Published in El Pais, 21 August 2021.
According to Our World in Data, Bolivia has only 19 percent vaccinated with two injections and 7 percent with one injection. Bolivia remains in serious danger of becoming infected with COVID-19 and opens the possibility of further mutations. I’m sorry to say that I think a fourth wave of COVID-19 is going to be inevitable. In the case that Bolivia has vaccinated the population at risk first, the number of patients in the hospital and deaths may be lower, but we are probably still far from zero.
First, the COVID-19 Delta strain. It is estimated to be more infectious and lethal than the previous ones. Rather, most vaccines protect you, but only 70 to 90 percent, or perhaps less. The problem is that it is more infectious, which means that an infected person will infect more people than is the case of other strains. In the Netherlands at this time they have seen that more than 90 percent of the cases are Delta, and with 60 percent fully vaccinated and 10 percent partial, we have almost defeated the pandemic. However, there are still a large number of cases, hospital patients and 40 deaths per week. In addition, there are still some restrictions, such as working from home, 1.5m away and mandatory masks in various closed places. If the Netherlands still has problems beating COVID-19, I fear that Bolivia has to prepare for the fourth wave.
Second, I believe that waves are directly related to people’s behavior. When the number of cases, patients and deaths are low, the population begins to behave differently. They forget the measurements thinking that everything is over. This behavior increases the number of contacts, and if we include the characteristics of the Delta strain, the number of cases begins to grow again. The result is a fourth wave.
I have mentioned before that for many countries it is difficult to stop the economy to control COVID-19, but rather the measures for a fourth wave do not have to be so rigid. This is because there is a large number that are vaccinated or immune. But caution is still needed, it is necessary to take minimal measures into account, avoid contacts when you can, keep your distance, use a mask, etc. All of these are actions that hardly hurt the economy.
The last, and most important, is that the government has to do everything possible to get vaccines. They have to put pressure on the producers, on other countries to accelerate this vaccination campaign. It is their responsibility, and also a good investment so that the economy will normalize as quickly as possible.