20 December 2021
Social animals like honey bees, parrots and humans are biologically driven to live in groups. Honey bees are so highly social that individuals cannot live outside the group. African grey parrots can live alone but age faster if they do. In humans the National Institute on Aging explains:
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we humans have practiced social isolation on a large scale, especially during last year’s winter family holidays. For many it did not go well. Research published in February 2021 found that 40% of adults nationwide reported an increase in depression and anxiety, a four-fold increase compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Our isolation eased after vaccines made a dent in the pandemic in Spring 2021.
However the vaccines cannot completely protect us from COVID’s Delta and Omicron variants, though vaccines do prevent serious illness and death (whew!). Yesterday the New York Times reported:
All [Covid] vaccines still seem to provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron, which is the most crucial goal. But only the Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, appear to have initial success at stopping infections, and these vaccines are unavailable in most of the world.
The other shots — including those from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and vaccines manufactured in China and Russia — do little to nothing to stop the spread of Omicron, early research shows. And because most countries have built their inoculation programs around these vaccines, the gap could have a profound impact on the course of the pandemic.— New York Times, 19 Dec 2021: Most of the World’s Vaccines Likely Won’t Prevent Infection From Omicron
At this point my husband and I are both wary and weary.
We are vaccinated and boosted with Moderna and are planning to visit relatives, all of whom are vaccinated, so we won’t be socially isolated this Christmas but we are wary that they or we might catch COVID anyway.
And we are weary of the isolation and the stress of the pandemic.
I don’t know about you but I certainly feel that I’ve aged since the carefree days of 2019.
(photos from Flickr, Ramona Sahni and Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the original)