Since first detected in December 2019, the coronavirus pandemic has rapidly changed our lives, but over the last 2 years there has also been some amazing outcomes that have provided hope. Decades of public health infrastructure paved the way to develop and distribute vaccines with unprecedented speed. New discoveries have helped us better understand the nature of COVID-19, and new innovations to protect against the virus have changed how we live, work, and play.
Thanks to a global concerted effort and the groundwork of decades of mRNA research, these new vaccines were able to be safely developed in record time. How does an mRNA vaccine work? And how do vaccines help protect your community?
Kids and Vaccines
In October 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines for children ages 5 and up. While COVID-19 is (on average) less severe in children, it is still a dangerous illness, and it’s a relief to have this tool to help protect kids. Before being approved for public use, the vaccine had to go through multiple rounds of rigorous clinical trials. Do you have questions about youth vaccination? Learn more in the video.
Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently. Read more about the types of masking on the CDC website.
There’s currently a concerning number of counterfeit masks with “official” sounding labels on the market. The best way to make sure you have the real deal is to get a NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved N95 filtering faceplate respirators. To verify that a mask is NIOSH approved, check this list. For children, mask fit is also going to be a significant deciding factor. NIOSH does not certify masks for children, so choosing an FDA approved mask is likely to be your best bet for kids who can’t wear an N95. To improve fit on a surgical mask, knot the ear loops and tuck extra material into the mask, as shown in the video below.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have been closely monitoring the genetics of the virus to identify mutations known as variants. The most recent common variant is called Omicron (“AH-muh-kraan”), which has several traits caused by mutations to the virus’ genetics that allow it to spread more rapidly than any other strain of COVID-19.
Despite the differences in the Omicron variant, there is still plenty you can do to protect yourself and your community. Social distancing and proper mask wearing remain effective tools against COVID-19. The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone 5 years old or older, and that you get your booster when eligible.
Research and Innovation
In December 2021, the FDA approved two new oral antiviral medications to treat high-risk COVID-19 patients: Paxlovid and Molnupiravir. The pills can be taken at home, unlike most treatments which are given in a hospital environment. How do they work? Paxlovid blocks an enzyme which COVID-19 needs in order to replicate within cells, and Molnupiravir introduces errors into the virus’s genetic code, preventing it from replicating.