Editorial Roundup: COVID-19 — a race we must not let nation lose
And so the race is truly on.
In one lane, the novel coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — which is already blamed for a half-million deaths in the United States alone and is, as viruses do, generating new variants as time passes.
In the other lane, humanity, whose ingenuity has created vaccines to combat the virus.
The question is: Can we inoculate enough people rapidly enough — not just in this nation but globally — to quash this pandemic before the virus hits a mutation that can defeat the vaccines?
Federal regulators last weekend approved a third vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, for emergency use. The new vaccine is easier to handle and store than the first two, and the testing data suggest that it is nearly as effective as a one-dose shot as the others are as a two-dose. These are significant advantages.
On Tuesday President Joe Biden announced that another pharmaceutical giant, Merck — whose own attempt to develop a vaccine was abandoned when early tests came up empty — will help produce the J&J vaccine. The president said he now expects that between the Pfizer-BioNTech, the Moderna, and the J&J vaccines, the United States will have enough doses for every adult by the end of May.
The end of May is, of course, three months away — a quarter of a year — and having doses produced is not the same as having them in arms. Even with Merck throwing itself into the production process, getting the J&J version out in bulk will not be rapid. We are likely to see vaccine production remain frustratingly slow in March and gaining momentum later in the spring.
And we are not likely to achieve the kind of mass immunization numbers necessary for “herd immunity” until late summer.
If at all. If the vaccine news over the past week has been promising, the signs of popular discontent with restrictions are not. Governors and mayors around the nation are rescinding mask requirements and crowd limitations — even in states that remain in outbreak, and even as new, even more highly transmissible variants spread.
These relaxations of strictures will certainly mean a new surge in cases later this month, and the wider the spread, the more chance the virus has to mutate.
We can win this race — unless we trip ourselves.
— Mankato Free Press, March 4