Fighting Viruses

CRAIN'S COMMENTS

A new article in Lancet about the failure to eliminate polio as a disease may help us think about how we deal with COVID.

Based on experience in fighting smallpox, a campaign to eradicate the polio virus began in 1988, with the goal of complete elimination of the virus by 2000. Needless to say, the campaign failed, for a variety of reasons:

  • Scientists learned about virus mutations, and that the virus could change to deal with vaccine used against it. That doesn’t sound like rocket science now, but it was thirty years ago.
  • Scientists learned that vaccines using live virus components could complicate eradication. That’s why we don’t use them today. Again, not rocket science now, but something we needed to learn.
  • We’ve learned that reluctance to be vaccinated helps keep the virus alive and dangerous. Again, logically, no surprise, but there are too many people who don’t understand that…

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