Lack Of Urgency As Mostly Older Folks Die From Covid-19
The Biden Administration will offer an updated vaccine booster shot this fall.
The headlines have gone away but Covid-19 is still killing an estimated 300 to 400 Americans a day, of whom 85% are aged 65 and above.
Meanwhile, officials are concerned there will be a new wave of coronavirus infections in the fall.
The Centers for Disease Control reports COVID-19 was the underlying cause in 415,399 deaths in the United States in 2021.
What’s our government’s plan?
The Biden administration released a “fact sheet” last week announcing that it plans to “get Americans their updated COVID-19 vaccine shot this fall.”
Biden says his administration has secured more than 170 million doses of the updated vaccine, which will be made available to Americans free of charge at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, health centers and state and local health departments. Officials fear a new wave of coronavirus deaths in the fall.
The plan sounds a lot like the time-worn approach of addressing seasonal flu with an annual flu shot.
The problem is that Covid-19 is fundamentally different from a flu virus and poses much higher risk of serious disease and death.
Epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina says “SARS-CoV-2 is mutating 4 times faster than the flu. It is not seasonal nor annual. It’s not mutating in a ladder like form (like the flu). And we do not have global surveillance systems in place.”
She says it is “premature” to treat Covid-19 like the flu and “we can and should do better… I also think it is a gamble, as the virus continues to surprise us.”
Dr. Jetelina says the nation should leverage innovation and science to develop “next generation vaccines that last longer and/or prevent infection/transmission. It would slow viral mutations. It would slow morbidity (long COVID-19). It could sunset the pandemic.”
But an ambitious plan such as the one described by Dr. Jetelina doesn’t seem to be on the fed’s radar.
Have we reached a point where our leaders are resigned to losing more than 300 mostly older lives a day?
The CDC reports Covid-19, which caused 415,399 deaths in 2021, was the third leading underlying cause of death after heart disease (693,021 deaths) and cancer (604,553 deaths). Covid-19 was the underlying cause for 13.3% of all deaths in 2021, increasing from 10.4% (350,831 deaths) in 2020.
By contrast, influenza and pneumonia was the ninth leading cause of death (54,000 deaths) in 2020 but dropped out of the ten leading causes in 2021 (41,835 deaths), replaced by chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (51,642 deaths).
The CDC says Covid-19 drove down life expectancy in the U.S. by 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020, which is the “largest single-year decrease in more than 75 years.”
One Positive Note…
There is one encouraging note in Biden’s “fact sheet.” The administration is launching a targeted campaign to ensure priority delivery of the new vaccine to the Americans who are most a risk - older Americans and immunocompromised individuals.
In the early days of the pandemic, millions of older Americans contracted Covid-19 in nursing homes and long term living facilities where they were without access to vaccines and surrounded by staff and patients who were suffering from Covid-19.
The administration will work with long-term care and other congregate settings “to ensure that we are protecting those most at risk with these updated vaccines.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will offer “tools” to nursing homes to help get residents and staff vaccinated.
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