It has been quite a few months since I last wrote in my diary. My life has been quiet and unproductive. I have had illness and stress of my own to deal with while the world around me has been rumbling on and dealing with the pandemic and financial crises. At last I feel as though I am back to health and able to catch up with my household jobs the accumulation of which had been adding to my woes. Now, it seems both myself and the world around me are reaching a more positive conclusion. Whilst both elements still have a way to go it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or so I’m told by the Prime Minister. I find myself looking forward to the Spring and am hopeful that I and my family will be survivors of a year that has left many families grieving.
When the world was celebrating the arrival of the year 2020 we were oblivious to the storm clouds gathering around us bringing death and destruction in the form of a terrible pandemic. We are now very aware of the previously unknown disease that was insidiously and stealthily creeping across the planet.
It was in China, in the province of Wuhan, that a young doctor, Dr Li Wenliang, first realised and reported that a new, previously unknown and very contagious virus existed that posed a serious danger to humanity. Dr Li was an ophthalmologist working in Wuhan Central hospital where the fist batch of sufferers were in quarantine. He paid for his foresight with his life. He was first arrested and silenced and then returned to work only to contract the virus and at the young age of 34, die from the very disease he warned about. The whole of mankind owes him a debt of gratitude for alerting the world to the arrival of a new invisible enemy.
Scientists around the world sprung into action and very soon the genome of the novel Corona Virus was sequenced and made available worldwide. We now know the virus as Covid-19. Corona Virus Disease and 19 because it was thought to have originated in 2019.
Research is still ongoing as to the origin of the disease. It is thought to be a zoonotic virus that jumped from animals to humans with devastating consequences. Hopefully this will lead to better understanding of the relationship between animals and humans and stop the exploitation of living creatures for food and medicine.
All over the world, people of all ages, were becoming sick and dying. Hospitals were admitting patients who presented with fever, cough and breathing difficulties. At that time the disease was thought to be similar to SARs and was treated appropriately with oxygen therapy plus anti biotics for secondary bacterial infection.
We now know that Covid-19 is a multi system infection attacking every organ and even changing the consistency of our blood. Scientists and pharmacologists are working hard to find a cure. Many existing medicines have been tried and failed so a vaccine seemed like the only way we could beat this virus.
The first vaccine to be approved in the UK is a scientifically revolutionary Mrna based vaccine and has been created by Pfizer and BioNTech. Messenger rna vaccines work by introducing into the body a messenger sequence (a strand of rna taken from the genetic code of the antigen) containing the genetic instructions for our own cells to produce the antigen (virus) and so generate an immune response by our own immune system.
It will probably take a few weeks for our bodies to respond and recognise the antigen as an invader that needs to be killed. The vaccine must be given in two doses – three weeks apart – and offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.
This new method of creating vaccine is quite a leap in the fight to beat disease and has further implications for dealing with other existing pathogens. Science is currently making astonishing advances in the field of medicine and I am very grateful to be alive to see it all happening.
Today, Tuesday 8th of December 2020, about a year since the outbreak was recognised and amazingly, the first doses of the vaccine are being administered to those at the top of the priority list. One of those receiving their first dose today is a 90 year old lady called Maggie Keenan and another is an 81 year old gentleman with the memorable name of William Shakespeare. Good luck to them and praise to the scientists who did in twelve months what used to take twenty years to achieve.