Monday, March 29, 2021
WE ARE NOW IN A RACE OF VACCINES VERSUS VARIANTS
By Gilbert Morris:
Some countries praising themselves on Covid 19 performance have done nothing more than stumbled through the pandemic, without the slightest clue as to why they did not suffer devastation. And though they have no history of managerial competence, still they gloat and politicise their accidental escape from the worst outcomes, so far.
This is unfortunate because, the history of science and society shows us that crisis are moments for scripted innovation, by which nations - if well governed - advance beyond the crisis in other areas.
That is NEVER accidental. Its always intentional.
But there is another issue: the same slipshod attitude iced with hubris that either politicises performance in crisis or exploits accidental escapes from tragedy, sets up countries for greater tragedy.
A good but sad example is our Jamaican brothers and sisters: It's only recently that government officials and their supporters were gloating about how they “beat the pandemic”. Under this delusion, they “opened up” as if their claims of competence could defeat the REALITY of a pandemic.
Now REALITY HAS BITTEN: they are under curfews and lockdowns together with other extreme measures, with a meagre supply of vaccines that does not cover even 10% of their population. Even without adding the terrifying risk of the British, Brazilian or South African variants arriving in our region - for which we have zero strategies - the hubristic attitude means a country is FAILING TO GRASP the nature of pandemics or the first, second and third order social and economic effects, which are already silently underway, that could cripple a country even where it manages some success.
Whilst Cayman Islands, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, St Kitts-Nevis and South Korea have been the best performers, Jamaica is not the only country in which early gloating has given way to deathly realities: the UK, Brazil, France, Sweden, the United States and others are facing these headwinds, but more importantly, it is necessary for countries to come to grips with a brutal fact or which I warned several months ago.
The testing phase of this pandemic exposed general incompetence and even idiocy on the parts of many governments; not to mention a failure of basic arithmetic; witnessed in a host of bogus national dashboards. I warned further that the vaccine is NOT a panacea and that in the nature of pandemics, there is NEVER a clear path to normalcy.
IN THIS CASE, WE ARE NOW IN A RACE OF VACCINES VERSUS VARIANTS; which means, everything we have done and are doing may - in an instant - become obsolete; particularly for example, if the variant strains of Covid 19 in the US overwhelms public health management, forcing drastic measures. This should impose a sense of urgency in the Caribbean in particular to cultivate development of first case, best case and worst case scenarios.
Part of the problem is as I explained above: the testing phase one year ago, should have schooled nations on system, logistics and publish health management failures, the knowledge of which should have inform this emerging ‘vaccine phase”. I argued in the “SpaceNex Global Roundtable lectures” in January 2021, that CARICOM nations for instance, in our failure to coordinate at the upstream of vaccine development one year ago (as I advised then), has limited our access to vaccines now and reduced us to our usual begging status.
Now, having failed ourselves in those particulars, we are faced, not only with limited vaccines, but our failure to cultivate a deployment and logistics model or to establish scientific Post Vaccine Review Consortia exposes us to multiplier problems, which it is our routine to ignore until its too late; particularly in circumstances where vaccine deployment requires a chain of competence in management for which we have zero examples in our history of governance.
This hold’s true, especially with the Pfizer vaccine. This vaccine requires exacting clinical and logistical expertise to administer properly. For example, once a nurse removes a vial from the -80° Celsius freezer, it requires defrosting, being shaken 10 times, then an additive injected, then shaken again 10 times, then a filling of syringes, and hopefully patients ready and waiting. Once the vaccine is thawed and prepared, staff have only 6 hours to administer the vaccine.
The shot is short, but after vaccination, a patient is required to remain for 15 minutes for their safety with a nurse to observe and ask whether the patient feels light-headed or any adverse reactions. And after all that, one needs to walk away with a date for the second shot, and a card, documenting vaccination type and date...and repeat the entire process again!
Nothing above addresses directly the underlying economic bruising citizens are suffering. Political types will say its because of the pandemic.
However, the larger portion of the misery citizens have suffered is because of poor decisions or non-decisions of their governments. This is particularly true in the Caribbean when compared with the mastery of Cayman-Singapore in particular - which involved Covid 19 management plus economic repositioning and structural reforms or the St. Kitts-Nevis, Canada New Zealand model, which was closed border Covid management.
In recent advice to agencies, institutions, companies and governments, I was asked what has been the hardest message to get across?
It has been these:
a. That no nation is “qualified to manage a pandemic”. The US was rated in 2019 as “best prepared of all nations” to manage a pandemic. That was clearly abjectly FALSE!
b. The nations that performed best were not better qualified. Rather, they had better leadership, decision models, transparency and because of that, public trust, through which they both managed their resources effectively and appealed to their populations convincingly.
c. It is foolish to gloat about any momentary accidental “successes” in a pandemic, because biological morphology is fractal: you can’t see or know all that’s going on and every perceived “success” may ignite a tragic catastrophic cascading failures.
d. Therefore, self-satisfied, “soul take thine ease” approaches, lack of urgency and failure to see today’s initiatives as BETA-testing options for tomorrow’s strategies (or failure to strategise reforms and economic repositioning) will grind nations down to the levels of their ignorance and incompetence, because pandemics FORCE societies to their true levels, and it is in the nature of pandemics that they shift SUDDENLY all alignments of expected normalcy.