Posted: Sun 28th Jun 2020

Health Minister sets out long term goal to either eradicate coronavirus or find effective treatment

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

The Health Minister has said the long term aim for Wales is to eradicate coronavirus.

However he admits that if it is not possible, then vaccines and antiviral drugs could be the route to make it something we can ‘live effectively’ with.

A global health expert, Professor Devi Sridhar, who advises the Scottish Government on Covid-19 recently tweeted to say: “Only three endings to this story: immunity with vaccine, build-up of natural immunity or elimination with border control.

“If a vaccine isn’t available soon and immunity doesn’t last, then elimination is only path. Might take months for countries to realise this & after many deaths & cases.”

On Wednesday First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said: “We must get as close as possible to elimination of the virus”, later adding “suppressing the virus, trying to get as far as we can towards total elimination has to be our overriding priority”.

In a question to the Health Minister Vaughan Gething we noted that the initial pandemic response to was to flatten the curve and asked how he would characterise the long term aim for Wales.

Mr Gething told us: “The long-term aim is to eradicate coronavirus, or, to make sure that if it’s a condition that we can’t eradicate, that we are able to live effectively with it.

“That would be in the terms of vaccine or antiviral treatments.

“If we think about two obvious examples that we’re used to. We talk about the flu season every year and there are people that have flu and recover.

“There are others at much greater risk of real harm who don’t just had an unpleasant couple of days, but are bed bound for much longer or maybe need hospital treatment.

“Unfortunately, there are people who die every year from the flu. But there is a flu vaccine that’s available, that is updated each year.

“I think in many ways, we’re a bit lax about that, because flu itself does cause a significant amount of mortality in Wales every single year, but we have a vaccine to help address it.

“Now, that’s an option, when we get to a vaccine, and it’s then about people actually taking that vaccine to make sure there’s more protection.

“The other is to think about HIV. We have really effective antiviral treatment. We haven’t been able to eradicate it. We don’t have a vaccine for it. We do have really effective treatment. That means that people can live a good life whilst they have that condition.

“Now, those are both possibilities. I would much prefer to see coronavirus eradicated.

“But, we know other conditions that have been eradicated, things like polio and other things that we see as being eradicated and the ongoing challenge about how we behave.

“The UK as a whole lost its measles free designation from the World Health Organization because of a drop off in vaccination rates and it’s meant that the a very small number of people that had it had actually expanded in England in particular. In Wales we’ve maintained a very high level on vaccination.

“So even with eradication that shouldn’t mean that in the future people that lax about this because of the harm we’ve seen caused already should make us all reflect on what we’re prepared to do in the future to keep all of us, and our families safe.”

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