Ever since the first few cases of the coronavirus were detected in Wuhan, the world has plunged into an era of confusion and disarray. And while the curve has only just begun to flatten, there is still a long way to complete recovery.
Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped our lives. From social distancing and travel restrictions to failing businesses and crippling industries, the effects of this pandemic are disruptive. Unemployment is at an all-time high. Healthcare systems are operating beyond their capacities. And as people isolate themselves, mental health problems continue to rise.
The coronavirus death toll is a testament to how grim a pandemic can be.
It is abundantly clear that our efforts to address this pandemic were too little, too late. And so, we cannot afford another pandemic. Below are three strategies to minimize the effects of a pandemic in the future.
Invest in research
It can be exceptionally challenging to contain an outbreak if there is little information about the pathogen. The emergence of a pandemic is often due to a virus or a new strain that has not existed previously. And humans usually have little to no immunity against such novel viruses. That is what causes the virus to spread quickly from person to person throughout the world.
New viruses may often share several characteristics with existing viruses, and research can allow us to prepare ourselves adequately. The development of government-funded research institutes and think tanks that specialize in epidemics and their control is essential. These facilities should house healthcare professionals who have vast knowledge in the field of epidemiology. They must onboard public health officials having online masters in epidemiology no GRE credentials because of their immense knowledge. These individuals combine their online learning with research to study the pandemic’s dynamics and devise plausible solutions.
Being alert to potential outbreaks also requires developing surveillance systems to collect health data, which helps forecast future epidemics. The World Health Organization already surveilled health data, but this is arguably inadequate. We need to invest in global surveillance systems since a potential outbreak can occur anywhere.
Continue to improve and implement vaccination programs
Perhaps the greatest hindrance in our ability to mitigate coronavirus disease is the difficulty of carrying out a large-scale vaccination program. Vaccination has fortunately proven to be one of the most promising and effective ways to prevent the spread of this virus. Unquestionably, one of the biggest successes during this pandemic has been the rapid speed at which vaccines were developed and approved. However, our vaccination program still faces two challenges that we must overcome.
The first challenge is the distribution of vaccines. Coronavirus vaccines are inherently challenging to transport and store since most require refrigeration. The maximum shelf life is not impressive either. Vaccination centers in underdeveloped areas have often struggled to cater to the region’s vast population. And mismanagement and miscommunication have made things worse. Developing regions are at higher risks of outbreaks because of high population density, so developed countries must extend a helping hand.
The second challenge is to shape public opinion towards vaccines in general. Coronavirus vaccines have largely been met with concern and distrust. A significant proportion of the global population was hesitant to get vaccinated. Several rumors came to the surface. Some even claimed that these vaccines were “embedded with microchips,” which would breach human privacy. Although experts eventually put these claims to rest, the health community needs to deal with the ‘anti-vax’ movement.
Influenza has primarily been the main focus of our vaccination programs, given that we have had four flu pandemics over the past century. Developed countries have implemented seasonal influenza vaccination programs for several years now.
Strengthen healthcare systems
This pandemic has pushed our healthcare facilities into overdrive. Most of them have to operate beyond their rated capacities. Shortages of beds, ventilators, and oxygen tanks have made it challenging to cater to the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Amidst this chaos, patients undergoing critical procedures or requiring routine treatments are not receiving proper care and attention. It is easy to overlook the thousands of patients who need dialysis machines or chemotherapy sessions regularly. With long waiting lists and appointments delaying continuously, these patients continue to suffer.
We must strengthen our healthcare system. We must increase maximum operating capacities so that healthcare facilities can address increased patient influx during a pandemic and work effectively. These facilities should be able to carry out routine treatments and procedures simultaneously, and a well-rounded plan is the need of the hour. In addition to infrastructure development, hospitals must increase their uptake of nurses to minimize the mental and physical toll on these frontline workers.
The bottom line
As we head into 2022, the graph has only started to flatten. There is hope, however. As schools reopen and travel restrictions ease, we realize how resilient the human race truly is. We need to celebrate our successes and appreciate the frontline workers who have tirelessly worked day and night. However, we need to realize that we cannot repeat the mistakes we have made during the coronavirus pandemic. The strategies we have discussed above are the first step.
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