At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, doctors had limited knowledge of how to respond to this new disease. Physicians in hard-hit regions across the world had to learn as they treated the first wave of patients, relying on ventilators and high-flow oxygen treatments, as well as early drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir to reduce patients’ risk of dying.
Years later, we have since seen several vaccines prove highly effective in preventing severe disease. The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were all developed in record time, building upon past research into coronavirus vaccines and genetic technology. In December 2021, unvaccinated adults in the U.S. were 2.4 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than fully vaccinated adults and were 14 times as likely to die of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The likelihood of unvaccinated infection rose to 2.6 times as recently as January 2022.
At the same time, pharmaceutical companies have developed a variety of drugs that may alleviate COVID-19 symptoms in those who test positive. Monoclonal antibody treatments provide a boost to the immune system, as patients receive infusions of lab-made proteins designed to fight off the coronavirus. In December 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provided emergency authorization to an antiviral pill treatment that reduces the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and death. Both the monoclonal antibodies and pills are most effective when patients receive treatment soon after their COVID-19 symptoms begin.
Relative to the fact that this is a novel disease never before known to medical science, progress in treatment development has been remarkably swift and agile. Stacker compiled a list of milestones in the availability of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines throughout the first two years of the pandemic, using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and media reports.