The Pandemic Picture Is Becoming Clearer

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The last time Pranay Laharia and Amadi Nze chatted about the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer, it wasn’t clear how much longer the public health crisis would continue.

While we’re still not sure the exact date we’ll be able to stop utilizing masks and file back into places like full stadiums for a basketball game, a packed movie theater for a midnight showing or a cramped dive bar for a beer, Laharia said the picture is clearing up.

“There’s been some good news and some not so good news over the last five months. The good news is we have some phenomenal success on the vaccine front,” said Laharia, Director and Equity Health Care Analyst at Barrow Hanley.

The bad news, of course, is the number of cases, which experts expect only to rise as people gather to celebrate the holidays and spend more time inside, where the coronavirus is more likely to spread.

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel, with Laharia expecting vaccines from companies like Pfizer and Moderna to turn the tide and possibly even lead to an eradication of the virus, though how long-lasting the protection provided by those vaccines will be is yet to be determined.

Those vaccines utilize messenger RNA to create a spike protein that teaches the body how to attack the virus. Even if it mutates, it won’t take long to tamp down potential flair-ups.

“It’s a real blessing we have the messenger RNA technology ready in time for this pandemic. This pandemic is very, very quick to respond to any changes and mutations,” Lahria said. “Once you have a mutation genetically sequenced, you can take that sequence and tweak your messenger RNA, which is really a synthetic molecule, to produce a different confirmation of the spike protein which would be associated with the mutated virus. You can do that within two to seven days.”

While distribution will pose a challenge, Lahria expects the cold shipment required for the Pfizer vaccine to be easier to handle than some media outlets have made it out to be, with the demand for the vaccine likely to make sure that few retail pharmacies need to store the vaccine for more than the five days it can last in most pharmacy refrigerators.

All that means while the pandemic is at its worst stage at time of writing, we can reasonably hope to be back to something resembling normal life at some point in 2021.

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