COVID-19 in 2021: What’s it going to look like?

Jag Singh
5 min readNov 9, 2020

Over the course of 2020, we have recalibrated our lives and our expectations in the face of a ruthless virus and insufficient measures to control it. And while the recent election of a new US administration may bring a sliver of hope in reversing some of the damage that our country has endured, the uncertainty of this novel Coronavirus in 2021 remains.

The virus has already shown us that, as a nation, we have been pretty reckless and whatever we could do wrong, we have done. Our adherence to face masks and our ability to engage in contact tracing has been subpar, and we are continuing to confront the consequences, with record numbers of cases coming in on a daily basis. Now, despite a recent surge in testing for the virus, some efforts feel too little, too late.

Testing is not an intervention and its immediate ability to stem the tide of infections has remained questionable. The lack of standardization in interpreting test results has been a problem. There is no consistency in clearly differentiating a positive test from an indeterminate or a negative one. Furthermore, there are no clear guidelines as to how often and when to test. Everyone is winging it!

Had we prioritized these challenges in the early months of pandemic, as many other nations did, we might be having a slightly different conversation. At this point, however, we must look to more effective interventions.

Today, we heard the Pfizer vaccine was effective in 90% of the first 94 subjects, and it is on track to get approval for widespread use. While this is undoubtedly positive news, much is still unknown. The course of this pandemic in 2021 depends on the availability, distribution and efficacy of a successful vaccine.

Source: ShutterStock

The Vaccine Reality Show

It may not surprise you that there are as many as 170 vaccine candidates being monitored by the World Health Organization. Of these, 11 are in phase-3 clinical trials. While a couple of these clinical studies were halted due to side-effects and safety concerns, we are now seeing one of these vaccines (Pfizer) close to seeking emergency approval before the end of November. Although it may seem like we’ve been waiting for a vaccine forever, it is actually pretty crazy how fast we have gotten to this point.

Jag Singh

Physician, Scientist & Professor at Harvard. Passionate about social issues, leadership, digital health & medical innovations. @JagSinghMD