What Happens if We Don't Achieve Herd Immunity?
The New York Times and others are finally saying out loud something that many of us have worried about since the global vaccination campaign began: “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe.” Vaccine hesitancy and denial have slowed the pace of vaccinations. And a steady stream of Covid-19 variants that are potentially vaccine resistant has created the possibility that localized outbreaks, emergence of “hotspots,” and potential regional epidemics will be with us forever. Even those designing and producing the vaccines are preparing us for the inevitability of annual “boosters.”
Source: The New York Times
This uncertain future changes the picture for everyone concerned about winning the war against Covid-19 and preventing future pandemics. That picture looks like a war that will last decades rather than one where we’ll win a quick, decisive victory.
Coping with the New Normal
What does that mean for policymakers, and for innovators developing ways to cope with the new normal? We’ve heard a lot about the miracle vaccines that can be developed faster than ever before. Which is good news. It means we might be looking forward to newly developed Covid-vaccine boosters every year at the same time we receive our annual flu shots. And we can look forward to more effective rapid tests that let us know right away if our sniffles are just a normal cold or something much worse.
We can also expect face masks to be more a part of our lives than in the past, with public health recommendations to maintain social distance and wear face masks during the annual cold and flu (and Covid?) season. Whether face masks should be mandatory is a political question. But recent research has shown that Covid and other viruses are spread not only from contaminated surfaces and by heavy sneeze droplets that fall to the ground, but also in airborne aerosols that can linger in poorly ventilated rooms for hours. Public health authorities now say face masks can block many of those virus-laden aerosols and play a significant role in preventing super-spreader events.
But even with those interventions, we are still playing defense, putting up with inconvenient and uncomfortable protective equipment and shots in the arm. Wouldn’t it be great to attack Covid-19 at its source, rather than continuing to try to ward it off when it attacks us?
The Silver Bullet: Air and Surface Disinfection with Shortwave Far-UVC Light
Now there is a solution that lets us play offense rather than defense against Covid-19. It’s called far-UVC light, which is capable of neutralizing coronavirus in the air before it reaches your face. Disinfection with 254-nanometer UVC light has been used for a long time, but only in limited ways because exposure to people could damage the skin and eyes. But recently it’s become apparent that shorter wavelengths of UVC light—“far-UVC” light at 230 nanometers or less—is safer to use around humans. Its short wavelength means it can’t penetrate skin and eyes deeply enough to do long-term damage.
Shortwave far-UVC light is difficult to generate cost effectively, but recently a number of manufacturers have developed far-UVC light sources that are being used to disinfect the air and surfaces. Ushio’s Care-222 far-UVC excimer lamps are being used in restaurants, elevators, and sports stadiums, to lower the viral load in the air.
And at NS Nanotech we have developed the first solid-state far-UVC solution. Unlike excimer far-UVC lamps, our semiconductor-based far-UVC Shortwave™ Light emitter contains no caustic gases or chemicals, doesn’t require a filter, has a very small form factor, and ultimately will follow a cost-reduction curve similar to other chip-based businesses. We’re confident that between our solid-state far-UVC solution and the far-UVC excimer lamps, the world will have access to a broad range of infrastructure solutions capable of delivering ubiquitous, human-safe UVC disinfection in public and private spaces worldwide.
For a deeper dive into how far-UVC disinfection infrastructure solutions can be integrated into our built environment, read my previous blog post, Rebuild for the Pandemic Era with Disinfecting UV Light.