Most of us are sick and tired of COVID-19 and want it to go away. Earlier this year we were hopeful that things would get back to normal. But the virus has changed and is causing more problems. Physicians I know are seeing many younger patients in hospital beds. Nurses are bone tired and working double and triple shifts. What does this mean for frail older patients in the months ahead?
1. Will a booster vaccine be recommended?
It has recently been announced that immunocompromised patients need a booster vaccination. This is likely to become a recommendation for elderly patients too. A booster will further decrease the risk of infection and the risk of spread. It will also make social interactions safer. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are planning for booster vaccination in September. Israel has already started providing a 3rd vaccination for people over age 60. We might end up needing periodic vaccinations. Some people have received the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The data on this vaccine is still evolving.
2. How safe are social events?
Overall, vaccinations are very effective in preventing severe disease in most people. However, frail older people can still catch the virus and need to be especially careful. Large gatherings increase the risk of exposure. This is especially true in locations where infection is widespread. This has implications for places such as restaurants or church. A restaurant is safer if it is not crowded, if it is well-ventilated, and if it has outdoor seating.
3. Is COVID-19 here to stay?
YES. Just like the common cold and influenza, COVID-19 is very likely here to stay. The incidence of COVID-19 will vary across the United States. Around the world there may be large outbreaks. In countries with very limited vaccination and low immunity, the disease is likely to persist. It is unlikely that the disease will be eradicated or limited to specific countries.
4. Do we still need to wear masks?
We have been wearing masks for a long time. But the higher the risk, the more important a mask remains. A mask is not needed when a person is in a safe environment. But a mask is important when ventilation is poor and when there is exposure to other people and crowds. Using a mask while on an airplane or in crowded places is essential.
5. Will COVID-19 remain more dangerous than the flu?
No one knows. In reality, the flu was deadly 100 years ago. Worldwide it killed 50 million people. Since then, the flu has been less deadly. In the same way, COVID-19 may become less dangerous in the years ahead. Widespread vaccination and natural immunity will help. We also don’t know if we will discover treatments that stop the virus quickly. However, it is hard to predict. Variants may become more contagious, more resistant to vaccines and more dangerous.
I have a question for you. No one knows the answer to this question:
PS: Please see my pdf: covid update for additional information.