Corona Virus Pandemic: Current status
America is now well into the vaccination campaign for Covid-19 prevention and the process is accelerating. Already 75 million doses have been distributed and 65 million people vaccinated and many more will be vaccinated in the next three months. The good news is that the total number of daily cases, hospital admissions and death rate from the pandemic are trending downward. The data from a study released recently from United Kingdom for the first time shows vaccination works in cutting down deaths from Covid-19 by half. So, please take the vaccine as soon as you can get one. It is a much safer way to build immunity than becoming infected. Another important development is that we may need only a single shot (instead of the two currently given) for effective vaccination. Pfizer vaccine has been found to be 85 percent effective after the initial dose, according to one recent study, which means we can speed up immunizations even further but we are not yet ready to embrace the concept.
Yes, there are still difficulties to register and get the appointment for vaccination from the county health departments and pharmacies, especially for those under 65 years of age. But that will ease up soon. As per President Biden, “Anybody who wanted a vaccine would be able to get one by the end of July.” And I understand that the federal government would begin direct shipments of vaccines to retail pharmacies soon. Because of the current severe winter weather conditions all over the U.S., there is bound to be delay in vaccination doses reaching the destination.
With more people complying with pandemic precautions and vaccination rate going up, we can expect a significant improvement in the new infection rate in next several months. But don’t expect life to get back to normal soon. The reason: new variants of the viruses are coming. Earlier, we heard about the English, South African and Brazilian variants, which are all powerful, more infectious and tend to spread faster with capacity for more damage in the human body. In addition, more domestic variants of the virus are popping up. It’s for this reason that the CDC recently announced new “updated mask-wearing guidance,” emphasizing a snug fit and multiple layers of material as keys to mask effectiveness. Alternatively, one can wear the N95 mask that gives better protection or wear a double mask – “cloth mask over a disposable mask.”
A common question asked at this time is, “Do the current vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, protect us from these variants?” As Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of WHO, said recently “We're still observing and our knowledge of anti Sars- Covid-19 vaccines is evolving. But at this point in time, most scientists believe that the vaccines in development and already been approved should provide protection against the variants because these vaccines elicit a fairly broad immune response, a host of antibodies and cell-mediated immune responses.” That’s a great relief.
Remember, once you catch the severe form of disease, even after you recover, symptoms can last for several months. “At least half of people who recover from it suffer neurological symptoms for months after,” according to Sanjay Gupta, M.D. On top of that, a new serious “multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-A)” that occurs primarily in adults previously infected with the COVID-19 virus has been recently identified. MIS-A seems to manifest usually weeks after developing the infection, though some people may still have a current infection. Children who become infected with the virus generally have only a mild illness but in those who go on to develop MIS-C, some organs like heart, lungs and kidneys become severely inflamed. Fortunately, MIS-C is rare, and most children who have it eventually get better with medical care. The best way for prevention is to make sure your child doesn’t get exposed to the virus. Follow the guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I know all of us are suffering from "pandemic fatigue" and “confinement anxiety from the perennial lockdown,” so it can be tempting to drop your guard, especially during these cold winter months. We just need to pull together and stay with the program till this is over. All of you are now aware of the Covid-19 prevention protocols. And vaccines are the only way to herd immunity and eventual pandemic control.
To be continued …
M.P. Ravindra Nathan, M.D., is a cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of AAPI Journal. For further reading, “Second Chance - A Sister’s Act of Love” by Dr. Nathan from Outskirts Press, can be found at www.amazon.com