COVID 2021

People have been wondering about the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and when life will return back to normal. The world had gone through a little over a year of the pandemic already. There are now two approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but the distribution of the vaccines will take time. Right now, COVID-19 is continuing to spread and it is still a long way until things can return back to normal. It is predicted that around the fall or winter of 2021, people will be able to do normal things again like traveling, visiting family and friends in person, eating out in a restaurant, going to amusement parks, etc. 

Every country is different during this pandemic. Countries like China, New Zealand and Rwanda have a low number of cases because they were in complete lockdown for a long period of time. If the cases are low enough, countries can ease their restrictions and if cases are rising again, they can tighten their restrictions. However, other countries like the United States and Brazil have steadily had a high number of cases that are rapidly increasing because they eased restrictions too early or they never had a strict lockdown. 

In order for life to return to normal, we need at least 60 percent of the population to be vaccinated or immune to COVID-19 for herd immunity. Herd immunity is the protection of the spread of an infectious disease within a high number of the population becoming immune through a vaccination.  It will take months for the whole population to get vaccinated. Vaccinations come in 3 phases that are spread over the course of the year. In Phase 1 (December 2020 – February 2021), essential workers like healthcare employees will get vaccinated first. People at high risk and seniors 75 and above will get vaccinated next during Phase 2 (February-March 2021). Starting April 2021, everyone else in the population will have access to the vaccine. In the fall or winter of 2021, there will be a full vaccine for younger kids. Hopefully, when most of the population has been vaccinated, we can achieve herd immunity and life can return to normal. 

COVID-19 is continuing to spread right now, they will mutate and spread worldwide if there are enough viruses. All viruses mutate, even COVID-19. There are four variants of the virus and they are:

1. 1. 7 was a variant from the United Kingdom and it spreads 30% to 70% more easily and quickly than other variants. It may be around 30% more deadly than the original. This variant originated from London and Southeast England and it was detected in September 2020. There are some cases that were detected in the United States and Canada. According to USA Today, “Sir Patrick Vallance, Johnson’s chief scientific adviser, explained the previous average death rate of 60-year-olds in Britain from COVID-19 was about 10 per 1,000. With the new variant, roughly 13 or 14 out of 1,000 infected people might be expected to die, he said.”

There was another variant from South Africa called 1.351 detected in October 2020 and it spread outside of South Africa but not detected in the United States. Dr Simon Clarke, who is an expert in cell microbiology at the University of Reading, said: “The South African variant has a number of additional mutations including changes to some of the virus’ spike protein which are concerning,” BBC News said.

And, in Brazil the variant is called P. 1 and it was detected in four travelers from Brazil who were screening at the Haneda airport that is outside of Tokyo, Japan after they had traveled from Brazil. It originated in the Amazonian city of Manaus. According to Reuters, “The new variant, identified as P.1, which has the N501Y and E484K mutations, was detected in 13 out of 31 positive PCR test samples collected in Manaus between Dec. 15-23. It was absent in genome surveillance samples seen between March and November, underscoring how quickly it has appeared and reproduced.”

U.S cases are declining, but the variances are increasing right now. There is no evidence of which variant causes more severe illness or a higher risk of death. Scientists are learning more about how these variants may spread, but they will not know about how much they spread all over the world or how they affect the vaccines right now. The Pfizer vaccine may still work with those new variants because it is the same kind of virus.

“As epidemiologists warn about the spread of new variants, health officials are racing to vaccinate as many people as possible. As of Thursday, nearly 2.4 million people had been fully vaccinated. More than half of states had administered less than 50 percent of the doses shipped to them,” The New York Times said. 

Once everyone gets vaccinated and there is enough herd immunity, life could return back to normal. But that all depends if we have enough vaccines and enough people in the world vaccinated.