Global Health Asia-Pacific March 2022 March 2022 - Page 20


The end of the pandemic is up to us

Dr Lem Li Khen says vaccination is the best way to put the health crisis behind us
The good news is that COVID-19 vaccines were introduced near the end of 2020 , approximately one year after the pandemic .

Throughout human history , we have witnessed multiple outbreaks of infection , such as the plague , Spanish flu , SARS-CoV 2003 outbreak , Swine flu , and Ebola , to name just a few of the most deadly . However , nothing has been as bad as the current COVID-19 pandemic .

There are two key features of COVID-19 that make it difficult to control — it is easy to spread and it carries a high mortality rate compared to other respiratory infections . Because of this , the COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in total chaos since the end 2019 . Many have fallen sick , and countless lives have been claimed . Lockdowns and restrictions on social activities were imposed with the hope of controlling the spread of the disease . The consequences , which have created huge socioeconomic stress , have just been too much to bear .
Since the emergence of this infection , various studies have sought to find a cure . Unfortunately , to date there is still no highly effective treatment . Anti-viral drugs and immune modulating drugs have shown some benefits but are not sufficient to stop the pandemic . Seriously ill patients can occupy intensive care units for up to weeks or months at a time , and many end up dying . Adding to that , it ’ s not uncommon for COVID-19 patients to suffer from long COVID complications that can burden health care systems further due to the need for long term treatment and follow-up .
The good news is that COVID-19 vaccines were introduced near the end of 2020 , approximately one year after the pandemic . Vaccine research showed there were insignificant short-term side effects from the various COVID-19 vaccines , although we still need further observation on any possible long-term side effects . In general , the clinicians believe that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risks .
As a result of the vaccines , we can now observe that the pandemic is slowing down . Hospitals and intensive care units ( ICUs ) are more relaxed with fewer patients , while schools , business centres , entertainment places , and sports activities are returning to normal . In short , the world is slowly getting back to its former state .
Despite this progress , it ’ s not surprising that certain groups of people have doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines . There are some who believe the phenomenon we are observing now is not the vaccine effect but rather the natural evolution of the virus to become less virulent , ending up with fewer very sick patients and less hospitalisations . But based on scientifice evidence , scientists and doctors strongly argue that the COVID-19 vaccines do play an important role in reducing the number and severity of the infection , subsequently helping to ease the overall situation .
As the world ’ s most advanced species , we human beings should play our part to care for ourselves and people around us . Every pandemic will come to an end one day . The sooner it ends , the less damage it causes . Looking at the current situation , compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination programme in your country is the most important thing to do at the moment . We should all try our very best to end this pandemic sooner rather than later .
Dr Lem Li Khen is a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Island Hospital in Malaysia .
18 MARCH 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com