In the early 1980s, doctors and medical researchers around
the world were confounded by the growing number of young, otherwise healthy
patients who were dying of rare infections that typically only occurred in
people with very weak immune systems.
The situation was so alarming that the CDC in the United
States set up a special task force in 1982 to study the condition and stop
By 1983 the medical community had found the answer: they
discovered a terrifying new retrovirus that utterly and permanently
vanquished the human immune system.
This retrovirus eventually became known as the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus-- HIV. And nearly four decades later, while there
has been substantial progress in treatment and prevention, there is still
Then there’s shingles-- an infection caused by the
varicella-zoster virus-- which is brutally painful for older adults.
GlaxoSmithKline produces a vaccine for this virus called
Shingrix that took them more than 10 years to develop and test. And the
company has stated repeatedly that they are overwhelmed with demand: hundreds
of millions of people want the vaccine.
A few months ago, Glaxo announced that they already reached
maximum production capacity of the vaccine, and they’ll have to build a new
bioreactor facility just to increase production to ~20 million units per year.
That new facility won’t be online until 2024.
Obviously the novel Coronavirus is different. Its biology is
different, the circumstances are different.
But there does seem to be a prevailing attitude worldwide
that there will be a vaccine ‘within 12-18 months.’
We can certainly hope so. Fingers crossed.
But this “12-18 month” estimate has been repeated so many
times by politicians, reporters, etc. that the public now views it as a
And there seems to be zero consideration given to the
possibility that, maybe just maybe, vaccine development could take a lot
Or perhaps, even if a vaccine is rapidly developed, that it
would take at least five years to produce, transport, and administer
BILLIONS of vaccines.
Think about it-- Glaxo will spend the next four years
building a new facility just to be able to produce 10-20 million annual
units of its Shingles vaccine.
How many biotech facilities worldwide will be needed to
produce billions of coronavirus vaccines?
And even if existing production centers are able to quickly
switch from producing other drugs and start producing coronavirus
vaccines-- what will be the opportunity cost?
If the world manages to be able to produce billions of
vaccines, who will be left to produce cancer drugs? Or antibiotics? Or the
countless other life-saving drugs that people depend on?
I’m not writing all of this to be negative. Far from it. And
it’s important to remember that absolutely every scenario is on the table
right now, including positive and favorable ones.
But there are clearly a number of reasons why this pandemic
could last much longer than most people probably think. So it’s prudent to
be physically, mentally, and financially prepared for that reality.
If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that tomorrow can
be radically different than today.
This goes against some of our most basic human tendencies,
what psychologists call ‘cognitive bias’.
The bottom line is that our brains cling to the idea that
tomorrow is going to be just like today. And we have a very difficult time
accepting rapid change.
And even when radical changes do take place and we
eventually become accustomed to our new realities, we still cling to the
belief that things can’t get any worse.
They can. Again, anything is possible now. All scenarios are
on the table. So it would be dangerous to assume that it can’t get any
worse, or that the pandemic won’t drag on for a longer period of time.
in early February before the virus became a global concern, I suggested
that you stock up on food and masks before it all hit the fan.
I want to suggest the same thing again today-- at least the
It is entirely possible that we could see supply chain
disruptions. It’s not a certainty—nothing is certain right now. But there
are pretty obvious risks.
Chances are high that whatever you ate for breakfast this
morning probably originated in some far off place.
The food on your plate can easily travel hundreds if not
thousands of miles before it arrives to your table, starting off in a
farmer’s field, to an inspection center, and then to the port where it is
shipped/trucked/railed/flown to a regional distribution center and
ultimately to your grocery store.
The global food supply chain is incredibly complex and not
especially resilient; I’ve seen this firsthand over the past few years from
running a large agriculture business.
I don’t think it’s likely that the global supply chain would
shut down completely. But there’s definitely a risk for hiccups, i.e.
slowdowns that cause delays and sporadic shortages.
This kind of scarcity could create some high stress
situations in the grocery store; just take a look at Black Friday videos on
YouTube to get a sense of what I’m talking about.
It’s best to avoid that kind of environment altogether. So
I’d definitely encourage you to stock up on food, and remain stocked up.
This isn’t about being paranoid. We can hope for the best,
but still acknowledge this pandemic could last a lot longer, and understand
that the supply chain wasn’t designed to function under such stress.
Nothing is certain. But stocking up on food is a simple
precaution to offset some obvious risks… which is the cornerstone of any good
Your blog ALWAYS provides solid stuff! Hope you are doing well.
Because of sites like yours, our family has been prepping for some time. We only head to the store for fresh produce at this point [we see a lot rising prices due to the scare/hoarding] Keep up the splendid work!
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