THE bad news: Covid-19 is here to stay. As our cases nationwide continue to increase, it is illogical to even expect that one magical day in the future, the coronavirus will just disappear with the wave of a wand.
This perception may be a downer. However, that is fine. That is so because it does not necessarily mean that Filipinos are sentenced to die in Covid-19-related respiratory events.
The lesson came from a study conducted in the African continent, which Science’s Linda Nordling reported in Aug. 10. An essential takeout from the report pertains to a finding that Africans have high levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies long before Covid-19 hit China, and then spread from there throughout the world.
In Kenya, one in 20 people have antibodies already. As a result, only one confirmed positive case had been found for every 1,000 people when the study ended. It could be just a matter of timing but may be not just so.
The point is the presence of antibodies indicates a past infection with Covid-19 in Africa. This means three things. First, Covid-19 antigens pre-existed in Africa before the global pandemic. Second, the Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 virus might have come from Africa. The “how” is for everyone to speculate. Third, natural immunization with Covid-19 is possible and was validated in the study.
The third point has important implications for us Filipinos. First, we too, can allow ourselves to be naturally immunized with SARS-CoV-2 virus. This means that we do not have to depend on universal immunization to do so. The Africans did not. Second, we do not have to fear being exposed to the coronavirus but with moderation without removing external protections (e.g. masks and social distancing) whenever we are in public spaces.
The “how” in this self-immunization project is complicated because of lack of scientifically acquired data. Nevertheless, we can mix intelligent caution with minimal exposure. With intelligent caution, I mean keeping our external protections while allowing ourselves minimal exposure to Covid-19 from the environment.
The growing cases of local transmissions nationwide indicate that environmental transmission already occurs and is inevitable. However, we cannot expose ourselves frequently because that will be beyond minimal exposure. With minimal exposure, I mean allowing ourselves to go out of our homes occasionally but not frequently. This will allow us to be exposed to small titers (estimated measurement volume) found in our environment. The goal is to avoid getting exposed to a large volume of SARS-CoV-2 viruses because these can overwhelm our immune system and cause us to manifest symptoms.
Let me reiterate St. John Paul II’s constant message when he was among us: “Do not be afraid!” However, he also meant do not be foolish and suicidal.