Letters & Opinion

The 2021 Global Omicron Experience Part 7

How US regulators threw the world into deep year-end COVID Holiday chaos

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Saint Lucians open 2022 having spent another COVID Christmas wishing each other well, caring for the needy, keeping children happy, praying for an end to daily news of deaths and wondering how Omicron will shape life in 2K22.

Indeed, people everywhere end the first year of the third decade of the 21st Century as confused as ever by all Corona has brought and wrought in the last 21 months by way of Variants of Interest and Concern.

Scary

It’s scary — and bewildering

The USA closes 2021 with a $777.7 Billion military budget for 2022, when it will only take only one percent — $7 billion — to vaccinate the entire planet.

The world on the cusp of a global Omicron wave expected to peak by the end of January, people everywhere are either getting vaccinated more quickly, or pounding pavements in protest as governments resort to unpopular measures to keep the latest variant at bay.

Caught in the crossfire between revolts against Lockdown Fatigue and their responsibility to protect national health, governments are no-less confused than citizens as they battle another deadly attack by the invisible enemy on all global fronts.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is predicting the world may be entering the worst phase of the pandemic — and says while it’ll go away someday, that day will depend only on how the world behaves today.

Tailspin

Caribbean people were also thrown into a holiday Omicron tailspin just as they headed into their second COVID Christmas weekend.

Those with virus, variants and vaccinations on their minds were jolted by US regulators’ claims in mid-December that the popular Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine may be less helpful — even harmful – in the fight against COVID.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) said it had “a clinical preference” for Pfizer and Moderna (two competing vaccines) over the one-shot J&J; and “in rare cases” it can also cause “blood clots” or “deep thrombosis”.

Instant Downgrade

The CDC’s effective instant J&J downgrade naturally sewed deep doubts in the minds of millions across the US and Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, who’d taken or were considering choosing it.

J&J remains very popular in African, Caribbean and other tropical regions, partly because of its climate-friendly storage requirements (not needing below-zero refrigeration) and its single-dose advantage.

Rejected

Its Janssen vaccine was earlier recommended by Saint Lucia’s National Immunization Director Tecla Jn Baptiste as a one-shot dose for persons not yet vaccinated and/or as a ‘booster’ for the vaccinated.

The director’s recommendation also came at a time when some local vaccine stocks were about to expire.

Following the CDC statement, Saint Lucians who’ve taken the J&J vaccine have been at pains to understand why the American regulators chose to express a “clinical preference” for any vaccine – and especially at this time.

South Africa’s top scientists totally rejected the CDC’s claims, saying they caused “irreparable harm” to the entire continent’s vaccination efforts.

They also insist their research and experiences showed positive results from J&J, including since Omicron’s arrival.

Mistrust

Adding to the swirling confusion, Nigeria had also been forced to publicly dump over one million vaccines originally sent in October by COVAX, the official distribution mechanism of the World Health Organization (WHO).

But the supply expired within two months after landing in Africa’s most populous nation.

Coming just as continental nations had been counting on J&J to speed-up their vaccinating processes, the unfortunate Nigerian dumping experience further strengthened growing mistrust of European and American vaccines.

Positive Anomaly?

But the world still enters 2022 as highly-confused about why, even with Omicron, COVID-19 hasn’t hit Africa as bad as other regions.

With only 6% of its population vaccinated, Africa is acknowledged by the WHO as one of the least-affected regions of the world, leaving scientists everywhere baffled over this apparently-positive anomaly.

Humanity shines…

The damage is already done – to J&J and all who’ve taken it.

But people everywhere are still simply longing for a return to a long-gone normal, the world today as uncertain as always about tomorrow.

However, Humankind’s humanity continues to shine through the dark holiday clouds — from Santa Clauses insisting on keeping children smiling to the minibus driver from La Clery in Castries who simply insists on giving free rides on Christmas Eve every year, bar none.

Yes, this is who we are!

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