Pandemic Endgame: Final Chapter

By Amy Rogers, MD/PhD

Victory for the vaccines

{Author’s note: This essay is from a US perspective. Forgive me for this parochial view. Other parts of the world are experiencing their own timeline.}

Hindsight is 20/20 vision

A year ago, we were debating whether to loosen restrictions for less-vulnerable people (like healthy 20 somethings) or even to intentionally infect some of them in an attempt to get herd immunity going and save some of us from lockdown. This was a logical debate because we did not know whether an effective vaccine would ever be found. In the long term, without a vaccine you can’t stop the COVID deaths, you can only spread them out over time.

Is this the end?

The pandemic certainly isn’t over in the US (and definitely not in the rest of the world.) About half of Americans of all ages have at least one dose of vaccine; almost 40% are fully protected ( CDC). That leaves over a hundred million people still to go (including children 0–11 who are not yet eligible). Blue-state America is ahead of red-state America in percent of citizens vaccinated. That gap is likely to persist.

Booster shots?

Not enough time has passed for us to have a data-based answer to this question. I know there’s been a flurry of recent media either promoting or complaining about booster shots being likely within a year, but it’s too soon to tell. Yes, we should prepare for the possibility that immunity could fade. But we don’t know yet. The answer is somewhat circular: if too few people get vaccinated and the virus is still circulating widely, then boosters are more likely. If we get enough herd immunity this summer, then we might not need booster shots.

No going back

Masks, distancing, and air filtration are all helpful but vaccines are the key. From a social perspective, we’re done with non-pharmaceutical interventions. People are still dying but crisis mode is over. Most of us are hugging, gathering, eating out. Enough of us are vaccinated that we’re not going back. So it’s as important as ever to push for universal vaccination against the coronavirus, because vaccination is quickly becoming our only defense.

With vaccines, Murphy was wrong

I can hardly believe we’re at this point today. So much that could have gone wrong ended up going right.

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, and educator. She blogs about coronavirus at AmyRogers.com

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