2 years with Covid vaccine: A look back and what is still ahead


Wednesday marks the second anniversary of the first U.S. Covid vaccine shot.

On the day the first jab went into the arm of a nurse in Queens, New York, 300,000 people had already died from Covid.

As the campaign to get everyone vaccinated slowly rolled out, on December 14 2021, the number grew to 800,000 Covid victims.

Now as vaccines have grown, the death toll is plummeting, but Covid is still a concern as is the desire for updated vaccinations.

Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent is with infectious diseases department at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“I remember seeing those first graphs of how incredible the protection was against severe illness from the mRNA vaccine, and it was just unheard of,” she said.

A rapidly developed shot at beating a previously little known virus, SARS-CoV-2.

“I have to admit, I was somewhat of a pessimist,” Heald-Sargent  said. “I didn’t think the timeline would quite be as rapid as it was. But this was just unheard of for vaccines to come together into work, so well so quickly.”

A worldwide threat turned into a global collaboration. But as variants of the original virus emerged, vaccine updates appear to always be a step behind.

Part of the drag on scientific progress is due to people moving on with their lives.

“We were able to run trials and do everything in a vacuum almost because we were masking and taking away other infections, like influenza, so it was easier to really target that one infection,” Heald-Sargent said.

This year, Covid, flu and RSV are sending people to the hospital in droves.

“Now we’re back to seeing many different types of infections and there are different vaccine candidates on the market,” Heald-Sargent said. “So it’s going to take a little bit longer for each one to come about. But I think that what we learned a lesson on how to get things done efficiently.”

The most efficient vaccine in the works is a combo flu-Covid shot. And perhaps protection that doesn’t include a shot at all but instead uses a nasal spray to keep Covid at bay.

“Well there are some advances in other countries that are coming closer to coming out in other countries, trials in the United States and Europe so far are not to the stage that we are going to see a nose spray anytime soon, but they are working on it,” Heald-Sargent said.

And health experts are still working to get people on board with protection.

“If you are not going to do it for the other people around you, at least do it for yourself. Because no one wants to get severely ill,” Heald-Sargent said. “It’s much better to have a reaction to a vaccine, meaning that your immune system is doing what it supposed to be being trained on how to respond to that pathogen than to actually get severely ill from that.”

None of the vaccines have the ability to prevent infection entirely or stop the spread of Covid to others. But studies show time and again, the vaccine does prevent more serious Covid illness.

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