Living with Covid-19 in Ireland, 2022
Ireland made headlines by dispensing with all Covid-19 restrictions, January 2022, when New Zealand, China, the US with low vaccination rates and other countries impose stricter controls. Omicron mutations in the spike proteins that bind to receptors in the human cell and reduce the effect of neutralising antibodies that protect against the infection were significant mutations. The consequences are that Omicron causes mild symptoms yet is more transmissible. Omicron affects the nasal tissues more so than the lungs contrasting with the severe lung infections and systemic inflammation caused by earlier variants. Omicron is associated with less severe disease due to high level of immunity in the population induced by vaccines or previous infection, thereby reducing the viral concentration. The Irish Government's HSE advised by National Public Health Emergency Team and National Immunisation Advisory Council ensured high rates of vaccination. At least 89% of the Irish population have received 2 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine with 60% receiving a booster dose. Three doses of vaccine were 90% effective in preventing hospital admissions, ensuring the population is well protected.
There were 351 million cases of Coviid-19, 5.6 million deaths, January 2022, so, Covid-19 remains a pandemic.
infection with Omicron will induce protective antibodies against Omicron, so, priming the immune response and boosting the infection with Omicron confers effective immunity against minor variants of Omicron. Covid certificates based on being triple vaccinated should remain in place to allow access to bars, restaurants, hotels and theatres. The biggest threat is from new variants such as BA2 from Omicron. The new anti-viral drugs -Pfizer's Paxlovid and Mecrck's Molnupiravir will reduce hospital admissions and death in high risk individuals, theses next generation vaccines will mitigate new virus variants.
When an infectious disease becomes endemic it becomes constantly present in the population yet does not affect large numbers of people with debilitating disease. Endemic is defined as more controllable, without the major restrictions applied to this point in time. Every disease becomes endemic maintained by vaccination with immunity building up in the population. Omicron increasingly resembles just another coronavirus which causes the common cold. Once Omicron passes then Covid-19 will return but not the pandemic.
People with underlying conditions remain at risk along with the elderly. Caution should be observed. Large crowds still remain a source of Covid-19 because Covid-19 is a disease of crowded places.
Sources: Irish Times, Sunday Independent, WHO statistics.