Adapting to a ‘pandemic enlightenment phase’

Burnet Institute

10 February, 2022

Professor Brendan Crabb joined Alan Kohler’s Eureka Report podcast, informing listeners that we’ve moved away from the pandemic dark ages, and are now living in what he terms the ‘pandemic enlightenment phase.’

However, Professor Crabb warned it’s unwise to become overly optimistic.

Mr Kohler asked for Professor Crabb’s views on JP Morgan economist, David Mackie, who has been conducting statistical analysis, and decided that the major threat of COVID-19 is going to end with Omicron - that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 is going below that of influenza.

However, Professor Crabb said that case fatality rate is only one side of a two-sided coin.

“The other side is transmissibility and so what he doesn’t say is that Omicron is of course vastly, vastly more transmissible than flu and that’s why it’s causing almost record levels of death rates around the world, definitely record levels of death rates here and brought this country and many countries to its knees, certainly its health systems and stopped the place in a way seasonal flu doesn’t do. There’s just a huge difference in how many people the virus reaches,” Professor Crabb told Mr Kohler.

“It’s a way worse virus than seasonal flu. Vaccines are the things that are keeping it from causing even more problems, but really it’s an erroneous comparison.

“Clearly this is vastly more devastating than the flu, 2,500 deaths a day in the US, nearly their record levels, 10,000 deaths a day in the world.” - Professor Brendan Crabb

“No consideration, of course, in JP Morgan analysis of non-deaths, of course, long COVID in a million people in the UK for example at the moment. I think it’s an exercise in hope, not sort of practical likelihood."

The current state of play

Mr Kohler asked Professor Crabb for the current prognosis going forward with COVID-19.

Professor Crabb said while we were entering a different phase, we are clearly still in a pandemic.

“As I say infections are at a record level, deaths are nearly at a record level, new variants are coming as a result so we’re in a pandemic, but we’re in what I call a pandemic enlightenment phase, not a pandemic dark ages,” Professor Crabb said.

“We have tools, we have knowledge and that’s replaced the sort of blunt instruments of border closures and lockdowns, which is great.

“It hasn’t actually meant yet we’ve got much less suffering directly as a result of the disease so we need to apply those tools or knowledge that we have and develop new ones to end this pandemic because what we’re doing now isn’t going to end it, it’s just going to mean we can sort of live with it.”

Vaccines-Plus strategy

Professor Crabb then spoke of the need to adopt a Vaccines-Plus strategy in the ongoing fight against the virus.

He said while vaccines are brilliant, they are not enough, and that as Omicron subsides a COVID normal plan needs to be adopted.

Professor Crabb said this includes testing, improved building ventilation and masks in high risk settings.

Air-raid ready

Professor Crabb said an air-raid ready plan needs to be in place in parallel.

“This is acknowledging that we are going to be hit again like we were hit with Omicron, maybe more significantly, maybe less significantly but we are going to be hit,” Professor Crabb said.

“A plan with sort of strong minimally disruptive measures that can be activated without delay and a community that’s expecting that, free tests, free masks, high quality masks supplied everywhere, support for people who are isolating, support for people to work from home, we’re going to have to activate that.

“Had that happened with Omicron we would have saved probably 1,000 lives, we certainly wouldn’t have had supermarket shelves empty and so on.“ - Professor Brendan Crabb

We may have ended up having the same number of infected, but it would have slowed it down in a way that made it not so catastrophic.”

New more effective vaccines on the horizon

Professor Crabb also told the audience that there is great emphasis on pushing the science to generate vaccines of the future.

“This is happening now, vaccines that not only protect against all variants, ones that effectively block transmission but that are easy to administer,“ Professor Crabb said.

“There might be a patch you put on your arm or a nasal spray.“ - Professor Brendan Crabb

“This is happening and it’d be a good discussion to have with the public and make sure that we are ready here in Australia to push the button on those as soon as they arise and that we’re working hard to have our region vaccinated as well because the only way to end it of course is ending it for everybody.”

Listen to the full podcast at the Eureka Report.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Brendan Crabb AC

Director and CEO; Co-Head Malaria Research Laboratory; Chair, Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI)




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