COVID:19: Is the End Near?

By Daniel K. Brantley
Friday, July 1, 2022
Specialty: 

It’s been more than two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Is the end near, or are people lowering their guard too soon?

For many, March 13, 2020, was a turning point. Two months after the CDC confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., President Donald Trump declared the virus a national emergency.

Fast-forward to today. Mask mandates and social distancing requirements were simultaneously lauded and demonized when implemented and enforced with varying degrees of success. For the most part, they no longer loom large in most Americans’ daily lives. But what have we learned about COVID-19 in the past 12 months? Are we truly entering a pandemic-free world?

Lessons in COVID-19

Since MD News reported on COVID-19 in April 2021, the scientific community has learned two lessons:

Effective therapies exist. While the earliest attempts at therapy were ineffective, other options are efficacious. These include ritonavir-boosted nirmatrelvir and remdesivir.

Vaccine acceptance isn’t guaranteed. Vaccine hesitancy was heavy when the first immunizations rolled out. As of April, 220 million Americans (approximately 67%) are fully vaccinated, coming just short of President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% by July 4, 2021. Reaching this level of vaccination was not easy. Widespread conspiracy theories and other misinformation continue to prevent people from obtaining vaccines.

Leaving the Acute Phase

Following more than two years of pandemic exhaustion, we could be reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Although it is not possible to eliminate SARS-CoV-2, by addressing the drivers of transmission and disease impact in every country we can end the global COVID-19 emergency in 2022.”

In fact, the pandemic has been declared over in other parts of the world. On April 26, Denmark’s National Board of Health declared the end of the country’s vaccination efforts until the fall. This is a stark contrast to China, which remains in lockdown in an effort to eradicate COVID-19 completely.

Though complete eradication is likely impossible, America’s relationship to COVID-19 has changed substantially. To bring the country out of the acute phase of the pandemic, the WHO recommends addressing the following transmission drivers:

  • Constant evolution of virus
  • Lowered immunity linked to insufficient immunization or extensive time passing since infection
  • Politicization and spread of false information regarding the virus and its prevention and management

High-impact drivers, such as lack of access to diagnostic and therapeutic care, must also be dealt with. Assuming they are, the coming year holds promise. The question is whether that promise will be fulfilled.