Q&A Dr. Pedro Piedra Expert provides updates on the coronavirus for 2022 and beyond
2 0 2 2 A N N U A L C O M M U N I T Y G U I D E
BY HUNTER MARROW
and Prevention. This comes as almost 4.79 million cases of coronavirus have been conrmed in Texas since the pandemic began. As the new variant continues to develop, Community Impact Newspaper spoke with Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at the Baylor College of Medicine, on the advancements made in coronavirus treatments, the knowledge of the omicron variant and the future of the pandemic as 2022 kicks o. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
More than 18.9 million Texans had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Dec. 13, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Of that number, nearly 16.3 million were fully vaccinated with over 3.7 million having received their booster shot. Meanwhile, the coronavirus omicron variant, rst reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa on Nov. 24, had reached all 50 states as of Jan. 21, including Texas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
SLOWING THE SPREAD OF OMICRON The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking four steps to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 omicron variant.
HOWDO THESE VARIANTS KEEP CROPPING UP? RNA viruses—which SARSCoV-2 is—are prone to error. When they replicate, they tend to produce errors in their template, so when you have a susceptible population, and viruses are replicating at high levels, you will see more variation occur. And so you have the possibility of forming more variants. … On occasion, you’ll have a mutation or a set of mutations that will occur that makes the virus more t in its current population and its current world. And that world is con- stantly being modied because the population immunity is constantly changing, especially when it goes from a pandemic to more seasonal. HOWWOULD THAT TRANSITION FROMPANDEMIC TOA SEASONAL VIRUS LOOK FOR COVID19? Over time, what you will expect to see is very similar to inuenza—at least this is what I would expect—that you’re going to get a seasonal pattern where we all have a certain degree of global immunity. We’ll have waning
HOWWILL BOOSTER SHOTS CHANGEMOVING FORWARD? It really takes a number of infection or vaccine doses to educate your immune system so that it stays at a more adult level. That’s true for vaccines that are new to children or when there’s a new pathogen. So I would expect as we go into the next few years at a population level we are going to have an improved mobile immune response where your outbreaks would be more on a yearly basis or maybe every other year. We have to see whether booster shots that we receive now will need to be given in a yearly fashion because we have waning immunity, or once we have a more established immune repertoire to this virus, whether it may be given ... every ve to 10 years. WHAT COVID19 TREATMENT OPTIONS ARE OUT THERE? You have the antivirals that are produced by Pzer and Merck, and there are probably other antivirals out there. They are very appealing because they can be given orally; they can be given in an outpatient
immunity over time. And you will have populations that are vulnerable, whether because of school-aged children [and] the way that they interact in a school environment— and environments introducing spread readily through that setting—or in a work environment. Generally these types of viruses spread fast during the cold weather. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CHILDREN TO GET VACCINATED? The most vulnerable population, besides those who are not vacci- nated, are children. There are a lot of respiratory viruses other than SARS- CoV-2 that are circulating, driven in part by going back to school. So the next population is our school-aged children, although right now vaccines are approved from an [emergency use authorization] perspective. We now need to do a much better job in ensuring that our school children are vaccinated so that they don’t serve as a factory to spread it to the family and to the community and also to themselves.
Detect variants: use online surveys to collect data
Slow travel spread: decrease window for required testing before travel to the U.S., increase testing after arrival
Slow domestic spread: prioritize case investigation and contact tracing
Support individual protective actions: vaccination, boosters, masks, testing and isolation
SOURCE: U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
setting; and don’t require intravenous or intramuscular administration. Antiviral therapy is very appealing as complementary to vaccines. There are at least two major types of antivirals that are out in the public domain that are being sought after for emergency use authorization.
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