We kickstarted the new year with a list of medical innovations to look out for in 2022. And while these are definitely promising trends to keep an eye on, we cannot overlook the elephant in the room: COVID-19. Yes, the pandemic is still persisting through 2022 and major discussions will revolve around that topic throughout the year.
While these might not be directly related to digital health, they are important conversations around healthcare. And as a futurist, I can anticipate what discussions to expect, but I cannot be certain regarding how these will turn out. But by touching upon them, we can all be better prepared.
In this article, we will contemplate 5 areas of major COVID-19-related debates people can expect in 2022.
1. Obligatory vaccinations
Vaccination is still likely to be a contentious issue when it comes to COVID-19. However, countries might soon take a firmer stance on vaccinations. Already, countries like France and Italy have made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers. But many will follow Austria’s example of extending such mandates to the public at large.
It’s a drastic measure, but one that Austrian officials hope will help limit the spread of the virus; especially given that the country already has among the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Western Europe.
“In spite of months of persuasion, we have not managed to convince enough people to be vaccinated,” said chancellor Alexander Schallenberg. “We don’t want a fifth wave, we don’t want a sixth or a seventh wave.”
Other countries will relate to this latter statement and look to push forth similar mandates. This will not only perpetuate debates among those sceptical about COVID-19 vaccines but also among travellers facing ever-changing rules and regulations. For instance, following the spread of the Omicron variant, travellers from the U.K. faced new bans and mandatory quarantines from several countries around the world.
2. COVID-19 pills
Towards the tail end of 2021, molnupiravir, a new antiviral drug treatment that can be administered within 5 days of COVID-19 symptoms appearing, picked up steam. Developed by pharma companies Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD), the antiviral comes in the form of an oral pill; and hence provides the convenience of being self-administered at home given the proper prescription.
Molnupiravir was called a “game-changer” by U.K. health secretary Sajid Javid, and the country even became the first to approve its use for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 and at least one risk factor.
This could very much set a trend, with more countries approving of the pill and more companies coming up with their own versions. It will draw parallels to the vaccination race from 2021. And with that, the anti-vaccination movement will get more fuel. They will ask why we need to vaccinate when we can treat the disease with a pill. It’s another hurdle that health authorities – and likely society at large – will need to face.
3. Vaccinating kids
While children infected with COVID-19 generally don’t suffer from symptoms as severely as adults, they can still transmit the virus. Moreover, some can still become seriously ill. Given that children can represent a sizeable proportion of COVID-19 cases, 16% in the case of the U.S., health authorities are increasingly leaning towards promoting their vaccination.
Last December, France’s Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) approved the vaccination of all children aged 5-11 with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Austria’s vaccination mandate will also apply to people aged 14 and above; and those refusing vaccines could even face fines of up to 3,600 euros.
Such actions will inevitably generate public or even global debate regarding whether vaccinations should be obligatory for kids. And if so, which vaccines should they receive and how old should they be to receive their shot? With the aforementioned examples only we can see a discrepancy in the age group.
The WHO suggests that when devising such immunisation programmes, countries should consider the individual and population benefits in their specific epidemiological and social context. While this might be general advice to follow, the discussion is far from over as more and more countries open up vaccinations for children.
4. Second boosters shots/4th dose
The spread of the Omicron variant prompted Pfizer’s CEO to say that we will likely need a fourth dose (or a second booster) of the vaccine. When the vaccines rolled out in 2021, most of us weren’t even thinking about boosters; but now we are already talking about second boosters. Does this foretell a trend of requiring new boosters every few months or with the emergence of new variants? Will this make the virus shift from being a pandemic to being an endemic? And if so, when?
But some experts even predict that the novel coronavirus will still linger around for longer than we wish. They are comparing it to the Spanish flu, which is itself persisting today in the form of a descendant as the seasonal flu. The latter mutates every year and requires new shots yearly. Does this mean that with COVID-19, we will have to live with booster shots all the time?
These are questions that we will increasingly be asking ourselves but might not have definitive answers to soon.
5. Pandemic fatigue will kick in
When the pandemic hit, it had a significant toll on frontliners. They got burnt out and were exhausted, and some even had to grapple with ethical conundrums. While this so-called pandemic fatigue hit them first, now the rest of the population will go through the same ordeal. This is because we simply cannot keep billions on alert for over 2 years.
As such, COVID-19 discussions in 2022 will also increasingly revolve around pandemic fatigue, how we can deal with it and how to assist those suffering from it.
While the pandemic seems far from being over, it will eventually come to an end if we try to keep on acting responsibly.
Written by Dr. Bertalan Meskó & Dr. Pranavsingh Dhunnoo
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The post 5 COVID-19 Discussions That Will Dominate 2022 appeared first on The Medical Futurist.
By: Pranavsingh Dhunnoo
Title: 5 COVID-19 Discussions That Will Dominate 2022
Sourced From: medicalfuturist.com/covid-19-in-2022
Published Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2022 09:00:00 +0000
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