Nearly 18 months later, we are beginning to see some patterns in Covid-19 which should help health and policy planners to manage what is becoming an Endemic disease, in the words of the Economist.
One of the interesting patterns is that the Vaccines work on a FIFO basis, in accounting jargon—ie First in, First out.
The most virtuous countries who vaccinated super early such as for example, Israel and the UK have seen a deterioration of the number of daily cases in the last few months, going back nearly to all time highs. Israel which was the global lab for Pfizer went from 10,000 daily cases in February to below 100 in May and then back to 10,000 in the summer. At that point, the country trailblazed again with the quick adoption of the booster, and numbers are now back down to several hundred per day.
In the UK a similar but not identical phenomenon is taking place. As an early adopter, most UK residents are beginning to count six months from the second dose, and daily case numbers are spiralling. But there is a big difference, whereas in the spring 40,000 daily cases meant nearly 1500 deaths, today the same amount of cases amount to ‘only’ 150 daily deaths.
Perhaps we can learn as follows: firstly, vaccines seem to give a medium to long -term protection from serious illness and death; however, protection from catching the disease only lasts up to six months. Israel is going for eradication of daily cases via the booster, the green passport, and the usual distancing rules, which keep on being prevalent. The UK seems to have decided that the booster is enough to manage the epidemic, without resorting back to any restriction. The one issue it has is that in order to make people take the booster, there has to be some ‘get out of jail’ incentive and the one that has worked better in most countries (eg France) is the vaccine/green passport. For ideological reasons (UK citizens don’t even need to have an ID card…) Boris Johnson is resisting this and therefore he has to cope with slow booster take-up and high daily cases, which it can stomach until the NHS copes and daily deaths are ‘acceptably’ low.
The coming winter months will test both these conclusions.