Health on the Frontlines: The Long Road Home

A bottle of COVID-19 vaccine
A bottle of COVID-19 vaccine
Credit: iStock

A year has gone by that we are living in a worldwide pandemic.

We have come a long way since then, with antivirals, antibodies, vaccines and treatment protocols. Sputnik, Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines are being used around the world and the Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine, which can be stored in a regular refrigerator, is being evaluated by the FDA as I write these words. Merck has an RNA-blocking antiviral for COVID-19 that may be released by March, which will be a game changer for early treatment of the disease.

In other parts of the world, repurposed drugs like Ivermectin are being used for treatment and prophylaxis with observational reported success. Avigan, a flu drug from Japan, is being used in Russia, Turkey and India with some reported success. In the United States, we have learned how to use IV steroids like dexamethasone to treat this disease, as well as high flow nasal oxygen. It turns out that hydroxychloroquine only helps if given in the first 72 hours of symptom onset and is useless after that, as the findings of Dr. Harvey Risch at Yale have demonstrated.

We must wear masks—mostly not to spread disease and block it from traveling long distances as well as blocking it from entering our lungs. We have learned that it may even enter through the eyes. Even if vaccinated, we can still get infected, though not end up in a hospital, but one can still be a silent spreader.

The “new normal” will be masks, hand washing often, not touching door handles and gas pumps and fewer hugs, kisses and handshakes. We will learn to appreciate pastimes such as going to the movies, theater, galas, dances, weddings, bar mitzvahs and baptisms. Parents will appreciate teachers more than they ever would have imagined. Doctors, nurses, EMS workers, respiratory therapists and all medical personnel will no longer be called providers but heroes. We have new priority portfolios and realize health, medicine, medical supplies, and good science are now national security. We must all come together in peace, love and happiness as Team America and continue to be the lighthouse for Freedom and Democracy.

Peter Michalos, MD is Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons; Past President of Medical Staff and Past Chief of Surgery Southampton Hospital; Chairman Hamptons Health Society. He has been a resident of Southampton for three decades. 

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