Australia's performance in the Tokyo Olympics was the best ever with the highest number of medals and gold securing 6th position and made us all feel proud being Australian. Not only were their performances good on the track but also off the field which won everyone hearts.
COVID 19 is another Olympic marathon race between virus and human being. Australia needs to win this race and set a great example to the world. States that are able to vaccinate 90% of the population (Herd immunity) first should be rewarded with a COVID-19 gold medal.
The competition is against the most contagious COVID-19 Delta variant which is breaking all the records set by previous viruses and other variants of the COVID. Here are some of the facts about Delta variant which makes it a strong contender to win the race if we don’t act now.
• Delta is the most infectious variant.
• It is responsible to cause a new wave and a sharp rise in COVID-19 infection and deaths globally (The Lancet).
• People may be more likely to be hospitalized with the delta variant.
• It has now spread to over 135 (WHO) countries in a short period of 5 months’ time.
• It has the highest spread rate (R0) between 5 to 9.5 higher than Wuhan variant 2.3-2.7, and the UK Alpha variant 4-5. It is regarded as infectious as chicken pox with R0 between 9-10. (CDC).
• It might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons.
• Its herd immunity threshold is revised to over 80 - 90% of the population being fully vaccinated compared to Wuhan variant 67% (Ricardo Franco, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham).
• Its viral load is high which means people infected can harbor 1,000 times more viral particles in their nasal swab. (Ravindra Gupta, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge).
• Its incubation time to reach detectable levels is shorter < 3-5 days.
• It is undergoing multiple mutations (Delta plus) in its spike protein and new trends likely to emerge (The Indian SARS- CoV-2 Genomics Consortium).
• It is sowing infection among younger people.
• Insufficient testing makes it difficult to envisage the extent of spread.
• The current vaccines single dose is less effective ( Olivier Schwartz, head of the Virus and Immunity Unit at Institut Pasteur, Paris).
• Pfizer and Moderna are seeking authorization of a booster dose of vaccine.
Vaccination reduces the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection by eight-fold and the risk of getting ill, being hospitalized, or dying by 25-fold (CDC).
The virus may be ahead in the race for now but if Australian embrace Tokyo Olympic spirit and get quickly vaccinated, it will help win the race and the marathon gold medal .
(Dr Adhikari, a Nepali scientist based in Australia, is member secretary of Skill Knowledge and Technology Transfer (SK&TT) Department of the NRNA)