Stay Focused: We’re This Close to Ending the Pandemic
There’s been a lot of discussion about how to communicate uncertainty about vaccines and transmission, guidance for vaccinated people, how to increase vaccine demand and address hesitancy, and what vaccines mean for the “end” of the pandemic. Here are my thoughts. I call it “the well.”
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This pandemic has plunged us to the bottom of a very deep well. After recovering from the shock of a long, abrupt fall into cold, fetid water, we looked up and saw only darkness. But we did find a ladder leading upward. We’ve been slowly climbing this ladder, sometimes slipping and falling down a few rungs, but we’ve endured and kept climbing. Our dedication was rewarded. We’ve developed very efficacious vaccines, and now as we look up, we can see a small circle of light at the top.
As we continue to climb, the circle will slowly expand. The hope of that circle, slowly growing as we climb ever closer to the top, keeps us going. Eventually, we will emerge into the bright sun. Hopefully, then we’ll put a cover on the well so we can’t fall in again.
My suspicion is that vaccines that are this good at preventing disease will have a substantial impact on protecting against infection altogether, and will likely reduce transmission… But we don’t know that yet.
We now have two very efficacious vaccines — that have exceeded our wildest expectations at protecting us against disease. That’s a tremendous public health achievement. It should allow us to tighten our grip on the ladder and give us a second wind on the climb. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about the vaccines. Will they prevent infection? Will they reduce transmission when enough people are vaccinated? We don’t yet know. But this research is ongoing because it is so crucially important.