COVID-19 CHALLENGES AND CONSEQUENCES: Omicron takes center stage – complicating policies, guidance, and practices

JANUARY UPDATE (November through December 2021)


The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact is—and remains—immense. The way we disseminate information has changed, leapfrogging findings from the traditional peer-reviewed process to rapid dissemination via crowd-sourcing mechanisms to inform how we respond to this virus. Our language has changed; for instance, we now have boosters rather than third or fourth shots. We understand but have not yet found effective ways to eliminate the devastating delayed efforts for global immunization, leaving us continually vulnerable to emergence and transmission of new variants. And we have yet to learn how to tackle the clashes between science, politics, policies and public health, or the mis/disinformation that remains a challenge for this and future pandemics.

This update, focusing on November and December 2021, summarizes the continuing evolution, spread, and impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, especially as Omicron emerged and became predominant. Specifically, we review sobering COVID-driven statistics; the speed and breadth of the Omicron variant’s effects; evolving science; efficacy of existing vaccines, boosters, and new treatments; and the breadth of the virus’ impact on health care and everyday life. We postulate what may yet be coming and pose some opportunities and challenges in addressing our calls to action.

This latest in a series of updates follows similar updates covering December 2019-January 2021, February-March 2021, April-May 2021, June-August 2021, and September-October 2021 (all available at All updates, including this latest one, draw on a myriad of sources, including global and national agencies, professional organizations, media, and peer-reviewed and pre-print manuscripts.