I am lifting my head up out of my pandemic fatigue and taking a moment to look on the bright side of things with you today. We certainly need it.
I’m sure COVID-19 has exhausted you, like me, with fear and anxiety. We’ve had to rapidly process new information daily and spend an unusual amount of time thinking about unknowns and what-ifs.
I can’t help but think that it could be very helpful to flip that thinking and consider how far we’ve come since this health crisis began. So instead of ruminating on all the daily headlines (like, now deer have COVID-19, including the Omicron variant?), let’s rejoice in what we’ve accomplished.
Vaccines Developed With Extraordinary Speed
The speed with which we rolled out new vaccines for this dreaded virus is truly mind boggling.
In the spring of 2020, I remember watching Dr. Fauci talk about the “normal” timeline for vaccine development. He explained that historically it usually takes 10 – 15 years to pioneer one vaccine, put it through clinical trials, and receive FDA authorization.
But with COVID-19, unprecedented international cooperation, focus, and resources led to multiple effective and safe vaccines getting authorized in less than a year. This also created a blueprint for future vaccine development.
It seems hard to imagine how they could speed up such a long process, but I read somewhere that it was a bit like driving across a busy city in rush hour. Normally you spend a lot of time waiting at traffic lights. But when you have a police escort you can take the same journey and get to the same place just as safely, but much faster. We owe everyone who contributed to this effort a huge debt of gratitude.
COVID-19 Vaccines Authorized in Children 5 – 18
Within the past few months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized all children aged five years and older to receive COVID-19 vaccination. While most children aren’t at high risk for developing serious health consequences from the coronavirus, some have gotten very ill, some have experienced “long-haul COVID-19,” and some have died. Also, infected children can pass COVID-19 on to vulnerable adults. And vaccinating children helps slow the overall spread of COVID-19 in this country. Every little bit helps!
Clinical trials for vaccinating children under five years old are now underway as well.
Boosters Authorized for All Fully Vaccinated Adults
All fully vaccinated individuals 18 and older, regardless of their health status, are now authorized and recommended to receive a booster using any of the vaccines authorized in the U.S. — regardless of which vaccine they received originally. Those who originally received the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines are eligible to receive a booster six months after their second dose, and those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may receive a booster two months later.
I received my booster about a month ago, and it was much easier to get than my initial vaccinations last spring. Local pharmacies have vaccine clinics and an abundance of the vaccine. For example, Rite Aid offers a scheduling tool you can use to make a vaccination appointment at a location near you.
If you need further assistance with scheduling your booster, your primary care doctor can let you know where to go, or you can call your local public health department. Additionally, Registered Nurse Health Coaches are available to Independence Blue Cross members 24/7 to answer questions about access to booster shots.
For a more in-depth discussion of boosters, see this post by my colleague, Dr. Dolores Roman.
Possible New Treatment on the Horizon for Infected People
Pfizer has applied for FDA approval of an antiviral treatment intended to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in people infected with COVID-19. In clinical trials, the Pfizer drug was almost 90% effective in preventing severe disease, which could make a huge difference and save many lives.
While it’s obviously better to not get infected in the first place, these treatments could save many lives.
Heroic Health Care Professionals
There are no words to describe the sacrifices that doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals have made — and are still making, day after exhausting day — to try to help COVID-19 victims survive and recover. Please thank them every way you can, every chance you get…and make sure you and your loved ones are vaccinated, because so much of this suffering is now preventable.
Hope for the Future
With all these positive developments, there is hope that, come springtime, we may have the best handle on this disease yet.
Vaccines in particular have been a game changer. Unfortunately, unexpectedly low vaccination rates in some U.S. populations — as well as the Delta and Omicron variants — have made progress against this disease much slower than we had hoped.
Remember: vaccines only work if you get them! If you haven’t yet gotten your first vaccination, please do — even if you’ve already had COVID-19. More than anything else, getting as many people vaccinated as possible is our best strategy for beating this pandemic.
The holidays are coming up. Folks will congregate inside. Many of us spent last Thanksgiving and the December holidays by ourselves, so I understand the urge to be with family. Please be mindful, though. We are not out of the woods yet, and holiday surges are expected.
Don’t forget the basics. Wash your hands frequently. Try to stay six feet apart as often as you can. When in doubt, wear a mask. And, personally, I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask the host who is or isn’t vaccinated at gatherings. That information can help you decide whether it’s safe to attend or not. And please consider getting a booster shot!