FOR many people, one of the most unsettling things about living through the coronavirus pandemic is the feeling of lacking control – whether it is over our daily lives, the broader situation or both.

Vaccines promised a return to some kind of normality and, with it, a greater sense of control.

But this week has brought sobering news: South Africa has decided to pause its roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of findings that it doesn’t offer enough protection against the B.1.351 coronavirus variant first detected in that country.

That promised sense of more control may now seem to be slipping through our fingers.

In this week’s issue, however, we throw a spotlight on some of the ways in which we can influence our own course through the pandemic – beyond trying to avoid the virus itself as best we can. We also look at some of the many ways in which scientists and doctors have already made big strides towards controlling the impacts of the spread of covid-19.

“We may be able to affect how our bodies respond to a vaccine by simple, everyday actions”

As individuals, we may be able to affect how our bodies respond to a vaccine by taking measures as simple as getting a good night’s sleep or taking more exercise.

Once you have had a vaccine, is there any way you can know whether it is working? Well, there are tests that can tell you, as we explain on page 12.

Meanwhile, on the science front, a great deal of progress is being made.

Innovative new vaccines are in the works. These could not only work against new variants, but may also help solve other problems, such as the global inequalities in accessing vaccines.

Then there are the insights that have transformed how medics treat people who have been hospitalised with covid-19, enabling health services to save many more lives  than at the start of the pandemic. The interventions that have brought this change may look obvious now, but they certainly weren’t early on.

It may not always feel like it, but people’s actions are making a real difference in the fight against the coronavirus. We just need to keep on working at it.