CMA 9_21_2021 Update
The US has passed an unenviable Covid-19 milestone of more American deaths than the flu epidemic of 1918. That virus killed 675,000 people. Johns Hopkins University is reporting 676,747 deaths in the USA from Covid-19. Unfortunately, the new cases are affecting our children more. Two weeks ago, 25% of the US Covid-19 hospitalizations consisted of children. This has now increased to nearly a third (32%). The number of children sick with Covid-19 is now 27 times higher than seen in June. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and all children hospitals in the State of Ohio are being overwhelmed with hospitalized and ICU treated children, many of whom are requiring ventilators. Unfortunately, so many of these children remain at the mercy of unvaccinated adults since they are under the age of 12 years-old and therefore vaccination ineligible. The ongoing tragedy of our situation is that 25% of eligible adults and 54% of eligible adolescents (ages 12-18) still remain unvaccinated. It can’t be over-emphasized how their individual choice to remain unvaccinated affects not only themselves. The impact of this disease and its variants is indeed profound on the unvaccinated. In nearly all jurisdictions health officials are reporting that approximately 90% of the Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths occurring at this time are in the unvaccinated (and therefore PREVENTABLE!). On the other hand, people who are vaccinated are also paying a price for the unvaccinated’s choice. The US Centers for Disease Control and Infection and Prevention (CDC) reported on August 30 that the incidence of severe “breakthrough infection” is 1 in 13,000 of the vaccinated population. This unusual scenario has affected 12,908 Americans. Those requiring hospitalization and dying from breakthrough infections are more likely to be seniors and people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders. Of those hospitalized, 75% were 65 or older and of those dying, a staggering 87% were 65 or older.
Recognizing the necessity of getting a larger percentage of the eligible American population vaccinated, the Biden administration has released a strategy to “Vaccinate the Unvaccinated” as part of its six-prong action plan for our “Path Out of the Pandemic” available at www.whitehouse.gov. Though these mandates are controversial and certainly to be contested, they are designed to get us closer to the 85% vaccination rate necessary for immunity.
It has been established that WEARING a mask is a mainstay of fighting this virus. No matter where you venture, you can truly notice that masking is being disregarded. It therefore merits reiteration that because of the Delta variant’s contagiousness, the CDC recommends masking indoors in public, irrespective of vaccination status if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Every state in our country remains at “high” levels except CA which is “substantial”. As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have risen with the variants many large businesses have reversed course. They now recommend masking for their customers. Although politically unpopular, 32 school districts in Ohio have switched to universal masking requirements over the last seven days. Only one Hamilton County school district remains without a mandatory mask mandate for students, faculty, and staff. Note that Cincinnati Public Schools was the first major district in Ohio to mandate masking (Aug 21).
There is more good news on the vaccination front. Firstly, vaccine protection for children ages 5-11 is closer to being realized. Pfizer-BioNTech submitted data to the FDA on September 20th detailing the safety and effectiveness of their vaccine, in a smaller dosage, for this age group. FDA authorization and therefore shots in kids’ arms is still probably 4-6 weeks away. Secondly, the FDA has recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine (3rd dose), six months after the 2nd dose, for people over 65 and those at risk for severe Covid-19 infection. Lastly, Johnson & Johnson released data that demonstrates a second dose of their vaccine, given two months after the first, resulted in 94% protection against symptomatic Covid-19 and 100% protection against severe infection and death.
Our government is doing what it can to oversee our emergence from this pandemic. We the People, are all eager to safely return to our normal. This is within our power and within our reach. Encourage all to get vaccinated and WEAR your mask!
Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association