Contrary to popular belief, COVID pandemic is not over | Opinion Column – The Providence Journal

Nick Landekic of Bristol is a retired scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur who has spent more than 35 years working in the pharmaceutical industry.
There is a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding, and outright disinformation circulating about COVID. It’s costing people their lives.
These are some common myths and the realities behind them.
Myth #1: The pandemic is over.
Reality: The COVID pandemic is not over. Over 254,000 Americans died of COVID last year. 62% of recent hospitalizations in Rhode Island have COVID as a primary or contributing cause. As much as we’re all tired of COVID, we are still very much in a crisis.
Myth #2: COVID has become mild and nothing to worry about.
Reality: Several studies have shown Omicron infection is not any less severe than other variants, and results in just as many if not more deaths. Fifty times more people died of COVID last year than from the flu. It’s not “mild.”
Reality: 98% of COVID deaths are now in those over age 50. If you’re older and want to avoid getting infected, you cannot take the same risks younger people might be able to get away with.
Reality: Having COVID is a major strain on your body. Each subsequent infection carries a two to three times higher risk of organ damage, severe illness, hospitalization, or death than the previous illness.
Reality: The virus can persist in our organs and tissues for a year or more after the initial infection. 10%-45% of survivors have Long COVID, lingering health problems that can last for years.
Myth #3: The COVID vaccines were just a money grab by big pharma.
Reality: Vaccines substantially reduce the risk of severe illness or death from COVID. They are estimated to have saved 3 million American lives, prevented 18 million hospitalizations, and stopped 120 million infections. Without the vaccines our health-care system probably would have collapsed.
Myth #4: The COVID vaccines aren’t safe.
Reality: Over 13 billion COVID vaccine doses have been given to over 5.5 billion people. More people have safely taken them than any medicine in history. There will always be some adverse effects to any medicine, but many studies have shown the risks of getting infected with COVID are much worse than vaccination.
Myth #5: Masks don’t work.
Reality: There are literally hundreds of published studies showing that wearing a good mask, N95 or equivalent (KN95, KF94, or FFP2) can substantially reduce your risk of getting infected by as much as 85% or more. Masks continue to be the single most effective protective measure you can do for yourself, and one that the virus cannot mutate to evade.
Myth #6: COVID is a crisis in China because of their lockdowns.
Reality: COVID is spreading in China because of insufficient vaccinations, especially in the elderly. The vaccines used in China are different from the mRNA ones in the U.S., are not as effective, don’t last as long, and need more frequent boosting, that was not done.
The science of COVID is complicated and rapidly changing. It’s impossible to know everything about something as complex as COVID in the less than four years since it appeared. The virus is constantly mutating and evolving, becoming more contagious and resistant to vaccines and drugs. As we learn more about COVID the guidance for what to do will change. Ignoring vaccinations and other public health measures feeds the virus and helps it mutate because every infected person is a variant factory.
A small number of people are responsible for much of the disinformation circulating about COVID. They make a lot of money spreading falsehoods, and it’s costing people their lives.
Consider getting information from a nonpartisan, independent, nonprofit source like The People’s CDC ( COVID is going to be with us for a long time. Learning to live with it doesn’t mean ignoring it.
We may be “done with COVID,” but unfortunately the virus is not done with us. As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The thing about science is, it’s true whether or not you choose to believe it.” Choose facts. Choose to stay healthy. Choose to live.


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