The longer we live with COVID, the more opportunity it will have to hurt us

Sun, 10/10/2021 - 9:15pm

If Darwin's hypothesis about evolution explains the vigor of life, the answer vividly appears to be "Yes!"
Charles Darwin suggested that evolution results from: first, a stressor in the environment;  second, a mutation that overcomes that stressor, and can thus confer selective success in passing on that genetic modification;  and third, the transformation of one life form into another better suited to its environment.
COVID seems likely to repeat this sequence, becoming stronger, and thus more dangerous to us, its host.  And the longer we live with COVID, the more opportunity it will have to hurt us, in the forms we know it, and to develop new forms even more dangerous.  Why?
First, the vaccine promotes resistance to the virus, blunting its ability to harm us.
Second, the natural development of mutations in the virus seems likely to create variants that overcome resistance, and thus enhance its survival.  Some variants may also promote its power to infect, thus enhancing contagion and its effectiveness in replicating itself.
Third, mutation of the virus surviving among the impediments created by the vaccination thus seems likely to enhance its ability to invade and colonize beyond the contagiousness of the original virus.
Accordingly, this chain suggests that stressing the virus with vaccines can promote new, deadlier, and more widely disseminated forms of our epidemic.
Not a scientist, I imagine that what this thinking suggests may well contradict reality.  But...
If applicable to our confusion about how to conquer COVID, vaccination could well prompt new forms of the virus that would not have evolved had we simply lived and died within our pandemic, infected by a virus that was not stimulated into different forms.
And if so, vaccinating some of us while others continue to cultivate the virus in greater number and thus also spawning more variants, seems likely to enhance the ability of the virus to meet the challenge that vaccinating only some among us creates.
The lesson seems clear: Vaccinate everyone, worldwide, as quickly as possible.  Or continue to allow some of us to cultivate more powerful variants.
George B. Terrien lives in Camden