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COVID-19 vaccination numbers are going up and case numbers are coming down. But when it comes to ending pandemics, it involves a lot more than just calling it off. That’s why experts are urging everyone to prepare to live with it for while longer.
COVID is caused by a coronavirus — known as SARS-CoV-2 — and coronaviruses often circulate for years. They cause respiratory infections and the common cold. We’re not going to eliminate coronaviruses anytime soon, nor will we wipe out this specific one. There are too many factors at play.
So, what does that mean? Let’s take a look at the most reasonable goal you can expect to achieve when it comes to ending pandemics.
There are lots of people out there who think that as the vaccine circulates, we will eventually wipe COVID-19 out entirely, essentially reaching “COVID Zero.” But experts agree that this is not realistic. What is realistic is normalcy, not zero.
The vaccines are not expected to produce “COVID zero,” But they’re on pace to get us back to normal — possibly by summer.
An acceptable goal is to make it manageable, much like the seasonal flu. And so far, it appears that the vaccines are doing that. In fact, they’re doing better than that. For fully vaccinated people, serious illness from COVID is extremely rare, much rarer than serious illness from the seasonal flu.
You can expect the virus to recede over the course of the coming months because of vaccinations and growing natural immunity.
The New York Times used Israel’s numbers as an indicator. Only 3.5 out of every 100,000 people vaccinated there were later hospitalized with COVID symptoms. During a typical flu season in the United States, roughly 150 out of every 100,000 people are hospitalized with flu symptoms. That’s why the seasonal flu doesn’t keep you from flying on airplanes, eating in restaurants, visiting your friends, or keeping your kids out of school.
At this point, you should still wear masks, practice social distancing and follow other safety guidelines, like frequent hand-washing and avoid touching your face. This is true, even if you’ve already battled COVID but haven’t been vaccinated yet.
And even if you have, these safety protocols have been in place for years to try to keep cold and flu numbers down. It took coronavirus to reinforce the message.
The other thing you can do is see your doctor to get a more personalized health plan, especially if you’ve been putting off your annual exam.
Your doctor can tell you how stringent your virus safety plan should be, and provide you with the steps you need to take to decrease your risk.