When vaccines became available for COVID-19, the world was filled with hope. As a doctor treating COVID patients, I felt euphoric getting that shot. Unfortunately, it’s now clear that our vaccines offer only partial protection. After a few months, the protection against infection rapidly diminishes, though not to zero. Boosters help temporarily restore protection.

The silver lining, though, is that vaccinated people do far better than the unvaccinated. In the first year of the pandemic, I had patients dying of COVID every month. But none of my many vaccinated patients who got COVID suffered the same fate. COVID is now a manageable threat and our lives must continue despite it. Determining the optimal booster strategy to prevent serious illness remains a work in progress. Perhaps it will require annual shots. Vaccination will remain the single most effective way to minimize risk and preserve the normal operation of society.

Beyond getting vaccinated, what else can we do for each other? Simply this: If you are sick with a respiratory illness, stay home. If you must go out while ill, wear a mask. Why we didn’t do this before we can all ponder. Let’s learn our lessons, and move on.

Alex Efird, M.D., Seattle