Prevention is better than cure

Is it too late to prevent this global pandemic to be worse than it has been?

It is the summer end and we are still struggling with a virus that has infected more than 25 million people and has claimed the lives of more than 845,000 people all over the world. And there seems to be no end to this. Or is there?  

Our only hope seems to be herd immunity. But what is it really?

Herd immunity is said to have been achieved when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person less likely. As such, the whole community becomes protected going well beyond those who are immune to the disease.

Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is what epidemiologists refer to as the herd immunity threshold.

So what percentage of a community needs to be immune to a disease in to achieve herd immunity? This threshold varies from disease to disease. The more contagious a disease is, the greater the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to the disease to stop its spread. For example, the measles is a highly contagious illness. It's estimated that its herd immunity threshold is around 94%.

There are two paths to herd immunity for COVID-19: vaccines and infection.

The latter type seems to be coming to reality in certain hot zones such as New York city already. The good news there is that we are seeing the benefits at much lower thresholds as originally thought (close to 20% as opposed to 60-70%).

For this particular coronavirus of 2019, doctors estimated that about 60% to 70% of the human population would need to have antibodies in order to have herd immunity as a species. The formula used to calculate the threshold has been: threshold = 1-1/R0) where R0, pronounced “R naught,” is a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It’s also referred to as the reproduction number. R0 estimates the average number of people (not vaccinated) who will contract a contagious disease from one person with that disease. An R0 of 3-4 estimated the herd immunity threshold of COVID-19 at more than 66%, a very high percentage. So the data coming from places like NYC is very encouraging.

As herd immunity is working out its course, the race for an effective vaccine is on in full force. From Russia and China to Germany and the USA, development of a number of COVID-19 vaccines is at various stages of its cycle. If all goes well, we might have one or more vaccines ready and approved for use for the first group or stage of the population (those at highest risk) before 2021.

So there is no hiding this: all are excited about the prospects of an effective vaccine to properly combat this deadly virus. We at Mesh AI have been doubly excited and humbled since earlier this summer when a group of providers started to refer to Mesh AI as “a vaccine against healthcare burnout and medical errors”. We asked why.

We were told: “Mesh AI is like a vaccine against the uncertainties and shortcomings related to operations and staff planning”. Mesh AI allows health units to prevent errors, save time, and reduce stress & burnouts at the same time. Mesh AI benefits both shift-based/rotational staff scheduling and clinic/regular staff scheduling seen in hospitals and clinics. “We have seen tremendous growth since March of this year in units with COVID-19 call centers, case management centers, contact tracing centers, and immunization clinics. We know flu vaccination is more important than ever before if we want to help reduce the burden on health units this Fall”, says Dr. Ethan Heming, Mesh AI’s Product Manager.

Mesh AI saves anywhere from 50 to 90% time in scheduling and planning of staff like physicians, public health nurses, runners, and other staff assisting with education and protection of the public against the virus.

So here is our advice: sell-serving, we know, but get your flu shot now and when ready do not hesitate to help towards the COVID-19 herd threshold but getting that vaccine too. If you are a healthcare provider, vaccinate your team against all the administrative diseases an intelligent staff anti-scheduler like Mesh AI can prevent.

You can not get that vaccine for free.

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