Taming our Delta variant fears | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Ronnie Principe of Ermita, Manila, wrote that we seem to have a crystal ball where we get our forecasts. Well, definitely no crystal balls, but we derive them with reasonable confidence by simply observing what’s going on in the world and how the global developments on COVID-19 would likely impact us.

We really hate it when our grim forecasts come true, and we’re saddened that our health officials don’t consider our recommendations. Occasionally, they do, but after a long period of nonresponse. And by that time, it becomes a reactive response, rather than a proactive one.

We sounded the alarm at least a month before the last surge in April and May, and we urged our health officials to start preparing for a much bigger surge. We’ve been proposing a multipronged—rather than a simplistic vaccine-centric—strategy. We wrote about it in March, and it was shot down as baseless and preposterous by experts.

Later on, world-renowned virologists—including professor Robert Malone, who invented the mRNA technology being used by the current vaccines—said the same thing, with more convincing scientific explanations.

It was quite obvious at the rate the variants were developing that it was just a matter of time before a highly infectious and possibly vaccine-resistant variant would emerge. The Delta variant is just one of more variants to come, with increased infectiousness but with less virulence or deadliness. We don’t believe it’s the last COVID-19 surge we will have to deal with, as OCTA Research tries to assure us. However, it’s fair to assume that forthcoming variants may be more transmissible but less deadly.

Survival principles

That’s one of the survival principles of viruses and other pathogens. For them to survive for a long time, they should be more infectious, but they should not kill their hosts.

On the other hand, a general principle among humans is “What won’t kill you can only make you stronger once you overcome it.” So, our multipronged proposal is to provide everyone with the optimal level of protection to make sure they can lick the virus—either by preventing infection or treating it early before complications set in.

The high-risk have to be treated differently from the low-risk. The side effects to be encountered with treatment should be well known and not significant enough to kill or maim the recipient. The benefit from any treatment should always far outweigh the risks.

We reiterate that there should be a different level of protection for the elderly and high-risk sectors with comorbidities. This vulnerable population should be immediately protected with vaccination and immune-system-boosting vitamins and supplements. It’s regrettable that up to now, less than 20 percent of this population has been fully vaccinated.

If a few local governments like Pasig can promptly attain a near 100-percent inoculation of their vulnerable population, why can’t other local governments attain it?

It’s always sad when provincial or regional politics get in the way of protecting our people. I felt so bad when I texted Mayor Margie Moran-Aguinillo of our small town in Buhi, Camarines Sur, to ask her if high-risk Buhinons have been vaccinated already and she informed me that, despite their repeated pleas, they’re just about to get a meager allocation of 1,700 shots for the entire municipality. They have about 7,500 elderly and high-risk lined up for vaccination. So, they’ll have to determine who are at the highest risk. We don’t know if there will be more vaccines to come in the future.

Delta surge

We predicted the Delta variant surge would hit us in August and September, and will likely be felt by late July. We also predicted that all current vaccines will be rendered suboptimally effective after six months, and booster doses will likely be required. These seem to be happening with calendar-like precision.

At the time we wrote a three-part series on how we could mitigate the consequences of the Delta variant, the official announcement was that there was no indication of any community transmission of the variant, which seemed to have given everyone a false sense of complacency. We reiterated that it was likely in our midst already, but we were just blissfully unaware because we were not doing enough genomic testing.

You can’t blame local executives like Mayor Francisco Domogoso of Manila for expressing displeasure at why vital information on genomic testing is coming a month late. Such data is important to validate decisions, but its unavailability does not preclude the Department of Health (DOH) from making reasonable assumptions on what’s going to happen, and how we need to prepare.

We understand that the DOH is trying to prevent panic and confusion among the citizenry, so up to this writing they insist there’s no Delta surge yet, although all the warning indicators are flashing already. The best way to prevent the public from panicking is to give them the impression that the DOH and the government are on top of everything.

‘What-if’ scenarios

This was the reason we were urging the DOH to come up with anticipatory “what-if” scenarios when dreaded variants breach our borders. We pushed for proper communication so everyone would be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared.

We appeal to the DOH to reconsider our recommendations on a multipronged approach that could mitigate the tragic consequences of a now imminent Delta surge. We’ve repeatedly written about this (“Mitigating the next big COVID surge,” June 29, July 6 and July 13). We strongly believe there’s still a little window left.

With the looming surge, the new cases may still hit more than 30,000 a day, but we can limit hospitalization to a bare minimum. The majority of cases can be handled within the community with early treatment regimens. More importantly, we could aim to reduce deaths to less than 1 percent of those infected with adequate and early treatment, and drug prophylaxis to prevent spread of the infection.

The Delta variant is notorious for a “one infection, take all” transmissibility. The entire household gets infected when one catches the virus. Prompt prophylaxis is needed to curb the spread beyond the household into the community, as it did in India and is now doing in Indonesia and Malaysia. If we can minimize hospitalization and deaths, then the Delta variant surge and other forthcoming surges will just come and go.

There’s no stopping the Delta variant surge—lockdown or no lockdown. Because of our unpreparedness, a strict enhanced community quarantine lockdown is imperative in hotbed areas like Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo City. However, a lockdown can just temper and slow down the spread, but the downside is that it will extend or prolong the duration of the surge.

Aborting the surge is no longer feasible since we admitted a few serious cases of the Delta variant in the hospital, but mitigating its consequences is still highly doable. Had we done our preparations even just a month earlier, there would have been no need for a lockdown now. But since we didn’t prepare early treatment kits to be distributed to the public, we just have to advise the public what to take to stem the Delta wave.

Preventive regimen

We still believe that a preventive and treatment regimen of immune-system-boosting agents including ivermectin, melatonin, zinc, and vitamins D and C can make a huge difference in mitigating the consequences of the surge. There’s good reason to believe we can make a Delta infection just like any seasonal flu or common cold.

The public has to be informed that the majority of cases of the Delta variant, particularly in the vaccinated population, will present as common colds, headache and sore throat; hence, most of them don’t quarantine themselves and unwittingly spread the virus.

So, the public has to have a high index of suspicion. We still need to practice standard health protocols, but we don’t have to dread it like a dragon that can swallow us anytime soon.

We need to tame our fear of COVID-19 into a more scientifically contextualized perspective. Many don’t realize that dengue fever is actually deadlier, and leptospirosis is much more so.

We may get infected with leptospirosis when we wade in floods. Many youngsters don’t only wade, but swim in floods. The mortality rate of leptospirosis is 5 percent, going up to 40 percent in severe cases. That means up to four out of 10 can die from severe leptospirosis. Compare that with one to two who die out of 100 infected with COVID-19. Lest we be misunderstood again, we clarify that COVID-19 is something we should all be concerned about, but it does not deserve all the fear and panic we’re unwittingly feeding the virus to allow it to inflict more serious harm. Beyond the physical injury it has been causing us, it’s ravaging our mental and emotional health, confidence, peace of mind, trust in our leaders, economy and hope that we could all live a normal life again.

We, especially our decision-makers, may have to refocus on our center—the very core of our being, where God guides and leads us—but only if we care to listen.

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