By Dr. J.R. Krevans Jr.
It can be frustrating when our response to COVID-19 changes every few weeks. Although this constant state of change contributes to pandemic fatigue, it is in many ways reassuring and reasonable given that we are dealing with an evolving virus in real time.
Two years ago, this virus swept across the world at the speed of the airplane passengers carrying it, and we have fought back at a similar pace. In the first year, we repurposed two existing drugs (dexamethasone and remdesivir) to fight severe illness and developed vaccines that gave safe and reliable protection for most people against the existing viral strains at that time, saving countless lives.
Recently, more specialized treatments, which have also decreased deaths, have become available in very limited quantities. Today, vaccinations and boosters remain the best protection we have available against severe illness and death.
Unfortunately, the current omicron variant of the virus is more infectious and less well recognized by antibodies, either due to prior infection or induced by our original vaccines. In the virus’s current state, a third dose or booster given five months after the initial series markedly improves your protection. This is true whether you have had a COVID-19 infection or not. If you get boosted, you are four times less likely to get severe COVID-19 illness. Also, you are less likely to transmit disease, so you do not have the same need to quarantine after exposure.
We are all tired of worrying, masking and limiting our inside visits. We are all frustrated with recommendations that change as the virus spreads or is controlled, as new information and medications arrive, or as medications, supplies and hospital beds run out.
Despite our frustration, we need to stay vigilant and be prepared to change and change again as the virus and our defenses against it evolve. All of us – each community, each hospital and each person – need to do what we can to keep ourselves, our families and our patients safe and keep our schools and clinics open. Right now, that means getting boosted if you have not yet done so, avoiding high-risk situations and masking in shared indoor airspaces at work and in the community.
Thank you for all you have done over the past two years.
Dr. J.R. Krevans Jr. is chair of Infection Control at Mount Desert Island Hospital.