Bearing Witness to the Pandemic June 2022

The Biden Administration announced that vaccine shots for children 5 and under could be ready to go before the end of this month, pending final approval from the CDC and FDA. This would be the last group of Americans, some 18 million, to become eligible for vaccines. But it is still uncertain how many parents will avail their families of the shots, given that less than 30% of previously approved 5-11 year olds have been vaccinated.

The list of Long-COVID health problems continues to grow. Medical scientists across the globe report that more men are suffering from impotence and erectile dysfunction. It’s not clear whether it is due to some lingering effect of the virus or just increased levels of anxiety, depression, and distress.

The FDA is considering approval of another COVID vaccine, this time from Novavax, that is already available in Australia, Canada, and parts of Europe. It would join shots approved from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer.

Moderna reports that a new booster targeted at Omicron is 1.75 times more effective as its original vaccine in producing neutralizing antibodies.

WHO scientists in its first formal report on the source of coronavirus confirms it likely came from bats that spilled over to a wildlife market in Wuhan, China. Researchers said there was no evidence that it originated in or was leaked from a lab. However, they went on to admit that mor research was needed.

Infections have soared in South Africa in recent months, despite nearly all of its population having antibodies from vaccinations or previous infections. Researchers say that the virus continues to surprise them by its to spread quickly and evolve into new variants that dodge immunity. We should be ever so thankful that the new mutants are less deadly.

Public health officials around the world continue to compare widely varying death rates from different countries. As example, Australia’s fatality rate was one tenth of that of the US with less than 10,000 deaths in a population of 25 million compared to 1,000,000 dead for the US. The most obvious reason is that Australian public and politicians trusted scientists and took the pandemic seriously from the early onset, unlike the US where President Trump initially dismissed it, resulting in large sections of the public who were mis- or disinformed into rejecting protective measures, lockdowns, and vaccines.  More than 95% of Australia’s adults were fully vaccinated, compared to 66% of Americans.

The FDA has now formally approved, and the CDC recommended, shots for children 5 years of age and younger. Now, all Americans have access to life-saving vaccines, if only all Americans would take them.  The Pfizer vaccine for young children is a series of three shots at 1/10th the strength of adult dosage.  Moderna’s vaccine for kids this young is two shots at one-fourth the strength.

Illustrating how easily new variants slip pass vaccines, the most respected spokesman for the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has tested positive and is isolating with mild symptoms. Breakthrough infections and illness are being reported all across the country by friends, coworkers, and family members.

In good news, the WHO says that COVID deaths across Africa are plunging. They expect less than 25,000 deaths during this year, down from over 350,000 last year. Ironically, fatalities due to COVID are higher among more affluent countries where diabetes, obesity, hypertension and HIV were more prevalent. This is similar to the US where our general poor health of the population was to blame for the highest death rates.

With the Omicron mutant far more transmissible, and despite effective vaccines, the death rates of older Americans during the Omicron wave rose. Over the Omicron winter, some 200,000 additional Americans died. During the previous Delta wave, older Americans enjoyed lower death rates than some younger populations due largely to how quickly they were vaccinated and boosted. Fatality rates of those over 65 who were unvaccinated and boosted were 20 times higher than those unvaccinated.

The FDA is asking vaccine manufacturers to update their booster formulations to better target newer Omicron subvariants of Coronavirus. Health officials fear that waning immunities will combine with stronger variants to produce another deadly wave in the fall when people spend more time socializing indoors.

SARS-CoV-2 has now been detected in 29 other animal species around the world including wildlife, pets, and zoo animals. Canada found 76 mutations of the virus in deer carcasses. Officials remain worried that these new variants could crossover into humans as the original virus was suspected of having done from bats in a wildlife market.

The CDC estimates that some 60% of Americans have at one or more times been infected.

As the month ends, an average of 300 people are still dying each day from COVID in the US. Some An average of over 4,000 become sick enough to being admitted to hospitals every day with over 30,000 COVID patients. While these are some of the lowest numbers of the pandemic, with the exception of a period during the summer of 2021, they refuse to move much lower.

The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

The featured image is from the CDC COVID Data Tracker showing US hospitalizations.

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