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It has definitely been a struggle to get through 2020 and 2021. We all approach 2022 with mixed emotions, hopeful that this horrible pandemic will finally end but anxious about how we get there. The ongoing omicron variant surge really heightens the need for caution which we have been discussing, including boosters, masks in areas of risk, and limiting all potential exposures.

The release of Amanda Gorman’s new poem: “New Day’s Lyric” sets the tone for the kind of resilience we need, moving forward. In addition, looking at the history of past pandemics (and how they ended), reinforcing healthy habits for the New Year and staying abreast of new COVID-19 updates can guide us towards the most positive approaches to 2022.

“So let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next."

So says Amanda Gorman the 23-year-old who read her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Her new poem was released on Instagram and recited to an empty theater. Gorman indicates that the newest poem was partly inspired by the stories of grief and perseverance she has seen shared on social media. I am particularly struck by her emphasis on the need to believe in a positive future (“Those fortunes we foreshore, now the future we foresee”). As a Scotsman, I love the tip of her hat to the Scottish poet Robert Burns: “For auld lang syne, be bold, sang Time this year … For wherever we come together, we will forever overcome.” My comment is that the healing of the body starts with the healing of the mind. This positive belief will pull you forward to a future with improved health, joy, and accomplishment.

To declutter can be life-changing magic

Although it is wonderful (and we are grateful) to be getting more “stuff” at this time of year, it is also a key moment to evaluate all our “stuff.” Two books in particular give guidance about how to declutter our lives and be much healthier for it! Allie Casazza has a very helpful book "Declutter Like a Mother" (focused on mothers/women) and Marie Kondo with "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" gives a very zen approach to improving health and happiness by decluttering. Marie Kondo has been listed among TIME’s 100 Most Influential People (2015).

Her KonMari method, focused upon keeping things that “spark joy,” has received broad praise.

Although we often don’t realize it, “stuff” triggers anxiety because of reminders about projects not completed or plans for events which never happened, and the list goes on. As additional reinforcement, Marie Kondo also has a Netflix series (2019) which further expands upon her approach and recommendations. Starting 2022 with her perspective can definitely help improve mental freedom.

And what about the end of the pandemic?

A comprehensive review by Jessica Roy (“History’s guide to ending a pandemic”)  Los Angeles Times Page A2 January 2, 2022 (Will this pandemic ever end? Here’s what happened with the last ones) illustrates what happened with prior pandemics — from the 1918 “Spanish” Flu to polio, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and prior coronavirus infections such as SARS. Although vaccination eliminates a couple of these prior pandemics, notably polio and smallpox, most have persisted in some fashion at lower (endemic) levels with a need for ongoing vaccination plus monitoring, testing, and treatments. 

The consensus is that COVID-19 will continue at the community level being controlled by a combination of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, with availability of rapid testing and newer antiviral and antibody treatments much reducing the risks of serious disease consequences.

Might this happen later in 2022?  There are certainly hopes that it can, but the possibility of new variants still lurking or emerging keeps the future picture murky (for now).

Current COVID-19 updates

EXTRA BOOSTER DOSE. Many questions revolve around the need for an additional booster shot for those who are immunocompromised such as myeloma patients. In late October 2021, the CDC updated its guidance to indicate that such groups would be eligible for a 4th dose (second booster) 6 months after a 3rd dose.

This means that for most—they might be eligible by February 2022. Now, this recommendation has been updated to “after 5 months” for those who received the Pfizer vaccination (Moderna recommendation is still unclear). This means that after a Pfizer vaccination, many should be eligible now, which is great. I definitely recommend going ahead whenever feasible to maximize potential anti-COVID-19 antibody levels.

The newly approved antibody cocktail: (Evusheld)

An AstraZeneca antibody cocktail (previously AZD 7442) received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)  on December 8, 2021. This is a long-acting antibody combination comprised of two intramuscular shots: one tixagevimab co-packaged with cilgavimab and administered as part of a combined treatment. It is authorized for use in individuals such as myeloma patients as a “pre-exposure preventative.”

In other words, instead of relying solely on vaccination, to which the antibody response is low in some patients, this therapy provides the needed antibodies, which is an excellent additional defense. It is estimated that the double injection will provide protection for about 6 months. AstraZeneca has reported that its new cocktail retains efficacy against the omicron variant which is excellent news. In contrast, the Regeneron antibody product (REGEN-COV) apparently is less effective against the omicron variant although working very well against the delta variant.

Bottom Line

As we learn more and have more tools available, there can be increasing hope that an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed on the horizon as we struggle to get through the current surge. Let’s all try to stay as safe as possible in hopes that community infection rates will start to fall by early February, and 2022 can perhaps be the time we see COVID-19 transition from a pandemic to an ongoing but controllable endemic infection which will, as Amanda Gorman says: “allow us to reach to what is next.”


Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieDr. Brian G.M. Durie serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.


 

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