Doctor, qualified in emergency medicine, surgery, and tropical medicine, with a Master's degree in the Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development (SOAS University of London) and a Master's degree in the History and Philosophy of Science (University of Cambridge), Natalie Roberts joined MSF in 2012. She completed field missions in Syria, Yemen, CAR, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ukraine, and the Philippines before joining the Paris headquarters in 2016 as Emergency Programs Manager. Since joining Crash in late 2019, she has focused particularly on issues around epidemics, including Ebola, and access to medicines.
We can all agree that the emergence of Covid-19 vaccine is “an absolutely astonishing development”, but vaccines are unlikely to completely halt the spread of the virus, let alone eradicate it. Yet even without achieving herd immunity, the ability to vaccinate vulnerable people seems to be reducing hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19.
Within four months of the first notification of Ebola cases in August 2018, the Nord Kivu (and Ituri) Ebola epidemic had become the second-largest on record. Notwithstanding a rapid and massive mobilisation of resources, the outbreak continued beyond the most pessimistic predictions and the case fatality rate (the proportion of people with the infection who die from it) remained static at 66%. Despite numerous lesson-learning exercises following the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014–2016, and despite the development of new vaccines and treatments, after 3,444 cases and 2,264 deaths it is difficult to claim that outcomes are better this time around.
After a few months of respite the coronavirus epidemic has resumed its spread. With the second wave becoming a reality in many European countries, the Crash team decided to share some recent reading on the biomedical, political and social aspects of the pandemic in an attempt to shed some light on this tragic Season 2. As in previous editions, some articles are in English and some in French, and they are taken from both mainstream and specialist sources.
The benefit of the vaccine is only real in the context of a rational and comprehensive biomedical, social, political and economic response, adapted to the local assessment of the health crisis and its impacts.