Roche: It’s time to end the coronavirus obsession

Now is the time to recognize we can't "defeat" the virus. We must accept its presence and adapt as best we can.

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Minnesota appears to be having another CV-19 wave, despite high levels of vaccination.  How strong or long this wave will be is uncertain. It is unlikely to be the last wave. This may therefore seem like an odd time to be pushing for a different approach to the epidemic, but this is exactly the right time. It should be apparent to people that after almost two years of lockdowns, school and business closings, excessive testing, contact tracing, masking and now vaccines, none of these measures had any significant impact on epidemic curves or case spread.

Current case waves everywhere, in the U.S. and overseas, are being substantially contributed to by the fully vaccinated. Everyone thought vaccines would eliminate CV-19 and end the epidemic, because that is what politicians and public health experts told us. That expectation should never have been set. Anyone who understands the history of respiratory virus vaccines, with influenza being a prime example, would know that it was unlikely that the vaccines would stop transmission, but that they might limit serious disease.

At this point in Minnesota, at least 30% of cases, 35% of hospitalizations and as many as half of all deaths are in the fully vaccinated. And the state cannot identify a substantial number of people who have been vaccinated so these are undercounts. Per capita rates of infection are still likely lower in the vaccinated population than the unvaccinated one, but those rates are converging.  At the same time, on a case rate basis, it is clear that the vaccines can limit hospitalization and deaths, and do so even for the elderly. For most age groups you are clearly far better off to be vaccinated than unvaccinated if you have a CV-19 infection.

But the absolute number of events in the fully-vaccinated population is relevant because their alleged absence provides fodder for the never-ending campaign of anxiety and fear promoted by politicians and public health officials. And if we are concerned about stress on health resources like hospital beds, these breakthrough hospitalizations are responsible for a significant portion of the problem.

We are not going to and cannot suppress the virus. We can minimize morbidity and mortality, but especially for the vulnerable elderly, there will always be cases, hospitalizations and deaths. If we don’t accept this reality and stop accepting the epidemic terrorism, we will never get out of this climate of fear and anxiety and we will never stop doing immense damage to our children, our public finances, and our general public health.

So now is the time to recognize we can’t “defeat” the virus. We must accept its presence and adapt as best we can. On a true apples-to-apples comparison, this is no different than the flu in its total effect, and a lot less dangerous to children. Countries and states that have begun to adopt the live-with-CV-19 approach have no worse outcomes than those engaging in every possible restriction on people’s lives and every possible mandate. Ending the epidemic is purely a matter of attitude. The sooner we accept reality, the sooner our lives will all improve.