An Uncertain Future
April 6, 2021
Despite the vaccine developments, the pandemic is far from over, with coronavirus variants appearing in various countries.
“The variants are to be expected because that’s what viruses do,” Brainard said. “Viruses survive by changing themselves, and they change themselves so that they can avoid the body’s immune system.”
To combat those mutations, companies are looking at various strategies. Especially with mRNA, it is easier to modify the vaccine to carry the new virus sequence, which would signal the immune system to produce a different antibody.
“There’s active research into how effective the current vaccines are against the variants and whether or not a booster shot designed to target those variants and provide a broader protection would be necessary,” Brainard said.
The ongoing research will be crucial in determining future steps.
“Because the COVID-19 infection outcome is much much worse, the worst-case scenario is if the SARS-CoV-2 continues and we need to get a vaccine every year,” Wang said. “Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on follow-up booster doses for vaccines against virus mutations. If the virus keeps on circulating, if we don’t have herd immunity, if people don’t get the vaccine, there might be even more mutations.”
Even so, herd immunity in one country will not help.
“Now it’s just a competition between human beings’ immunity and virus evolution. If you look at the data nationally, the cases are rising, and this is under the condition with parts of the population already fully vaccinated,” Jin said. “If other countries cannot control the variants, eventually the U.S. will also have new problems. With the new variants circulating, it’s very hard to predict what will happen, but it will not end very soon.”
However, the world is, undoubtedly, a step closer to returning to normal as companies and the government are doing their best to make the vaccines more available.
Carly Ramirez, a senior who works in food service, has recently gotten her first Pfizer vaccine. She is hopeful that the vaccine will be vital in ending the pandemic by creating immunity.
“I’ve always had trust in the vaccines. I know a lot of people are worried about how fast the vaccines were developed or if they got the right amount of testing or if side effects are fatal,” Ramirez said. “A lot of people say they want to wait for a better one, but I totally disagree with that. I’d rather risk getting the vaccine than getting the coronavirus itself.”
There is no telling how long the pandemic will last, but people can do their part to stay safe by taking any protection measures available.
“Vaccines are the most powerful weapon humans have against infectious diseases. Unfortunately, nobody will 100% guarantee that you will be protected, even if you get the two doses for Pfizer or Moderna because the immune response is different for each individual,” Wang said. “Whether you have the vaccine or not, we are still recommended to take universal precautions to protect yourself and protect others.”