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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Fight fire with fire

24 November 2021

It looks as if things are getting worse in respect to the CV19 situation in Europe right now.

Most countries are seeing a marked upswing in case numbers and that's creating some worrying headline news stories.

Fortunately, hospitalisations and deaths are not tracking nearly as upwards as the number of infections which gives some hope.

The world's response to CV19 and this latest wave has been to just keep on pouring vaccine into the arms of people in an attempt to reduce the symptoms and resulting death toll. It seems to be working, but only just.

Perhaps there's a better way to deal with this whole pandemic situation and we could learn that from history.

When the Spanish Flu pandemic swept around the world early last century there was no vaccine and tens of millions died.

Then the pandemic ended, as did the massive rate of deaths.

What the hell happened?

Why did the virus seemingly just disappear or at least become so weak as to no longer be considered a pandemic at all?

It appears that the virus became its own worst enemy and effectively turned itself into a natural vaccine... if some of the reports I've read are to be believed.

As the Spanish Flu virus mutated, a strain (or perhaps multiple strains) appeared which were far more transmissible but far less deadly. Anyone infected with one of these easily caught but less deadly strains effectively became immunised against the more lethal forms of the virus.

Eventually, enough people had been exposed to these new mutations that the world effectively reached "herd immunity" and the virus faded out.

It seems that this may be exactly what has happened in Japan where case numbers have plummeted to almost record-low levels.

Could this be a ray of hope in our battle against the virus and if so, might we be able to use this to our advantage?

Perhaps, instead of using a crude, blunt weapon such as vaccination, we should consider deliberately introducing the variant in Japan that has evolved out of the delta strain. If we were to let this strain loose in our general population it might provide the herd immunity that we need to get rid of CV19 once and for all.

The great thing about this "fight fire with fire" approach is that it will protect everyone, even the anti-vaxers.

This kind of biological control has been used widely in other scenarios where nature has presented us with an organism that poses a threat. We've used natural predators to control pest species on countless occasions (ie: introducing ladybirds to control aphid populations) and although there have been some stuff-ups, such as cane toads in Queensland, this approach is often spectacularly effective.

If we were to introduce the Japanese variant of CV19 to New Zealand we might short-circuit the whole process that saw the Spanish Flu disappear as if by magic.

I wonder how "the powers that be" would view this -- or if it's something that has even appeared on their radar.

What do readers think?

Would this strategy be worth using... or might it be considered too risky to introduce any new variant on purpose, even if it was a version of the virus that produced very mild symptoms even in the unvaccinated and offered the promise of a return to normal?

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