We are in the midst of a global recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and attendant lockdown measures. Both the pandemic and the lockdown have each, on their own, worsened health outcomes. This fact has been relatively well covered by the media. What is missing from this discussion is that the resulting recession, forecast to be the largest in generations, will itself, in all likelihood, worsen health outcomes among the broader population.
We need to be cautious. It is not the virus that leads to interstitial lung disease and death. It is our immunological response, the “cytokine storm”, that causes severe illness.
This is comparable to the devastation of the respiratory syncytial virus, persistently responsible for bronchiolitis in the very young, killing tens of thousands worldwide each year.
If the vaccine is both effective and safe, enough people will be immune, and transmission from them to the rest of us will be much diminished. Indeed, if enough people are immune — generally about 60% (“herd immunity”) — either through exposure or vaccination, transmission ceases.