Even with collective immunity, we cannot fall into a false sense of security | Editorials

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The island is bracing for an economic reopening that includes returning vacationers to our shores, and our community should continue to remain vigilant – even after the island achieves inevitable ‘herd immunity’ against COVID-19.

This term, when applied to vaccination rates, does not really mean that any of us are immune to the disease. Healthcare professionals globally and nationally, and even Governor Lou Leon Guerrero have all issued the same warning: being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 doesn’t mean you can’t get the virus, and it doesn’t mean that you cannot transmit the virus.

This is a far cry from what most of us understand by the word immunity.

Getting sick with measles or mumps, or being properly vaccinated for either means you won’t have it anymore. The same can be said, with a few exceptions, for chickenpox. But COVID-19 is different in several important ways.

First, this disease progresses rapidly and treatments, including available vaccines, are still being researched. Mutations of the virus into regional variants are also adding to the ever-changing circumstances that doctors and medical product manufacturers must take into account. Scientists are trying to figure out how long a COVID-19 vaccination is effective and whether we will need boosters for it, as we do for other diseases.

Second, not all people infected with COVID-19 develop antibodies to the virus. A medical database called medRxiv published a preprint study showing that 10 of 175 patients with mild symptoms of the coronavirus recovered without developing detectable antibodies. Some experts compare this finding to the common cold and other diseases of the upper respiratory tract that do not always allow our body to fight infection on its own.

Third, especially for places like Guam that resume short term vacations, global and regional performance will continue to affect the risk posed to a local population by COVID-19. Low vaccination rates and regional variations may continue to result in the importation of COVID-19 into small places that have a low number of reported daily cases. As the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently published: “Because the human population is so interconnected, an epidemic anywhere can lead to a resurgence anywhere. “

That being said, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the right thing to do. It helps prevent severe symptoms, resulting in fewer hospitalizations. It is also very effective in preventing infection and spread.

But as has been stressed on several occasions, vaccines are not the panacea for this pandemic.

To put it bluntly, being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 does not mean the protective shield is 100%. Yes, it will save many lives. Still, some will get sick, even with the vaccine, but they will be more likely to withstand the severe impact of the coronavirus.

In order to fight this disease and return to a strong economy based on tourism, we will always have to remain vigilant. We shouldn’t blindly throw our masks in the trash or fill our businesses to capacity just because we can. We should continue to limit who goes shopping as a family and how much we physically get closer to the friends we can’t wait to reconnect with.

A cautious and continued approach to COVID-19 is smart in the face of the growing number of people coming to Guam.

Many of us will begin to connect with more customers than we have seen in over a year. This is a good thing. Hopefully, with the vaccination vacations offered to foreign nationals, the island will begin to see tourist arrivals rebound, local workers rehired and more businesses reopening.

When this happens, let’s not let our high immunization rate fall asleep in a false sense of security. At any time, following any peak, our island can be locked again. Quarantine restrictions can be reinstated. Social gatherings and business activities may be limited.

Our island has endured enough economic sacrifices because of this pandemic. We can all see some semblance of a return to normal in just a few short weeks, and it’s as exciting as it is overdue. But this recovery is fragile, and we must remember that our economy is not immune to yet another spike in cases and another shutdown in tourism – even after achieving collective immunity.

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