Trending Clinical Topic: COVID-19 Pandemic

Ryan Syrek

Disclosures

December 24, 2020

Each week, we identify one top search term, speculate about what caused its popularity, and provide an infographic on a related condition. If you have thoughts about what's trending and why, share them with us on Twitter or Facebook. Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

As the latest wave of infections wreaks havoc worldwide, our final top trending clinical topic of 2020 was at least partially triggered by hope for the future. The first COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out in the United States and various countries around the world. Debates are ongoing about who should be prioritized for vaccination, given limited supplies. On a broader level, concerns have emerged about countries that may be left behind due to wealthier nations purchasing vast quantities of vaccine.

Despite these and other concerns, the response to vaccine-related news has been mostly positive. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared in March, the arrival of an effective vaccine has been eagerly anticipated. In the United States, Operation Warp Speed has quickened its pace to match the increasing spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other nations have issued their own approvals and are reviewing numerous vaccines in late stages of development.

Clinicians are beginning to anticipate patient questions regarding vaccination, as widespread use is necessary to achieve control of the spread of the virus. Adverse effects are likely to be among patients' top concerns. Guidance has suggested that although the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people with any history of allergies, it should not be administered to anyone with a known history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine.

Experts say that making a distinction between significant adverse effects and common unpleasant side effects will be a critical aspect of public vaccination campaigns. Nurse researcher Kristen Choi, PhD, RN, who participated in Pfizer's trial, reported feeling "lightheaded, chilled, nauseous, and had a splitting headache." By the next morning, however, all symptoms had disappeared, except for a sore bump at the injection site. She says clinicians must be prepared to reassure patients about similar experiences as the vaccine rollouts begin.

The vaccines arrive as worldwide COVID-19 deaths have risen above 1.6 million and individual countries have been devastated. Italy has seen another disproportionate death toll. In the United States, hundreds of hospitals have recently reported being at or near capacity. With holiday gatherings helping to fuel a rise in cases and winter weather keeping many indoors in colder climates, any new tools to help stem the tide are being met with open arms. This includes the first over-the-counter, rapid, at-home COVID diagnostic test approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Experts have issued reminders that the winter will be difficult, and the arrival of the vaccine will not put an immediate end to widespread suffering; but for the first time since the pandemic began, some have begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel. As healthcare workers on the front lines continue to hope and wait for that day, optimism for the future helped inspire the final top trending clinical topic of 2020.

Stay current on the latest clinical information about COVID-19 vaccines.

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