This month, a patient sincerely asked me if I thought it was bad to catch coronavirus. With the world so many months into a global pandemic, that anyone could be asking this question should have surprised me. But it didn’t. Despite hundreds of thousands of people having lost their lives to CoVID-19 to date (more than 900,000 at the time of writing), many New Zealanders are struggling to comprehend the disaster we have so far averted on our shores. We’re lucky to have been so well-protected by the steps taken by our government. So sheltered, in fact, that our imaginations are struggling to grasp the alternative reality we’d be living had we not gone into lockdown.
But while we are lucky, we are not immune. And for us to continue to act collectively, guided by best evidence and empathy, it’s crucial that we keep listening. Not to the loudest, the angriest, or most divisive voices– and there is a lot of misinformation out there. But instead, to those who have the qualifications and experience to meaningfully analyse the unfolding events; to those who are spending their days trying to give the world as much accurate information as possible on how this virus impacts our people, communities, and countries.
Aakriti Gupta / @aakriti_15 (Cardiologist, training in interventional cardiology at Columbia University) et al. on the many different ways that CoVID-19 can affect different parts of the human body:
“Although COVID-19 is most well known for causing substantial respiratory pathology, it can also result in several extrapulmonary manifestations. These conditions include thrombotic complications, myocardial dysfunction and arrhythmia, acute coronary syndromes, acute kidney injury, gastrointestinal symptoms, hepatocellular injury, hyperglycemia and ketosis, neurologic illnesses, ocular symptoms, and dermatologic complications.” (Review article published in Nature Medicine, 10th July 2020)
Takeaway: CoVID-19 is absolutely not just a bad cold or case of flu.
Akiko Iwasaki / @VirusesImmunity and Ruslan Medzhitov (Professors of immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine and investigators of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) on the importance of a vaccine in dealing with CoVID-19:
“Given the severe consequences of Covid-19 for many older patients, as well as the disease’s unpredictable course and consequences for the young, the only safe way to achieve herd immunity is through vaccination. That, combined with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 appears not to have yet developed a mechanism to evade detection by our adaptive immune system, is ample reason to double down on efforts to find a vaccine fast… more than 165 vaccine candidates already are in the pipeline, some showing promising early trial results. And start thinking about how best to ensure that when that vaccine comes, it will be distributed efficiently and equitably.” (published in The New York Times, July 31st 2020)
Takeaway: a successful vaccine against CoVID-19 isn’t out of reach and we should continue to hope for one. In the meantime, we need to make sure we have systems in place so that access to it is equitable, because no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Devi Sridhar / @devisridhar (Professor and chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh) on the incorrect belief that releasing lockdown measures is necessary to save the economy:
“It is a fallacy to think that governments releasing all restrictions (ie lockdown measures) would make life normal or save the economy. Several states in the US & Brazil tried this & face not only illness but school closures, rising unemployment & pressure on health services.” (Tweeted September 12th, 2020).
Takeaway: Let’s stop giving air/screen-time and print space to idiotic commentators suffering from severe cases of travel and economy FOMO.
Jin Russell / @drjinrussell (Developmental paediatrician and PhD candidate in life course epidemiology at the University of Auckland) on why New Zealanders would be more vulnerable to CoVID-19 and why our national response is a matter of health justice:
“It is important to understand that New Zealand has a high burden of comorbidities that would make New Zealanders more likely to die or do poorly compared to other countries, and that Covid-19 would disproportionately affect our Māori, Pacific, South Asian and poor communities. Our collective response is also a matter of justice, protecting those among us who are most vulnerable.” - 28th August 2020 in The New Zealand Herald.
Takeaway: It is not an exaggeration to say CoVID-19 would be catastrophic for Aotearoa if we had a major outbreak. Avoiding this catastrophe is a must to prevent worsening the already gaping health inequalities for our most vulnerable.