A glimmer of hope

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 2, 2020 - 12:00am

The country has spent the last several weeks trying to get back on our feet after the recent onslaught of typhoons. While the road to recovery looks to be a long and painful one, at least we are working together to help uplift those most impacted by the storm.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned previously, the most unfortunate thing about these storms is that happen every year. While the severity may change, we know that the rainy season is coming and with La Niña around for several more months, we can bet we’ll experience a few more storms in the months ahead.

With that in mind, recovery shouldn’t be the only thing on our minds. We also need to focus on the changes we need to make to help mitigate storm impact. This includes making even more improvements to disaster preparedness, strengthening our ecosystems and helping them recover from the climate crisis, and helping improve structural integrity and infrastructure in typhoon/flood-prone areas.

We aren’t flying blind anymore. I was reading a colleague’s column recently and noted his observation that weather forecasting has become so advanced that scientists can accurately predict the speed, direction, and magnitude of most typhoons. With this invaluable information, we are better equipped to prepare in advance and hopefully, this will help mitigate storm impact and damage.

However, prediction is really only one step. On a much bigger picture scale, we need to invest in improving our ecosystems again. Climate change has caused intensive damage to our own natural defense mechanisms, making storms more powerful and deadly when they arrive. We need to recognize this problem and make changes before it’s too late.

We’ve shown our resiliency time and again. Now as we move forward, we need to start showing more than that. As a country that is rocked yearly by typhoons, we need to be even more prepared and ready for the next big one. Which, judging from the way storms are increasing in both frequency and strength, could be much sooner than we think.

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While the last couple of weeks has seen so many of our countrymen have struggled to rise again after the typhoon’s hit, another sad aspect of these natural calamities is a rise in COVID-19 cases again due to the storms.

While people are doing their best to wear masks and be safe, it just is not always possible when struggling to stay above floodwaters and during rescues. Not to mention that social distancing was made all but impossible in cramped and full evacuation centers. Sadly, due to the impact the storm had on everyone’s health, it really was the perfect breeding ground for the virus to spread rapidly.

I am truly hoping that’s not the case, but I think in the coming weeks we’ll begin to see a rise in numbers that can be attributed to the calamity and we need to be prepared. This means doubling down on safety measures. Staying home whenever possible, and being responsible for our own safety protocols and exposure. While the storms may have caused more new cases, we can help keep the numbers down if we are careful and disciplined.

The good news though, and silver linings have been extremely rare as of late, is that is global brands Pfizer, Inc. and BioNTech are securing emergency authorization from the US and Europe for their COVID-19 vaccine next month after trials show a 95 percent efficacy rating and no serious side effects. As far as vaccines go, this is an incredible achievement. Most flu vaccines only have a 90 percent efficacy rating.

The vaccine also showed success across all different ages and ethnicities. This is additional good news as COVID-19 disproportionately impacted the elderly and even certain ethnicities in melting pot countries. Research that the vaccine can be equally used by all is definitely good news indeed.

To add to this, Moderna, Inc. has also announced that their vaccine studies have shown a similar 94.5 percent success rate. This just means a second option in terms of highly efficient and safe vaccine treatments that can be available within the next month.

With the results looking positive, the next move now is to secure FDA approval and get the drug to as many people as possible. If all goes well, the vaccine could be ready for mass inoculation in as little as a month. That’s a very positive way of looking at it though because dates could change and be pushed back. However, it’s still something to watch with interest.

This type of breakthrough is a first in scientific and modern medicine. Less than a year after the first outbreaks to large-scale clinical trials to vaccine breakthrough were previously unheard of. But thanks to new scientific technologies, techniques, and methods, it looks like we might have hit a major milestone.

As for long-term effects? Well at this point, we can’t really say. However, leading medical and scientific minds vouch that the methods and technologies used for vaccine production are sound and factored in as much of the long-term effects as possible. Currently, these are unknowns we will most likely have to live with for now.

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