The most common question I receive these days, is “When will this be over?” Or some variation of that, such as, “Will this ever be over?” No one really knows when the coronavirus pandemic will end. What will it take to end this pandemic? Most likely, it will take a combination of things that stopped past pandemics. Social control measures to decrease transmission, medications to improve outcomes, and a vaccine.
Not only is this virus easy to transmit, but people can pass it on to someone else even when they don’t have symptoms. Social distancing, hand hygiene, and face coverings stop the spread of this infectious disease. These measures will buy some time, until there is better treatment and a vaccine.
Better treatments will help improve survival rates. Hopefully, they will also decrease long-term problems that may arise after recovering from COVID-19 infection. Although there will be a benefit from antiviral medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs, they will not help control spread of disease.
Vaccines for this coronavirus are in development and some are looking very promising. Whether the vaccine will be a one-time dose or require more than one dose is not clear. Several vaccines have entered human trials, and it’s possible a vaccine may be available by the end of 2020, or early 2021. Eventually, there may be several different vaccines for this coronavirus.
As we approach fall, which is when seasonal influenza season often begins, there is concern that there will be two major respiratory viruses circulating at the same time. Seasonal influenza kills approximately 40,000 people in the US each year. There are 500,000 hospitalizations in the US each year due to influenza. This will burden supply chains for personal protective equipment, medical supplies and hospital systems even further. Influenza and COVID-19 have symptoms in common, such as fever and a cough, so it may be difficult to tell them apart without testing. There is also overlap in the groups of people who are at high risk of complications due to influenza virus, as well as COVID-19. It’s more important than ever to get an influenza vaccination this season.
Annual influenza vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 months or older who doesn’t have a contraindication. It is recommended that influenza vaccine be given by the end of October. Children who need two doses should get the first dose as soon as it is available, and the second dose 4 weeks later.
Until a vaccine is available for COVID-19, measures to stop the spread of this virus must continue. That includes social distancing, good hand hygiene, and face coverings. It also includes testing and contact tracing with isolation and quarantine. And please, stay home when you are sick.
Now is not the time to get complacent. You know what to do. Do the right thing to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe.