Since the early days of COVID-19 when the best tools society had to combat the disease were physical distancing, masks, and hand-washing, science and research have evolved. There are now vaccines to mitigate sickness and death, and treatments to alleviate symptoms once individuals have COVID-19. Does this mean that individuals should be less concerned about contracting COVID-19 now that there are more ways to fight the disease? The answer is no.

Currently there are several treatments for people who contract COVID. According to Dr. Torian Easterling, first deputy commissioner and chief equity officer for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, “March 2020 was certainly a different pandemic than what we experienced in July of 2021…and that’s why I continue to emphasize that it’s not just about vaccines although they are powerfully important, we do have treatment that’s available.”  

Even with all the new treatments and tools at our disposal, according to the CDC, individuals 6 months and older in August 2022 had a 2.7 times chance of testing positive for COVID-19 if they were unvaccinated as opposed to vaccinated with at least a primary series and five times the chance of dying from COVID-19 if unvaccinated as opposed to vaccinated with a primary series. For people 50 and older with a primary series and one booster versus those that are unvaccinated, people unvaccinated were two times more likely to die. For those with two or more boosters versus those that are unvaccinated, people unvaccinated were 12 times more likely to die. 

Antivirals such as Paxlovid are one such treatment. It was the first COVID-19 antiviral pill to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has prioritized its use over other treatments for eligible patients. It is meant for people who have a current COVID-19 infection.

Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) are a second treatment option. According to the Health and Human Services site “Combat COVID”  “The mAb treatment can block the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering cells in your body and limit the amount of the virus within your body. This means you may have milder symptoms and may decrease the likelihood of you needing to stay in the hospital.”

Finally, Long-acting antibody (LAAB) treatments such as Evusheld help protect people before they are exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and are for people who are immunocompromised and may not be able to mount an effective immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine or have a history to adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to experts at UC Davis “[t]he monoclonal antibody therapy is a valuable tool for us when treating COVID-19, but in no way is it a substitute for vaccinations…Early treatment with the monoclonal antibody therapy can reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death, but it will not protect you against catching the virus.” The same is true for antiviral medications which experts agree are not a substitute for the vaccine.

According to Easterling, an important reason for individuals to avoid COVID-19 is the possibility of contracting Long COVID. “There is so much that we do not know about and we’re still learning about Long COVID. We know that long COVID symptoms exist. We know what we have seen in our data. The neurological symptoms, the ongoing respiratory symptoms that people are experiencing, which is why our colleagues at New York City Health and Hospitals have put in place infrastructure through our Long COVID Centers of Excellence.” Easterling continued, stating, “It is really important that [people] need to understand that you do not want to experience [Long COVID] but then also I think the other part is to remember the COVID continues to be a disruption in people’s lives. We’re [going] back to school, we do not want individuals to [have to miss] days from school.”

It is critical to use treatments, vaccines, masking, together, with the primary focus being preventing individuals from contracting COVID-19 in the first place. 

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Additional resources can also be accessed on the AmNews COVID-19 page:

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