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Waiting on Vaccines is a Deadly, Incomplete Strategy

Baffled and frustrated scientists say several other vital pandemic solutions are right in front of us

Robert Roy Britt
4 min readJan 13, 2021

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Failure to contain the coronavirus in the United States has some people peddling a false narrative that public health measures don’t work and the only remaining hope is mass vaccinations. Fact is, prevention policies and practices like masking up, social distancing and avoiding indoor crowds never fully hewed to what leading experts advised.

“In most places, public health measures didn’t fail, they weren’t applied,” says Tom Frieden, MD, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Most places didn’t stick with the program long enough to get cases to a manageable level, and now masking and distancing aren’t being done reliably.”

Now as the pandemic surges out of control again and an emerging strain called B.1.1.17 — some 50% more contagious — threatens to increase the pace of new infections, these same experts say we can’t afford to wait exclusively for the slow and confusing vaccine rollout to turn the corner months from now. Yes, vaccines are a vital piece of the prevention puzzle, but it will be months before enough people are protected to turn the tide.

“If you are thinking that vaccination (any regimen) will solve this problem, I have bad news for you,” says Angela Rasmussen, PhD, a virologist at Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security. “Even if we could magically produce enough doses, we can’t get anywhere near enough people vaccinated with even one shot.”

What’s needed asap

The costs of continuing with the status quo will be horrendous in coming weeks, as rising case counts and hospitalizations portend higher death tolls after a lag in the progression of the disease.

“If you thought yesterday’s more than 4,400 deaths will be the worst of the American pandemic… you’re not paying…

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Robert Roy Britt

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB