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What we learned about COVID-19 in 2021

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

As we battled with COVID-19 throughout 2021, the newest variant Omicron adds insult to injury. But looking back, there are several critical developments prompted by COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic.

Before Omicron, we had variants like Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Mu – of which Alpha and later Delta became the dominant strain, while Mu never posed a major threat. The driving force behind these trends of dominating variants, including how Omicron silently accumulated so many mutations despite robust global surveillance, is still unclear. Many versions of the vaccines were developed in record time, like the groundbreaking mRNA vaccines, and were more than 90% effective against the initial variants. Still, the vaccines were only modestly effective against Delta and have seemed less effective against Omicron; however, the protection from severe disease remains in the good range.

Additionally, while the use of convalescent plasma seemed a promising treatment initially, many trials showed the lack of benefits, prompting the WHO to recommend against using it to treat COVID-19. Ultimately, the recent emergency use authorization of oral pills from Merck and Pfizer that could lower the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 seems like another significant scientific achievement of the year.

Find out what else the scientific community learned in 2021 here.

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