Q. What have we learned since March?
A. Distance is the most effective intervention; the virus has no legs, so if you are physically away from people you avoid direct contact and droplets. Then, we must consider the interior spaces, which are especially at stake in winter or in warmer countries in summer: the bus, the gym, the office, the bar or the restaurant. This is because we know that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious in aerosols (small floating droplets) and we know that the spread of aerosols explains the super-spread events of Covid-19. Try not to be in these spaces with other people, but if you must be there, reduce your time (work from home if you can) and wear a mask. Don’t shop that often. Wait for outings, parties, gatherings. You can do these things later.
Confused by all the technical terms used to describe how vaccines work and are studied? Let us help you:
- Adverse event: A health problem that arises in volunteers during a clinical trial of a vaccine or drug. An adverse event is not always caused by the treatment tested in the trial.
- Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can attach to a pathogen such as coronavirus and prevent it from infecting cells.
- Emergency use approval, license and authorization: Drugs, vaccines and medical devices cannot be sold in the United States without winning approval of the Food and Drug Administration, also known as license to practice. After a company submits clinical trial results to the FDA for review, the agency decides whether the product is safe and effective, a process that typically takes several months. If the country is faced with an emergency – such as a pandemic – a company can request a emergency use authorization, which can be granted much faster.
- Background rate: How often a health problem, called an adverse event, occurs in the general population. To determine whether a vaccine or drug is safe, researchers compare the rate of adverse events in a trial to the baseline rate.
- Efficiency: The advantage of a vaccine over a placebo, as measured in a clinical trial. To test a vaccine against the coronavirus, for example, researchers compare the number of people in the vaccinated and placebo groups receiving Covid-19. Efficacy, on the other hand, is the benefit that a vaccine or drug brings in the real world. The effectiveness of a vaccine may be lower or greater than its effectiveness.
- Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials: Clinical trials generally take place in three stages. Phase 1 trials typically involve a few dozen people and are designed to observe whether a vaccine or drug is safe. Phase 2 trials, involving hundreds of people, allow researchers to try different doses and gather more measurements of the vaccine’s effects on the immune system. Phase 3 trials, involving thousands or tens of thousands of volunteers, determine the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine or drug while waiting to see how many people are protected from the disease they are supposed to be fighting for.
- Placebo: A substance with no therapeutic effect, often used in a clinical trial. To see if a vaccine can prevent Covid-19, for example, researchers can inject half of their volunteers with the vaccine, while the other half are given a saltwater placebo. They can then compare the number of people in each group infected.
- Post-market surveillance: The follow-up that takes place after the approval of a vaccine or drug and is regularly prescribed by doctors. This monitoring usually confirms that the treatment is safe. On rare occasions, it detects side effects in certain groups of people that were missed in clinical trials.
- Preclinical research: Studies that take place before the start of a clinical trial, usually involving experiments where a treatment is tested in cells or in animals.
- Viral vector vaccines: A type of vaccine that uses a harmless virus to introduce immune system boosting ingredients into the human body. Viral vectors are used in several experimental Covid-19 vaccines, including those developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Both companies use a cold virus called adenovirus as a vector. The adenovirus carries coronavirus genes.
- Test protocol: A series of procedures to be performed during a clinical trial.
We don’t talk much about eye patches, but we should because we don’t know enough about the role of the eyes in transmission. We know that the eyes are a window to the upper respiratory tract.
Q. Where is the “disinformation mouse”?
A. The disinformation mouse can erode any of these layers. People who are unsure of an intervention can be swayed by a loud, confident voice proclaiming that a particular layer is ineffective. Usually this voice is not at all expert in the matter. When you speak to experts – usually your local public health authorities or the World Health Organization – you will find reliable information.
An effect doesn’t have to be perfect to reduce your risk and the risk to those around you. We need to remember that we are all part of a society, and if we each do our part, we can protect each other, which is also beneficial to us.
Another example: we look both ways for oncoming traffic before crossing a road. This reduces our risk of being hit by a car but does not reduce it to zero. A high-speed car could still come out of nowhere. But if we also walk through with the lights on, and keep watching as we walk, and don’t stare at our phones, we greatly reduce our risk of being hit.
We are already used to doing this. When we listen to noisy non-experts who have no experience in protecting our health and safety, we invite them to make an impact in our lives. It is not a risk that we should take. We just have to get used to these new risk reduction steps for today’s new risk – a respiratory virus pandemic, instead of a car.
Q. What is our individual responsibility?
A. We each have to do our part: stay away from others, wear a mask when we can’t, think about our surroundings, for example. But we can also expect our leaders to work to create the conditions for us to be safe – such as regulations on the exchange of air inside public spaces, creating quarantine and emergency rooms. isolation, communicating specifically with us (not just with us), limiting travel to the border. , urging us to continue getting our checkups and providing mental health or financial support to those who are in pain or cannot be paid while in lockdown.