By Dr. Amro Qaddoura
To say that the past year and a half was tough is an understatement. Residency is challenging enough as it is and needs no compounding from a pandemic that has impacted our wellness through social isolation, virtual/teleconference meeting fatigue, missed travel and special occasions, canceled vacations, increased workload on the front lines and perhaps most importantly, the devastating loss of patients and in some instances, family members and cherished friends. These have truly been trying times and had upsetting consequences for all of us. I’m grateful for the supports in place, both formal and informal, as well the kindness from others. I remember one busy night on-call that was particularly stressful where a kind, affirming gesture of “you’re doing so well!” from a nurse made a powerful difference in how I felt and my outlook on the rest of the night. These gestures and supports helped to mitigate the pandemic’s adverse effects.
For all its low points, I think that we are emerging stronger, better-informed and more equipped to handle the challenges ahead. If I had to choose one sentiment for the rest of 2021, it would be hope. Aside from gaining knowledge and experience, the biggest tangible advantage in my view is having vaccines. We had some stumbling blocks initially, but Canada is now a world leader in the proportion of its population having at least one vaccine dose1. Alberta has similarly reported impressive numbers, with many sites opening for second dose bookings2,3. Seeing a continual trend downward of cases is also reassuring, with the latest estimated reproduction number being 0.76 and the upper estimate of the confidence interval below 1.03,4. These are all positive indicators of a bright future outlook ahead.
Reflecting on the vaccine development, it’s incredible the amount of progress that was made in such a short amount of time. The process was expedited faster than usual given the critical nature of developing a vaccine, but it remains a marvel of science and ingenuity. I think that’s one of the silver linings of this pandemic – it showcased that adversity can be overcome even in tumultuous times. The road to get here was turbulent, filled with many ups and downs, and sometimes just downright frustrating. However, we’re forging ahead and for that I am grateful.
Proceeding with Cautious Optimism
We certainly have a bright outlook. Higher vaccination rates, more experience and declining case numbers and hospitalizations are all positive indicators and terrific accomplishments. We are nonetheless not yet quite out of the woods. We cannot afford complacency. Continuing to follow public health measures, any necessary restrictions and using personal protective equipment and hand hygiene are as important now as ever. Remaining vigilant about variants of concern also continues to be important. These actions will allow for continued progress. Even if we do face potential setbacks, we can be proud of the progress that has been made and reflect on the steps to move us forward.
Overall, the outlook for the second half of 2021 and the coming academic year are positive and hopeful. I, for one, am looking forward to the rest of 2021 with (cautious) optimism.
- Our World in Data. Statistics and Research: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations. Global Change Data Lab [Internet]. University of Oxford. Updated June 18, 2021. Cited on June 18, 2021. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations
- Boothby L. Alberta opens second dose appointments for those who got COVID-19 vaccine in May. Edmonton Journal [Internet]. Postmedia Network Inc. June 18, 2021. Cited on June 18, 2021. Available from: https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/alberta-covid-vaccine-second-doses
- CBC News. Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, June 18. CBC [Internet]. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. June 18, 2021. Cited on June 18, 2021. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-covid-coronavirus-june-18-1.6070985
- Government of Alberta. COVID-19 Alberta Statistics: Interactive aggregate data on COVID-19 cases in Alberta – Cases in Alberta: COVID-19 R values. Government of Alberta [Internet]. Last updated on June 17, 2021. Cited on June 18, 2021. Available from: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-alberta-data.aspx
Dr. Amro Qaddoura is an Infectious Diseases resident physician at the University of Alberta.