BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

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The major question on everyone’s lips remains “Can COVID-19 be treated?” 

Well, governments, scientists and drug companies have been working very hard to find a cure. So far, Remdesivir, an antiviral agent, was the first drug to gain full FDA approval for the treatment of COVID-19 in October 2020. While many investigational treatments exist, only  Remdesivir and Dexamethasone (a steroid medication) have been approved to lower death rate in hospitalized covid 19 patients. 

Research has established that hospitals, although vital to health systems, have never been the solution to public health problems. Consequently, vaccination is regarded as the means to the end of COVID 19, through achieving herd immunity. This is why vaccination and the hope to attain herd immunity remains the cul de grace- a final trump card to bring an end to COVID-19. The vaccine rollout started as early as late December 2020 in countries like Israel but became very popular in other countries by April 2021, especially in countries that took big hits in terms of death rates like France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. 

Different types of COVID vaccine include:

  • Protein Subunit: Novavax is working on a protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine
  • Viral Vector: The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a vector vaccine. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford also have a vector COVID-19 vaccine
  • Nucleic Acid (RNA AND DNA): ThePfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA.

Despite success with vaccine availability, reaching herd-immunity thresholds has been impossible because of factors such as vaccine hesitancy, emergence of new variants and the delayed arrival of vaccinations for children. In most countries, vaccine distribution is stratified by age, with priority given to older people, who are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19. Therefore, some vulnerable groups  are left out; for example, children (who have less developed active immunity) or adults that have medical conditions or are undergoing specific cancer treatment that cause them to produce few or no antibodies in response to a vaccine. With herd immunity, the spread of the virus in communities are reduced and most people are protected by default.

Currently, Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna have now enrolled teens in clinical trials of their vaccines, and the Oxford–AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech vaccines are being tested in children as young as three. Vaccination rates have also been highly variable across regions in countries. In Canada for example, Yukon, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have total fully vaccinated above 70% while Nunavut has only 52%. The situation in the United States is even more variable with Vermont at 68% and Alabama at 39%.

 As of October 2021, 62.2% of the U.S. population have had at least one vaccine dose and 52.8% are fully vaccinated. Worldwide, only about 36.5% are fully vaccinated. These percentages are constantly changing.

Estimates from the United Kingdom show that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are between 85% and 95% effective against symptomatic disease with the Alpha variant, while two doses of AstraZeneca are 70% to 85% effective. Overall, vaccine effectiveness appears to drop about 10% with the Delta variant. With the increase in variants, which may be more infectious and could potentially impact the effectiveness of vaccines, that percentage is now estimated to be higher—some say up to 85%.

Thankfully,, there has been massive support from international organizations like the WHO, UN and Gavi COVAX initiatives and even from non-profit organizations. In Canada, some bodies like the Canadian Red Cross society have increased funding to nonprofit organizations involved in COVID 19 relief in any way. A couple of Canadian nonprofit and charity organizations have been pooling resources together to help different communities manage the crisis. Bless world foundation international has also been engaging communities during this pandemic; specifically, the cradle2fame program aims to support and help with talent development.

Finally, there has been a truly gruesome journey but the world is adapting to this whole change.With up and downs to things returning back to status quo, the post covid era is taking longer than we thought

It takes time to heal and time will heal.

Stay safe.

Covid 19 has firmly persisted in the spotlight and also remained in the  news headlines all over the world. From the constant increase in the number of  lives lost, to the broad range of  economic and political issues it influences, there is no slowing down for this deadly virus. Even worse, just when the world is about to figure it out, it mutates and changes its characteristics producing novel strains. One would begin to wonder, for  how much longer would this ingenious and very elusive virus continue to surprise our world…

Since the lockdown in 2020, the social aspects of human life including business, education,  travel and entertainment have not been the same. 

In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to work with provincial and territorial partners and the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) to sequence a percentage of all positive COVID-19 test result. So far, four variants of concern (VOC) have been detected in most provinces and territories:

  • B.1.1.7 (Alpha)
  • B.1.351 (Beta)
  • P.1 (Gamma)
  • B.1.617.2 (Delta)

The Alpha and Delta variants are the commonest variants of concern in Canada, especially Ontario, which has the highest rate of infection in the country. Infection leads to flu-like symptoms.  Five most common symptoms according to recent research include fatigue (58%), headache (44%), attention disorder (27%), hair loss (25%), and dyspnea (24%). In addition, a very common and specific symptom is the loss of taste or smell. This symptom is reported in up to 80% of patients that test positive for COVID-19.

 As proposed by World Health Organization experts; wearing masks, frequent  hand washing, social distancing, avoiding crowds and contact with sick people,  cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and social distancing can help prevent coronavirus infections. These recommendations have been tested and trusted for months and even though they have proven to cut down infection rates, people have become numb to them and would not wait to get back to their normal lives. According to newer research, septic shock, cardio respiratory complications and multi organ failure were the most common immediate cause of death, often due to suppurative pulmonary infection.

It is also important to note that older patients and those with preexisting chronic health conditions are at an increased risk of fatal disease outcome.

Death is not the only  result of COVID-19 infection, in-fact, quality of  of life can be severely affected following infection. Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after being infected. Some people who fall severely ill with COVID-19 experience multi-organ effects or autoimmune conditions over a longer time with symptoms lasting weeks or months even after the COVID-19 illness ends. Post-intensive care syndrome (PICS), which refers to health effects that begin when a person is in an intensive care unit (ICU), can remain after a person returns home. These effects can include severe weakness, problems with thinking and judgment, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Concurrently,  as more waves of COVID-19 hit an area consistently, with no sign of slowing down, hospitals become overcrowded and ICU beds are filled to maximum capacity causing more deaths.

Does COVID-19have any  treatment options? Remdesivir, an antiviral agent, was the first drug to gain full FDA approval for treatment of COVID-19 in October 2020. While many investigational treatments exist, remdesivir and dexamethasone(a steroid medication) have been approved to lower death rate in hospitalized covid 19 patients. 

Hospitals, although vital to health systems, have never been the solution to public health problems. Hence, the vaccine rollout started as early as late December 2020 in countries like Israel, and have become popular in most countries since April 2021 especially countries with high cases and deaths rates including France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

To continue prioritizing global health research and monitoring of COVID-19, specific variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs) are frequently identified and characterized. This characterization- with reference to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19- ultimately informs the ongoing response to  the pandemic. Most viruses mutate and change with time- sometimes, the new variants have changes that make little or no difference in the  properties of the virus. However, some changes are capable of altering the properties of the virus such as ease of  spread, severity of symptoms,  performance of vaccines, therapeutic drugs, diagnostic devices, or other social and public health markers.

A newly identified Delta variant of  SARS-CoV-2, has gained popularity  in recent times. The variant, which originated from India  and was identified as a variant of concern in May 2021, is linked to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and has now spread to over 100 countries. The Delta variant h as become the dominant strain globally as it continues to spread in  various countries irrespective of vaccination coverage. In a matter of months after its identification, the  virus was isolated in more than  98 countries, making it the most dominant variant globally particularly in India, Scotland, the U.K., Israel and the United States. Over 83% of COVID-19 cases being reported in the U.S. can now be attributed to the Delta variant. As a VOC, the Delta variant has significant changes that may influence it’s properties.

Fundamentally, three questions drive research around newly identified variants: 

  1. How contagious is the Delta variant? 
  2. Is the Delta variant more dangerous than other variants of concern? 
  3. Will vaccines remain protective against the Delta variant?

To answer the above questions, much research is underway while some facts have already been established through  scientific observations including:

Transmission: The Delta variant has proven to be more contagious than other variants. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the Delta variant accounted for more than 80% of new cases in the United States in July 2021.

Symptoms: Good news here as the symptoms associated with the Delta variant are not more severe than the previously identified variants. In fact, the symptoms of the Delta variant appear to be the same as the first variant of COVID-19, even though the virus grows more rapidly and  people get sick faster, especially younger people. According to surveys in the U.K., where the Delta variant accounts for most current COVID-19 cases, symptoms caused by the Delta variant appear a little different than other strains, but not necessarily more severe. Fever, headache, sore throat and runny nose are common, while cough and loss of smell are rare. Other surveys report more serious symptoms, including hearing impairment, severe gastrointestinal issues and blood clots leading to tissue death and gangrene. Research is ongoing to determine if infection with the Delta variant is associated with increased hospitalization and death.

Vaccination: Most vaccinated people  are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic if infected with the Delta variant. Their symptoms are limited to  those of a common cold, such as cough, fever or headache and loss of smell. On the other hand, unvaccinated people may suffer symptoms that lead to hospitalization if infected. By inference, vaccines  are considered highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection and disease, including that of the Delta variant. A research from the U.K. suggests that full vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine confers about 90% protection and prevents symptomatic infection and severe disease by the delta variant. Additionally, a Canadian research showed that one dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine  results in about 85% prevention against symptomatic COVID-19 virus infection and severe disease caused by the delta variant. Finally, data released by Johnson & Johnson,  showed that the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe disease with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant. 

Although the  Delta variant is currently the most prominent strain of COVID-19, the Lambda variant isolated in South America is also emerging. Health experts maintain that a significant portion of the population must be vaccinated to confer herd immunity and for things to completely go back to normal. As long as most people across the world are unvaccinated, new strains of the virus will continue to emerge and potentially  create new problems.

Current strategies and measures recommended by WHO continue to protect against virus variants identified since the start of the pandemic. Evidence from multiple countries indicate that public health and social measures (PHSM), including infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, have remained effective in reducing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. National and local authorities are therefore encouraged to continue strengthening existing PHSM and IPC measures as well as surveillance and sequencing capacities. 

Reducing transmission through effective disease control measures and avoiding infections in animal populations, are crucial aspects of the global strategy to reduce the prevalence of mutations that have negative public health implications. In collaboration with partners, expert networks, national authorities, institutions and researchers, World Health Organization continues to characterize,  monitor and asses the evolution of SARS-CoV-2.

Admitting that COVID-19 positively impacted anything at all seems like a vile and insensitive thing to do. The pandemic, which took the world by surprise, claimed many lives and caused havoc around the world. However, the story is incomplete without highlighting all the effects and consequences of the pandemic- both negative and not so negative. On that note,  following months of its onset in December 2019, COVID-19 crisis brought about several years of change in ways companies conduct businesses. According to a new study survey of some top executives in different companies, many companies confirmed they have sped up the digitization of their internal operations as well as customer and supply-chain interactions by three to four years. Additionally, the share of digital products in the portfolios of surveyed companies has also sped up by an unbelievable seven years. Nearly all participants of this survey confirmed that their companies have met new demands much more quickly than they ever thought possible before the onset of COVID-19.

It is important to note that most of these changes in structure, technology and responses in general are here to stay, and will not just end with COVID, given that participants agreed their companies have become more productive and are already investing to ensure permanence. In fact, when these participants were asked about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on different measures, they agreed that funding for digital initiatives specifically has increased tremendously.

During the pandemic, consumers migrated drastically towards online platforms and companies responded accordingly. The survey results further confirm the rapid shift toward interacting with customers through digital channels due to COVID. They also show that rates of adoption are much more advanced compared to the rates when previous surveys were conducted. Participants were three times more likely to agree that most of their customer interactions are digital in nature, compared to before COVID-19.The impacts of COVID-19 have been very significant on the digital and technology sector. These impacts have resulted in various consequences, some of which  include: affecting supply of raw materials, disrupting electronics value chain and increasing inflationary risk on products for many companies. More so, COVID-19 has enabled the acceptance and acceleration of remote working, and shifted focus towards evaluating and de-risking the procurement of materials from suppliers to customers in technical businesses related to Hardware/software, IT services and Semiconductors.

Technological advancements and digitizations are established markers of development due to the progress and economic growth they facilitate. Covid-19, though a difficult challenge, sped up these markers especially because they were essential in fighting the pandemic. In May 2020, WHO and partners launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) which  aimed to facilitate timely, equitable and affordable access to health products by encouraging and promoting supply. C-TAP provides a global one-stop shop for developers of COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics, vaccines and other health products. The platform enables sharing of intellectual property, knowledge, and data, with quality-assured manufacturers through public health-driven and transparent licenses. By sharing intellectual property and know-how through the pooling and these voluntary agreements, these developers can facilitate scale up production through multiple manufacturers.

The role and impact of technology in today’s world cannot be ignored or overstated. As a result, COVID-19 pandemic was significantly influenced by technology and in turn, the pandemic inspired some new technologies that helped control it. According to World Health Organization(WHO), COVID-19 pandemic undeniably spurred the development of over one hundred (100) health innovations and some of these innovations have been subsequently endorsed and adopted in Africa.

The aim of these innovations developed around the world was to target different areas of the COVID-19 response as well as use the insight and application of technology in the combat of the pandemic. The geographical distribution of the  technologies may be worthy to evaluate. A detailed study of these innovative technologies shows that about 12.8% were developed in Africa. Of these, 57.8% were related to Information and Communications Technology, 25% were based on 3D printing and 10.9% were robotics. ICT innovations were majorly WhatsApp, Chatbots, self-diagnostic tools, contact tracing apps and mobile health information tools. Associated African countries with their respective contributions include South Africa (13%), Kenya (10%), Nigeria (8%), Rwanda (6%) and Ghana (2%)

Needless to say, technology was, and remains very essential in various areas of COVID-19. Response areas and other areas where technology is constantly applied include, but not limited to:

  • Control and Prevention
  • Epidemiological Surveillance
  • Contact Tracing 
  • Community Engagement
  • Treatment and Vaccine 
  • Laboratory Systems
  • Information Dissemination

In a speech by Dr Matshidiso Moeti- WHO Regional Director for Africa, he acknowledged that despite being one of the worst challenges of the 21st century, COVID-19 revealed the need to invest in innovation and an opportunity to foster innovation in health technologies. He also commended the zeal and commitment of the African continent regarding the fight to end COVID-19. Notable technological inventions include hand-washing equipment powered by solar energy and mobile applications that build on Africa’s rapidly growing connectivity. 

WHO recommends increased investment in ICT infrastructure, robotics, artificial intelligence, drones and mechatronics because investing in innovation yields huge dividends. Additionally, implementing the right policies is important to boost creativity, entrepreneurship and university-led research.

A conspiracy theory is a term used to describe a logic that attempts to explain events or situations especially when people doubt the randomness of the event or suspect deception by influential and powerful groups. These groups often consist of wealthy and popular individuals such as politicians since the theories are usually politically motivated. The term has a negative connotation, since conspiracy itself is a negative word, and implies that the theory is based on misinformation, prejudice or insufficient evidence. Conspiracy theories are nothing new, ranging from disease outbreaks to election fraud, theories that claim to proffer explanations and solutions to societal issues abound. They exist almost everywhere- social media, television, and even conversations with friends and loved ones. Conspiracy theories may stem from the fact that when people feel threatened and out of control, they naturally want to feel more in control and bring order to the randomness by resorting to questionable explanations.

As expected, COVID-19 is  surrounded by several theories attempting to explain both the source and agenda of the virus. Although some theories are harmless or even funny, those related to medical health interventions, can be potentially dangerous and life-threatening. Below are  some popular conspiracies that may have shaped the public’s understanding and response to COVID-19:

  • COVID-19 was engineered in the laboratory:

 After World Health Organization confirmed that the outbreak had become a pandemic, conservative publications started linking the virus to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology which studies coronaviruses. However, scientists agree that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most likely occurred in nature and was not engineered. There is also no evidence that the virus accidentally escaped or evolved from other viruses found in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This theory is malicious because it encouraged racist distrust of China and distracted Americans from actually addressing the pandemic.

  • COVID-19 is a side effect of 5G technology: 

In the early stages of the pandemic, the theory claiming an association between 5G high speed wireless technology and COVID-19 symptoms spread like wildfire across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Currently, there is no evidence that 5G radiation is dangerous to human health because the technology works on higher frequency wave lengths that don’t appear to penetrate human skin. Additionally, the outbreak has also occurred in locations where there is no 5G technology. This theory  seems to have been politically motivated and was dangerous because in early April 2020, protesters in the  United Kingdom set fire to 5G towers causing economic waste. 

  • COVID-19 is the same as the Flu

In the first few months of the pandemic when research was lacking and much was unknown about the virus, both public officials and media outlets compared symptoms of COVID-19 to seasonal influenza. The intentions of these comparisons may have been good- to calm the  public and  increase understanding of the rapidly spreading illness, however; it created the basis for conspiracy theorists to perpetuate the idea that COVID-19 was a hoax and just the same as flu. Well, now we know better- COVID-19 is much more deadly than the flu and must be given all the seriousness it deserves.

  • Masks are uncomfortable and do not  work:

The theory  that masks neither protect people from COVID-19 nor prevent its spread was borne out of public health miscommunication. To date, scientists and public health officials continue to educate the general public that masks- including cloth masks, are quite effective at preventing the transmission of COVID-19. This is because masks are made to filter the wearer’s potentially contagious respiratory droplets from entering  the air, and if there are droplets already in the air, it prevents the wearers  from inhaling  these droplets. Consequently, when two people who are interacting wear masks, they are potentially protecting one another effectively. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has since updated its guidance and guidelines on wearing masks.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are harmful and alters ones genetic code 

There have been several theories about COVID-19 vaccines; some were heard even before pharmaceutical companies began working on any vaccine. Most of the antagonism against COVID-19 vaccine is based on existing anti-vaccine sentiments, which view vaccines as unnatural or potentially harmful. Other attacks on the vaccines originate from religious groups and figures. Currently, the FDA has approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer under emergency use authorization. These vaccines use messenger RNA, which tells the body how to develop antibodies to fight COVID-19. It is important to note that this does not fundamentally change a person’s DNA. Moreover, these vaccines have been very effective in relieving the symptoms of COVID-19.

Conspiracy theories affect us all and exist in both traditional and modern societies, irrespective of demographics, political differences and social class. They may result  in significant limitations in public and global  health, usually encouraging resistance to vaccination  as in the case of COVID-19. More so, some theories have led to negative behaviours that led to outbreaks of preventable diseases and problems. Other effects of conspiracy theories include lack of confidence in scientific evidence,  promotion of extremist group and poor economic growth.

 It is impossible to  ban conspiracy theories and theorists, however, we can take practical steps to sift, investigate and verify information before we accept or share them. Additionally, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have stepped up with more efforts to identify, label, and take down COVID-19 misinformation.

As a life threatening pandemic, Covid-19 remains one of the most talked about news in the world today with updates reported on a daily basis. In addition to all the noise about the vaccine, there’s more recently, a buzz about the newest strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. This strain is said to have  originated in the UK sometime in September, 2020, and has since spread to the U.S., Canada and some other countries. Researchers  are still gathering facts and insight on this new variant, in attempt to answer the following questions:

  • How different is it from the other strain
  • Is it more dangerous
  • Does it need further precautions
  • Does it infect children more easily than previous strain
  • Will the current vaccine be effective against it

The questions go on and on, however, emergence of  new strains of the Covid-19 virus was not at all a surprise to scientists. In fact, it is expected given the nature and biology of viruses; In the human body, viruses attach to cells, penetrate them, and make copies of their RNA, which helps them spread. In this process, errors randomly occur, causing changes in the viral RNA. These changes are called mutations, and will result in a new strain of virus. Currently, the seven types of corona viruses that infect humans are divided into four sub-groupings, called alpha, beta, gamma, and delta:

  • 229E (alpha)
  • NL63 (alpha)
  • OC43 (beta)
  • HKU1 (beta
  • MERS-CoV, a beta virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)
  • SARS-CoV, a beta virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  • SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19

Since the inception of the pandemic, there have been multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These variants or strains are different from the strain first seen in China. New strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are detected on a weekly basis, however, there isn’t enough research to confirm that these new strains are more virulent or contagious. The newest strain (B117) was detected in southeastern England in September 2020 and by December, it became the most common cause of infection, accounting for about 60% of new  cases. New strains were also seen in Denmark, The Netherlands, and other European countries. Additionally,  another variant was detected in Africa, specifically Nigeria and South Africa (1.351). In Brazil, a variant called P.1 which contains a set of mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies, was identified. It is  worthy of note that most of the genetic changes in these viruses have no significance or functionality. However, the newest strain-, B117, appears to spread up to 70%  more easily than previous strains of COVID-19.

According to current research, there is no evidence that the newer strains infect children more easily neither is there reason to suggest that vaccines would not work against new strains. However, scientists and public health experts are intensifying research and studying these variants  to ensure that laboratory tests and vaccines remain effective. More so, CDC, in collaboration with other public health agencies, is closely monitoring the situation and working to detect emerging variants.