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Blog 21 January, 2022 Back

Vax the 2021 word of the year, set to dominate 2022

Becky Malcolm

Vax Oxford Languages' word of the year 2021

Vax was Oxford English Dictionary's 2021 word of the year; progress of the global vaccine roll-out will also dominate 2022.

As highlighted in the WEF World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2022 - one of the most serious challenges persisting from the pandemic is economic stagnation, and global growth hinges on the vaccination rollout.

In some societies, rapid vaccine progress and a return to pre-pandemic growth presents better economic prospects for 2022, but other countries could be weighed down for years, if not decades, by struggles to apply even initial vaccine doses.

The COVID-19 vaccination programme is the largest in history - aiming to give multiple doses to nearly every adult in the world. So far more than 9.77 billion doses have been administered in at least 184 countries worldwide.

The global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX aims for fair and equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for lower-income economies. COVAX delivered its one billionth coronavirus vaccine dose on 15 January 2022. So far COVAX have shipped doses to 144 countries since February 2021.

Pandemic Fatigue

Progress of the COVID-19 booster is slower globally, with the uptake for the third jab falling behind the take up of initial vaccinations, and as we go into the third pandemic year - the emergence of pandemic fatigue is making boosters hard to sell.

Omicron's ability to infect people who have received a booster dose - albeit typically with milder illness - has caused an apathy towards vaccinations and boosters.

The continual virus mutations lead to frequent policy updates, adding to general confusion about mandates, masks, testing, isolation and quarantine rules, all adding to so called ‘pandemic fatigue’

In the United States, 62% of the population, or 207 million people, are considered fully vaccinated, but as of 7 January 2022 just over a third of that number - 73 million - have received a booster. In Russia only 10 million people are boosted compared with 73 million Russians who had a full course of vaccinations. In the UK three-quarters of the double jabbed have been boosted, but booster numbers have dropped off.

Occasionally, a person receiving a booster vaccination may get infected with the virus or even get mild symptoms. This is called a "breakthrough infection." But the vaccine is very good at preventing serious illness, hospitalisation, and death.

But the message is clear, boosters may not prevent all infections, but these 3rd vaccinations will keep people from ending up in an intensive care unit.

"Vaxxed and Done"

Those who have followed the rules throughout the pandemic are now emerging as a contingent of people who are ‘vaxxed and done’ a term coined by Atlantic writer Derek Thompson in an essay describing a growing rift among the people who've taken COVID-19 seriously throughout the pandemic. They are now fed up with all the restrictions still in place to protect the unvaccinated.

The majority of people have been vaccinated so that they can resume normal lives, and they want to reap the rewards of their good behaviour.

In America public health and mental health officials agree that "vaxxed and done" is a real phenomenon, in that some vaccinated Americans are becoming exasperated with COVID-19 safety mandates that many fear will never lift. They feel let down by the system and with COVID-19 becoming more like the seasonal flu for most people who keep up with their vaccinations and boosters. They want to treat it like the flu, by basically not worrying about it and living life normally.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association explains "As a society, we now need to figure out how we live with this post-Omicron. We still need to deal with this. It's still bad. It's still clogging up our hospitals. But we need to figure out where we go from this when this thing nadirs."

So, from getting vaxxed, to being fully vaxxed, no word better captures the atmosphere of the pandemic than vax.