These sacrifices are not forever


The situation in Switzerland is not isolated from the European context. The search for solutions is ongoing and a common discussion, Paolo Galli from CdT ‘onthespot’ met with Biologist and Author Barbara Gallavotti to dicuss her views and the current state of art in the fight against coronavirus

These sacrifices are not forever
THE INTERVIEW Science popularizer Barbara Gallavotti we reflect on the state of the art in the fight against coronavirus © EPA

These sacrifices are not forever

THE INTERVIEW Science popularizer Barbara Gallavotti we reflect on the state of the art in the fight against coronavirus © EPA

What is the current definition one can give to the pandemic?

This is a situation that requires a lot of attention. The mathematical models say it clearly: the direction we have taken is dangerous, to the point that a change of direction is urgently needed. On the other hand, we have seen that we are able to limit the possibilities of the virus to circulate. In March we had no other alternative but to close everything - even there were no masks - but today we are aware that we can cut the legs of the virus even through some special attention. In short, a great deal is up to us, beyond the fundamental institutional decisions that also concern the resources with which to fight the epidemic. We must protect ourselves and society, in particular we must protect the people most at risk and avoid getting back into a situation where we are forced to close schools. Closing schools amounts to a social catastrophe. And the new economic damage that the more severe measures entail must also obviously be avoided.

Why are there still so many differences between one country and another, both in terms of numbers and reactions?

First of all, cultural and local differences must be considered. The case on which many reflect is that of Sweden. Sweden has had a high number of victims but on the other hand it seems to be able to keep the infection under control without resorting to drastic closures. On the other hand, the country did not experience the peaks of overcrowding that may exist in Spain or in other countries where people are more constantly in close contact. It is clear that the situation cannot be the same everywhere. The same distinction can be made between the countryside and the city, where different measures may be appropriate. Each country has its own rules and deep-rooted cultural convictions, and each country lives and organises healthcare in its own way.

In major cities such as Paris and New York, there is talk of lockdown. Is the virus in the metropolis unmanageable?

The problem is not the cities, but the discomfort. This is clearly seen in New York, where the most affected neighborhoods are those where the greatest economic difficulties are encountered. Indeed, the city itself offers many solutions, for example because it is easier to distribute health care. Then it is true that in big cities you always find someone who does not strictly apply the rules to defend themselves and others from the virus. However, you can implement all the protocols of the case, but if you have a periphery or an area where people are in social or economic difficulty, then it is difficult to see measures such as isolation, distancing, and all that would be necessary to apply. prevent the circulation of the virus.

You mentioned Sweden. Are there those who still pursue group immunity?

Group immunity is something that I don’t think can be aspired to, after all I don’t think Sweden has ever aimed at this either. Immunity is calculated on the basis of mathematical formulas and depends on how many people on average a positive can infect. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, it has been seen that it would be reached when just over half of the population were to prove immune to antibodies. Net of the fact that we do not know how long the antibodies last, this means that if the lethality of the virus is 1%, achieving herd immunity could mean that one in two hundred of us should die, not counting the consequences for a long time. term for those who could develop the disease in severe form. I mean, I don’t even want to think of herd immunity as a desirable goal. The price to pay would be too high.

So all that remains is to look at the vaccine. The WHO hinted at optimism.

Phase 3 is a long phase, which cannot be shortened. At best, assuming that for some vaccine candidates this phase ends by January-February, there would be relatively few doses available immediately, probably to be allocated to the categories most at risk. Because we can all aspire to have been vaccinated, many months will pass. I believe this will not begin to happen before next spring so be optimistic. Then maybe there will be countries able to accelerate distribution dynamics, such as Russia and China, but they are realities in their own right. I believe that, both for vaccines and for monoclonal antibodies, we will have to last a few more months. And it would already be a tremendous success, something - such speed of reaction - never seen in history.

Speaking of monoclonal antibodies, it has been talked about in relation to the treatment given to Donald Trump. Where are we at?

On the experimentation of monoclonal antibodies administered to Trump so far only preliminary data are available. Also in this case we can look forward, with a certain optimism, to next spring. It’s a kind of head to head, the one between vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. A substantial difference should be underlined: antibodies are given to those who are ill, to those who run serious risks and are therefore willing to take the drug despite any side effects. A factor that we want to avoid in the administration of a vaccine, which is given to healthy people. There is therefore a greater acceptance of contraindications on drugs, just think of those against tumors».

Can we already underline the impact of autumn on current numbers?

Summer has certainly given us the enormous advantage of not staying indoors. With the colder seasons, everything changes. But it only means that we need to be very careful again, convincing ourselves that these sacrifices are not forever. We need to be patient. Speaking of numbers, the current epidemiological context is completely different from last spring, when almost only the evident cases were identified. There is also the belief that the use of masks and respect for social distances mean that you come into less contact with the virus, or in any case suffer the same in a less vehement form; this allows our immune system to cope better and protect us more effectively. The virus, it should be emphasized, is always the same:

© - Riproduzione riservata
Ultime notizie: OnTheSpot
  • 1
  • 1