A brief scan of the weekly headlines and we are reminded of the awesome power of the creation, often referred to as “Mother Nature.” Hurricane season, pandemics, tornados, cicadas, lighting strikes, drought and wildfires all attest to her destructive yet often creative potential.
Humanity has demonstrated only fleeting success in managing this power; and the humble among us can admit to our frailty in light of “mom’s” strength. I, therefore, propose a brief look at how we mitigate or harness the power of bacteria and viruses as an important intellectual effort right now to avoid speculation, panic, and just plain poor decision making.
The scientific method is a well-established process that enables us to study nature’s power and develop ways to manage, harness and mitigate it. We may recall our high school biology or chemistry classes where we were required to postulate a hypothesis, conduct experiments, observe those experiments and draw conclusions. Others were encouraged to challenge those conclusions through the same process.
As a result of following this simple method over the centuries, volumes of data exist to inform our decisions. However, it seems we have cast aside this process and its wealth of knowledge in the face of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the first step in mitigating the effects of bacteria and virus is to start with our immune system. This is important, as we cannot understand vaccines without first understanding how our body is the first line of defense in helping mitigate the effects of the viruses and bacteria that we encounter every day.
Next, with the volumes of information in the news about the effectiveness of vaccines, do we understand how they work? Simply put, an immune response requires interaction with the pathogen. The CDC states that vaccines increase our immune system by mimicking the infection of a virus or bacteria, prompting our immune system to react accordingly.
How is this accomplished? For the sake of brevity, let us focus on the three methods for viruses. Without getting too technical, according to the CDC, the three virus vaccine methods are live-attenuated, inactivated, or subunit. This means the virus causing the infection is used in some way to create the vaccine you will be injected with to promote an immune response.
In case you breezed over that sentence, the vaccine puts the virus in your body to induce a response. It does not prevent you from getting the virus. What it provides is a jump start or memory defense for your immune system to react quickly when the virus enters your body. I draw two conclusions from this information: Viruses and bacteria are never eradicated, and the health of our immune system is the key element of success.
So why does the preponderance of news and governmental effort focus on stopping the spread of SARS-CoV-2? When did “flatten the curve” turn to an all-out fruitless attempt to stop the spread when at some point the vaccine will spread it on purpose? Why are the news and local officials ignoring decades of science? Is it not a more holistic response to allow the healthy to contract the virus while a vaccine is under development?
It seems logical to conclude this to be a more efficient way of building immunity across approximately 330 million American citizens, rather than relying on one solution: the development and distribution of a vaccine. That single solution requires a massive logistics undertaking and, according to the CDC, vaccines are not 100 percent effective, often requiring boosters or periodic inoculations to build adequate immunity.
I have therefore concluded that there is a lack of understanding of what vaccines are and how they accomplish their intended purpose. This education gap is causing leaders to make decisions that have negative direct and third-order effects on the citizens they hope to help, while at the same time preventing a potentially more effective solution. In this case the prescribed cure appears to be more detrimental than the virus.
Am I a health care professional? No, but I can read the literature and make observations of my environment and draw conclusions. Mother Nature will only tolerate limited management of her effects. Viruses and bacteria are here to stay.
How fortunate for us that the scientific method has armed us with ways to mitigate their negative effects and harness their beneficial ones. Protect the vulnerable as we do with all risks, but allow the healthy to act as trailblazers and get ahead of the curve through normal interaction and immune response. This two-pronged approach could be a more effective solution to enable us to live harmoniously with each other and with Nature. The current solutions seem to be accomplishing neither.
Nick Lasala lives in Cameron.