When lightning struck the tree Homer Simpson sheltered under, hefting a sheet of corrugated steel for extra protection, he was inspired. The glowing bough crashing down struck him as a very magical piece of wood, and he should make a bat out of it. Bristling with bent nails after hours of hammering, Homer’s bat testifies to our human gift of improvisation using whatever tools we have like a trusty hammer. Surely, repeatedly whacking a problem with a familiar tool will solve it even if slightly dented and bent in the end.
Our Covid-19 toolbox has grown since March 2020 when the first extraordinary of a Level 4 lockdown blanketed New Zealand. Knowledge of the virus and its hazards for the vulnerable expanded considerably in tandem with a rise of vaccines and . Yet, after some 18 months with scientists and clinicians furiously testing and trying other tools, New Zealand to the same hammer swung in those first dim days.
There are dents to be sure. Lockdowns exact a price ranging from collateral health issues be they or physical due to isolation and , to , with bank accounts and retail spaces. Working together we can beat the virus, but are we merely beating ourselves into an unsustainable cycle of viral mutations and sequestering? No nation is an island in this globally networked community no matter how heavily permeable borders may be.
Humanity has a new disease caused by a virus that regularly mutates not unlike influenza — whose ‘ ’ variant (originally from ) bludgeoned the 20th century human civilisation out of the grip of World War I. under lockdowns hammering cities reeling from the plague of the day. Nevertheless, civilisation moved on and adapted to a familiar and never-ending annual dance with novel influenza strains.
Now, it seems silly to suggest that we lockdown society for…the flu. And yet, in our 21st century civilisation glittering with advanced technology, science and medicine, that is essentially what we are doing. The vaccines at our disposal, however, are certainly no or the and apparently effective , those that are can recover quickly. This is most encouraging.. Consider Israel and their highly vaccinated population with waning — starkly with as seen in . But for the vulnerable, vaccination indeed not unlike annual shots for the flu. Combined with for Covid-19 and ‘off-label’ treatments such as
Eventually, we must emerge from our silent retreat and learn the steps of another evolutionary with another virus that is never going away. Homer improvised a bat with a blunt instrument — but we don’t have to follow his example. Our toolbox is arrayed with instruments far more delicate and precise. We have no need for over reliance on any one of them — particularly not just the hammer. Our civilisation has enough dents in it already.
Speaking of dents in our society, this article itself appears at after a brief flirtation with a here-unnamed New Zealand media publishing house (MPH). Intriguingly, this MPH expressed interest in publishing my article without ever actually seeing the content. Of course, such faith in my abilities as a writer was flattering indeed, but evidently this MPH appreciated not my presumed Nabokovian mastery of the English language, but rather the letters after my name: ‘PhD.’ My research publications that include mathematical epidemiology apparently propelled the procedure along to the editing phase. No mention of treatments or natural immunity as noted above survived the editor’s knife. Instead, the version this MPH proposed to publish — with my credentials under it — presented a false alternative: get vaccinated or be bludgeoned with never ending lockdowns.
Reinforcing a preferred narrative by exploiting a researcher’s credentials is a striking tool in a very different sort of toolbox emblazoned on the lid with the letter ‘P’. History is replete with the wreckage of societies bent, dented and beaten into oblivion by states and their complicit engines of propaganda determined to ignore the consequences of opening that toolbox — originally gifted to Man through the mythological Pandora.
Dr. Shawn A Means originates from the desert mountains of New Mexico and moved to New Zealand in pursuit of his career as a mathematical and computational biologist studying a wide range of systems from intracellular signaling to neuronal networks and infectious diseases.