Holiday season

Stay safe during the holiday season

Whether it’s family reunions for Christmas or people gathering in city centers as the bell rings at midnight on New Years Eve, there are fears that large numbers of people will mingle during the season. holidays don’t cause spikes in COVID-19 infections. Indeed, many people who will be celebrating the holiday are wondering how to stay safe during the holiday season.

With the new variant, Omicron, showing exponential growth and high transmissibility, there are things you can do to keep yourself and those around you safe during this time.

The first line of defense is vaccination. Although the vaccines appear to be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron, they still offer significant protection against a severe form of the disease which may require hospitalization. So if you haven’t been vaccinated, now is a great time to do so. And if you’re immunocompromised or at risk, a boost can help boost your immunity to the virus.

While richer countries immunize more than 70% of their population and rush to offer booster vaccines, low-income countries have not even been able to immunize all of their health workers and the most vulnerable populations. more at risk. Vaccines have not been shared fairly, which the WHO says leaves us open to the emergence of new variants, which could undermine our current health tools and lead to new waves of viruses.

Vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding by some countries have undermined equity and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of the Omicron variant in a region with low vaccine coverage.

Maybe this holiday season we can reflect on the injustice of vaccine inequity and increase public pressure on governments and manufacturers to do more to share licenses and transfer technology and knowledge. – make, in particular with the new centers for the transfer of technology of mRNA led by WHO, the first of which has been established in South Africa. In the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years, it seems ludicrous that all obstacles, including intellectual property, have not been shared.

While vaccination is crucial to fight the pandemic, it is not enough. The past two years have been difficult and although we are tired of the pandemic, the virus does not tire of us. While it is essential for our mental and physical health to see loved ones, the gathering of large crowds is where the virus can be particularly prolific. We’re starting to see examples of planes, nightclubs, and even quarantine of hotels where the Omicron is spreading more efficiently than ever.

The new variant appears to be the most transmissible to date and able to pierce vaccine protection more easily than Delta or other variants that precede it. Although the immunity conferred not only by antibodies but also by B and T cells (which are more difficult to measure) reduces the risk of serious illness and death, the threat clearly remains and public health and social measures remain. therefore essential tools to reduce the number of infections.

Since COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which is spread primarily through the air via aerosols (small droplets) and larger droplets, it is important to know how to best protect yourself. By talking, singing, and even breathing, people with COVID-19 can easily pass the virus on to others. Obviously, the closer you are and the more time you spend with a sick person, the more likely you are to contract the virus.

Viral transmission is further enhanced in indoor environments where windows and doors are closed, ventilation is poor, and people do not wear masks. When cases increase there is always the option to work and connect on digital platforms, but I understand the fatigue of using video sharing platforms for far too many aspects of our lives. We often need this physical connection for all aspects of our health.

And it is possible to minimize the risks and ensure your safety and that of your loved ones. For example, if you are going to meet friends or family, try to do it outdoors and in as small a group as possible. If it is indoors, try to keep the windows open so that there is a regular air exchange with the outdoors. If it’s too cold, open them regularly so that cool air can circulate. Good quality, well-fitting masks, worn correctly, can really help reduce infections, and the latest evidence suggests that wearing universal masks can significantly reduce the risk of infection. In fact, masks have been described as a vaccine in your pocket and the WHO has detailed guidelines on how to make high quality masks.

All eligible people should get vaccinated as soon as possible. However, even if you are vaccinated and do your best to stay safe, Omicron is still so transmissible that you could come in contact with the virus at some point. If you start to experience symptoms, it’s important to test as soon as possible. While waiting for the results, try to isolate yourself from others in order to break the chain of transmission.

The importance of early detection is also linked to the effectiveness of the treatment given, so the sooner people know if they are sick, the easier it is to determine when they need to be treated or if they need to be hospitalized. Fortunately, new oral treatments that reduce the severity of COVID-19 are becoming available.

Holiday seasons are difficult to navigate during a pandemic, but through vaccination and public health measures, there are ways to minimize risk while spending time with loved ones. As this year ends and another begins, I am more optimistic than ever that if governments and citizens work together, we can get through the acute phase of this pandemic together and use that momentum to address the other challenges of our world. time.

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