinated because of unavailability of vaccines, not because of rejectionism.  Vaccinating as many people as possible globally is the key to reducing the risk posed to Americans by the unvaccinated.  Even if a certain element of the US population never accepts the vaccines, minimizing the global number of unvaccinated will still solve most of the problem.

Finally, it's important to keep perspective.  So far, the official world-wide death toll from the covid-19 pandemic is between five and six million.  Even if you believe the true number is two or three times that, due to under-reporting and inadequate testing in some countries, remember that the 1918-1920 flu pandemic killed between twenty-five and a hundred million people, out of a global population less than one-quarter of what we have today.  Our century's more advanced medical technology has already saved millions upon millions of lives, compared with what could have been.

In the battle between the virus and the living mind, I'm betting on the latter.


Blogger SickoRicko said...

I really appreciate the way you put this into a hopeful perspective.

30 December, 2021 09:49  
Blogger Mike said...

You got me looking up bubonic plague which lead me to a list of all the epidemics in the world on Wikipedia (naturally!). COVID 19 is already at number 6 and working its way up the list.

30 December, 2021 21:02  
Blogger Lady M said...

I heard Dr. Ashih Jha, Dean of Brown University school of public health, say practically the same thing about 2022 and covid.

31 December, 2021 05:51  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Here’s for your prediction to be true.
Happy 2022, Infidel!


31 December, 2021 06:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ricko: Thanks -- I'm going by the evidence as I see it.

Mike: Not really a good way of evaluating it. An epidemic that kills five million out of eight billion worldwide is hardly comparable to one that kills five million out of a local population of ten million. Modern technology has vastly reduced the death toll of covid-19 compared to what it would have been in earlier times.

Lady M: Let's hope he's right!

Sixpence: Thanks!

31 December, 2021 08:05  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I do hope so. I hope they get a handle on this virus this year. Happy New Year.

31 December, 2021 11:24  
Blogger Bohemian said...

I Love your Positive Post and it makes a lot of sense. The Virus, if it is to Survive, cannot kill off all Hosts or it ceases to exist too... Nature finds a way and yes, the Human Mind can Think and thus find ways around what Organisms just do by their very Nature. I am Guardedly Optimistic that this will level out eventually, don't know if that will occur in 2022 or beyond tho'?

01 January, 2022 20:58  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary K: Thanks! We're clearly getting there. The tide is turning.

Bohemian: It's possible that something could go wrong and make it take longer -- the emergence of another variant that breaks the normal pattern and is more deadly, for example. But over time the path to victory is clear.

02 January, 2022 01:15  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

er.....I call bullshit. I see this covid shit going on for at least 5 years.

11 January, 2022 13:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

And I gave my reasons for making that prediction.

11 January, 2022 14:47  

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