How Scientific COVID-19 Breakthroughs are Helping Us Return to Normal
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, we have learned a lot about coronavirus and how it has affected the population. With the recent introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are now even closer to returning to pre-pandemic life. However, it is still a bit unclear how we will get back to normal after being vaccinated.
Since there are not yet controlled studies to fully answer this and other pertinent questions, we must use our best and most current scientific and medical information to bring as much clarity as possible to these concerns. These discoveries are the best way to learn more about how scientific COVID-19 breakthroughs are helping us return to normal.
Here are some observations:
Transmission Prevention Measures
There have been dramatically fewer cases of influenza, upper respiratory infections (rhinitis, sinusitis and bronchitis) and lower respiratory infections (bronchiolitis, pneumonia) in medical offices during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is most likely attributed to social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and limited travel. The lesson to be learned is that these measures are highly effective at keeping viruses from spreading even without a vaccine. It stands to reason, therefore, that we should continue these measures in high-risk situations such as during the annual flu season and in crowded public gathering spaces, particularly indoor settings with poor air circulation or limited ventilation.
Vaccine Effectiveness Against COVID-19
Your vaccination from SARS-Co-V2 (the virus causing COVID-19) is fully effective two weeks after your second dose of Pfizer and Moderna or four weeks after your single Johnson and Johnson dose. At this point, the risk of becoming ill with COVID-19 is very low – estimated to be around 5% for Pfizer and Moderna and 15% for Johnson and Johnson. Based on current data, though, it appears that vaccinated individuals may still be able to carry the virus and transmit it to others that are not immune.
What Does This Mean for a “Return to Normal?”
We should all find ways to expand our bubbles with others who have been vaccinated and who wear masks appropriately. The physical/medical risks of being together in these settings are very low and the emotional/mental health benefits are very high. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention continues to release updates and recommendations regarding appropriate group behavior, so I suggest reviewing their latest COVID-19 recommendations.
When the majority of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19 and herd immunity is achieved, we expect viral spreading will slow until it reaches a low endemic level. We may learn that periodic booster vaccines are necessary to maintain ongoing immunity.
As more data becomes available, we will have a better understanding of what “normal” will look like going forward. We can expect the recommendations to change as we learn more about the vaccines’ effectiveness and as new variants of the virus continue to develop.
The good news is that a tremendous amount of scientific and medical research has been done over the last year in pursuit of COVID-19 prevention and treatment. This includes research advancements in mRNA that will herald ongoing breakthroughs. In the same way that the HIV epidemic resulted in innumerable advances in infectious disease care for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated tremendous international research and development that will benefit the globe for years to come.
As science advances, we must all be flexible and willing to incorporate new information into our daily lives. If you have any additional questions or would like to learn more about COVID-19 prevention, contact Sandy Springs Internal Medicine today.