COVID watch: Vaccines will probably become an annual event

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 06-19-2023 11:00 AM

I think we’ve reached a turning point in COVID: I can’t fit all my vaccines on a single card any more.

This realization came about when I got the Pfizer bivalent booster last week (I meet the over-65 age requirement, alas).

It follows my Moderna boosters last November, last May and in November 2021. And those follow my Pfizer vaccines in March and April of 2021, back when I was dazzled by the speed of medical research and development and didn’t realize how much human ignorance would blunt the impact.

This newest booster means I now carry two slightly crumpled COVID vaccine cards in my wallet, which is kind of a pain since I like a skinny wallet. Maybe it’s a sign.

Mind you, it’s not a sign that COVID is over. The virus still kills people in the U.S. and around the world, and still causes short-term sickness and long-term disability.  The stories of “brain fog”  and fatigue from people coping with COVID’s aftermath scare me since I’m one of the lucky people who have never had the disease.

But it’s a sign that COVID has faded almost out of sight. The number of people in New Hampshire hospitalized with it or recovering from it now hovers around 25, matching the lowest point ever. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those are ready to be moved but stay in the hospital due to a lack of staff at long-term care facilities.

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The levels of SARS-CoV2 virus in Concord’s wastewater are also very low, according to the Wastewater SCAN database. Both the Penacook wastewater treatment plant and the much larger Hall Street plant have seen numbers bounce around a bit since spring but are at or near the lowest level since measurement began last October. The same goes for the virus measurement in Boston’s wastewater treatment system.

As for me, I no longer wear a mask in most public places. If I find a mask in the glove compartment I might put it on when entering a store, and I’ll certainly wear one if I go into a hospital or a germ-filled place like an elementary school, but otherwise the world gets to see my smiling face. Unless, that is, a new variant shows up or we have another winter surge.

The best-case scenario seems to be that COVID will become another flu, erupting in some amount every year to kill some people and sicken many more, but not enough to disrupt life.

The medical world is moving that way. A panel of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration voted last Thursday on the composition of a new vaccine that is expected to roll out in the fall in what appears to be the start of annual vaccines, just as is done with flu.

I will, of course, be getting the new vaccine because I’m no fool. And I’ve got room for it on my card.

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