We can’t predict the future of COVID-19 or our responses to it. With too many uncertain variables, the best we can do is make educated guesses based on our evidence. For Employee Health (EH) departments, the stakes are high since they’re charged with helping those on the frontline stay safe and healthy. The employee health services that keep hospital staff safe impact our local and national responses to the pandemic.
With so many factors to consider, what are the best ways to stay ahead of the curve when managing health protocols, vaccinations, and boosters? Below we’ll look at what EH departments can expect from the future of COVID-19.
What Will the Future Look Like With COVID-19?
While no one can say with certainty what the future will bring, there’s a consensus among public health professionals that unless a new named variant occurs after Omicron, the virus will likely enter an endemic phase.1
In the endemic phase, the virus is more predictable in its transmissibility and severity.2 For example, Omicron subvariants (currently BA.1 and BA.2) still pose challenges, but we can largely predict their behavior. Hopefully, this predictability will allow EH to tailor employee health services to their geographic area or even their specific facilities.
If an Employee Health (EH) department’s historical employee health data is detailed and organized, it will be easier to target areas where the virus is more likely to spread and mitigate any surges through proactive measures.
Will Annual COVID-19 Vaccinations Be Required in the Future?
When a viral outbreak is active, the virus itself mutates so it can thrive in new environments (such as vaccinated populations). We can expect the SARS-CoV-2 virus to continue to do this, so the question is whether future iterations of its genetic code will make it more or less infectious, deadly, and resistant to current vaccines.3 If the virus mutates significantly, pharmaceutical companies will likely need to develop new vaccines.4 EH departments would need to continue to monitor employee cooperation with vaccine mandates and offer employee health services to ensure access to the latest vaccines.
What To Expect With COVID Boosters?
Ideally, protection from SARS-CoV-2 makes the disease less transmissible, deadly, and likely to cause severe illness and hospitalization. If current vaccines can provide this kind of protection in the face of new variants and subvariants, then the population may only need booster shots for protection. It’s also possible that only vulnerable people will need boosters in the future.
The need for future boosters will largely depend on set goals. Since it appears that boosters do not provide extra immunity for very long, controlling the spread of the virus may require them. But if the public health goal is not to prevent infection but rather to make it less severe and deadly, that may require fewer booster shots.
Researchers are still trying to determine the ideal number of boosters to provide acceptable immunity to the virus.5 However, as employee health departments will know, requiring endless booster shots is difficult and may be impractical.
The Future of COVID-19 Is About Strategy
So, what is the future of COVID-19? Unfortunately, eradication seems unlikely. Even if the disease becomes endemic, infection rates are unlikely to reach zero in the near future. That means there may always be employees, and therefore patients, at risk for infection and reinfection in hospitals and other care settings. EH departments need to remain vigilant about tracking infections and employee cooperation with prevention and mitigation strategies. But with this knowledge comes the power to keep vulnerable people safe from COVID-19.
If you’d like to learn more about how Net Health can help make crucial employee health tracking and reporting easier on EH departments, click here to schedule a demo.
Note: Net Health makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any of the information presented herein. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the viewer’s responsibility to verify any and all information presented herein.
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1 McKinsey & Company, “When Will the COVID-19 Pandemic End?” March 1, 2022.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios,” March 19, 2021.
3 Nature, “The Next Variant: Three Key Questions About What’s After Omicron,” February 28, 2022.
4 Reuters, “Pfizer CEO Sees Annual COVID Vaccine Rather Than Frequent Boosters,” January 22, 2022.
5 Nature, “Three, Four or More: What’s the Magic Number for Booster Shots?” January 28, 2022.