Covid Updates

Vaccines have been estimated to have saved more than 20 million deaths. The Lancet Infectious Diseases new release: COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have prevented 20 million deaths worldwide in the first year of the vaccine program, modelling study find

Omicron has been associated with lower rates of MIS-C in children compared to other surges –95% less than alpha. WSJ: Covid-19 Complication Among Children Fades in Latest Wave of Virus.

Getting boosted is important for those >50 years. There was a 29-fold reduction when comparing 2 boosters vs unvaccinated and a 4-fold reduction when comparing 2nd booster vs 1 booster. CDC: Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status

Delusional Thinking That COVID-19 Is Over

A couple recent articles indicate a lot of reasons for concern.

First of all, it is important to recognize that even among persons less than 55 years of age, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in 2021. Inside Medicine: Open Access: The million US Covid dead are younger than you think.

Sadly, more than 300,000 deaths in the U.S. could have been averted (NPR: This is how many lives could have been saved with COVID vaccinations in each state)

There has been a culture shift to learn to live with the virus. This is evident almost everywhere from packed restaurants, crowded venues, etc. However, there is currently high transmission and variants that are evading vaccine protection as detailed by Eric Topol, Open Access: The Covid Capitulation

Key points:

  • The United States is now in the midst of a new wave related to Omicron variants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 with over 90,000 confirmed new cases a day and a 20% increase in hospitalizations in the past 2 weeks…The real number of cases is likely at least 500,000 per day, far greater than any of the US prior waves except Omicron.
  • “Infections…beget more cases, …Long Covid, … sickness, hospitalizations and deaths. They are also the underpinning of new variants.”
  • CDC currently is vastly underestimating the number of cases leading many towards false confidence, “feeding the myth that the pandemic is over.”
  • “As of last week, 43% of new cases were attributable to BA.2.12.1 …. BA.2.12.1 is out-competing BA.2 with its 25% higher transmission rate, which foretells its further rise to dominance across the US in the days and weeks ahead.”
  • “This family of Omicron variants with functional impact indicates more rapid evolution of the virus than what we have seen previously.”
  • There has been a “reduction in vaccine effectiveness that we are now encountering…[Protection from severe disease] has declined to approximately 80%, particularly taking account the more rapid waning than previously seen.”
  • “It’s overly optimistic to think we’ll be done when Omicron variants run their course. Not only are they providing further seeding grounds for more variants of concern, but that path is further facilitated by tens of millions of immunocompromised people around the world, multiple and massive animal reservoirs, and increased frequency of recombinants.”
  • “Vaccinated individuals accounted for … 42 per cent [of the deaths] during the Omicron wave. This is attributable to waning of protection, lack of boosters, and the diminished protection against Omicron (BA.1).”
  • What needs to be done: More boosters/vaccines (“we rank 60th in the world’s countries for boosters”) along with more medicines, and nasal vaccines which could induce mucosal immunity

My take: Unfortunately, these articles indicate that we have a long way to go. High quality masks are going to be needed at health care settings for a while. For those trying to avoid COVID-19, it will remain important to avoid large indoor gatherings. For public policy/economic policy, we need to continue to fund COVID-19 resources.

Related blog posts:

Fifth Era of Vaccinology

A recent commentary (A Desmond, P Offit. NEJM 2021; 384: 1081-1083. Full text: On the Shoulders of Giants — From Jenner’s Cowpox to mRNA Covid Vaccines) succinctly describes the five major vaccine-related advances. The link also provides access to an audio interview with Dr. Offit

1st Advance: In 1796, Edward Jenner “found that an animal virus (cowpox) could protect against disease caused by a human virus (smallpox)… Jenner’s work ultimately led to the eradication of a disease that is estimated to have killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century”

2nd Advance: In 1885, Louis Pasteur developed an inactivated virus vaccine for rabies. This has led to the development of many other inactivated vaccines, including the influenza vaccine.

3rd Advance: In 1937, Max Theiler attenuated yellow fever virus by means of serial passage in mouse and chicken embryos. This has led to the development of numerous attenuated vaccines to prevent polio (Sabin, 1960s), measles (1963), mumps (1967), rubella (1969), varicella (1995), and rotavirus (2008).

4th Advance: In 1980, Stanford biochemists Richard Mulligan and Paul Berg developed recombinant DNA technology which led to vaccines containing purified surface proteins. This led to the hepatitis B virus (1986), human papillomavirus (2006), and influenza virus (2013) vaccines.

Some of the notable improvements related to vaccines:

  • In U.S., the incidence of polio dropped from 29,000 cases in 1955 to elimination
  • In U.S., during the “2019–2020 influenza season, the influenza vaccine prevented an estimated 7.52 million infections, 3.69 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6300 deaths”
  • In U.S., the measles vaccine has nearly eliminated a virus that previously caused 2 million to 3 million infections, 50,000 hospitalizations, and 500 deaths every year
  • In U.S., “since the hepatitis B virus vaccine started being routinely recommended for newborns in the early 1990s, rates of hepatitis B virus infection among children younger than 10 years have fallen from about 18,000 per year to nearly zero”
  • Globally, “between 2000 and 2018, roughly 23 million measles deaths were prevented by vaccination…Live attenuated rotavirus vaccines are countering a virus that once killed more than 500,000 infants and young children each year”

5th Advance: In 2020 “with the recent authorization of mRNA vaccines, we have entered the fifth era of vaccinology. This class of vaccines doesn’t contain viral proteins; rather, these vaccines use mRNA, DNA, or viral vectors that provide instructions to cells on how to make such proteins. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will be an important test of whether these new platforms can fulfill their promise of creating safe, effective, and scalable vaccines more quickly than traditional methods.”

Related blog posts:

Supreme Court Justices “Play a Deadly Game”

A recent commentary (WE Parmet. NEJM 2021; 384: 199-201. Full text: Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo — The Supreme Court and Pandemic Controls) explains how a recent court decision undermines the future of many public health laws.

Key points:

  • “On November 25, 2020, … the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, undermined states’ ability to control that pandemic.” (Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo)
  • Initially, most courts rejected challenges to restrictions imposed by governors during the pandemic. “Initially, most courts rejected these claims, citing the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a Cambridge, Massachusetts, regulation mandating smallpox vaccination during an outbreak.”
  • After the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, ” there was now a 5-to-4 majority willing to block limits on religious services.” This was based on the rationale that it is unlawful to “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment” and that “even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”
  • In dissent, “Justice Stephen Breyer pointed to epidemiologic evidence that in-person worship may pose a greater risk than shopping and other activities that were less stringently regulated to argue that the Court should defer to state officials.”
  • “The Court’s eagerness to intervene even though New York’s orders were no longer in effect and its failure to consider epidemiologic evidence in determining which activities are comparable to worship will serve as a warning” against “state orders that impose tighter measures on worship…[and] suggests that states will not be able to act before super-spreader events occur or as long as other states take a more lax approach.”
  • The author note that “although courts should not abdicate their role during a pandemic, they also should not rush to assume an expertise they lack.”
  • “[The] most important legacy may be the dethroning of Jacobson…[which] has been the key precedent supporting vaccine mandates and other public health laws….With Jacobson apparently sidelined, the future of many public health laws, including and especially vaccine mandates, appears perilous.”

From The Onion:

Also, useful website via NBC: Plan Your Vaccine

Timely Tweets & NY COVID-19 Study

From John Pohl Twitter Feed: Article about mortality/comorbidites from COVID-19 in NYC: Link: Presenting Characteristics, Comorbidities, and Outcomes Among 5700 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 in the New York City Area

Methods: Case series of patients with COVID-19 admitted to 12 hospitals in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, New York, within the Northwell Health system. The study included all sequentially hospitalized patients between March 1, 2020, and April 4, 2020, inclusive of these dates.

Key findings:

  • The authors report a 88% fatality rate among patients requiring mechanical ventilation, including >97% among those >65 years of age
  • Comorbidities were present in 94% of the 5700 patients.  Most common comorbities included  hypertension (57%), obesity (42%), and diabetes (34%). Asthma was present in 9%.
  • Among patients who were discharged or died (n = 2634), 14.2% were treated in the intensive care unit, 12.2% received invasive mechanical ventilation, 3.2% were treated with kidney replacement therapy, and 21% died.

 

From Emily Perito:

From The Onion

 

Liver Briefs -April 2017

JA Flemming et al. Hepatology 2017; 65: 804-12.  This cohort study (2003-2015) of 47,591 adults wait-listed for liver transplantation, using the SRTR registry, showed that the era of direct-acting antivirals for hepatitis C was associated with a drop of 32% for HCV patients who were listed compared to the numbers listed during the interferon era.

AG Feldman et al. J Pediatr 2017; 182: 217-22. This retrospective study showed that elevated lactate levels (≥2.5 mmol/L) and elevated lactate to pyruvate ratio (≥25) were NOT predictive of mitochondrial diseases in pediatric patients who presented with acute liver failure.

AG Feldman et al. J Pediatr 2017; 182: 232-38. This retrospective cohort study showed a high rate of vaccine preventable illnesses (VPIs) following liver transplantation (n=2554), occurring in 1 of 6 liver transplant recipients. Most common infections was RSV; most common VPIs: rotavirus and influenza

Saint Chappelle, Paris

Latest Vaccine Recommendations

As a pediatric specialist, I do not administer vaccines in our office; at times I wonder how the recommendations for immunizations may have changed.  Relatively new vaccines include HPV and MenB. For those who want an up-to-date guidance for 2016 from CDC/ACIP:

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 5.23.04 PM

Understanding Your Food and Biotechnology (Part 1)

Yesterday’s blog post summarized a recent talk by Ronald Kleinman, MD:  Biotechnology, Nutrition, and Agriculture: A Perspective and Implications for Child Health.  Given the prevalence of misinformation on this topic, I am spending the next few days elaborating on this lecture.  The full lecture (video and slides) will be available on the Nutrition4Kids website.

Genetic Engineering Has Allowed Development of Vaccines

Genetic Engineering Has Allowed Development of Vaccines

Biotechnology in Our Foods is Ubiquitous

Biotechnology in Our Foods is Ubiquitous

Biotechnology Has Reduced Mortality Dramatically

Biotechnology Has Reduced Mortality Dramatically

Genetic Change in Crops is as Old as Agriculture

Genetic Change in Crops is as Old as Agriculture. There would not be corn as we know it without crop breeding.

Key points:

  1. Genetic engineering has not only improved our food supply but has been essential in innovations like vaccines and insulin.
  2. Biotechnology is ubiquitous. It’s not just crops, but cheese, wine, etc. Biotechnology has led 16,000 fewer children dying each day compared to 1995; this is largely due to biotechnology. Improved food security and less malnutrition results in fewer secondary complications (eg pneumonia, diarrhea).
  3. Genetic change in foods is as old as agriculture. Lots of vegetables/crops were not found in nature, including corn and wheat. Cross-breeding allowed development of modern corn and wheat.

More tomorrow…

Just Saying…Vaccines Don’t Trigger Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The other day I was having a fun discussion on words that we may choose before providing information that others might not like.  Some examples:

  • “No offense but”…
  • “Don’t take this the wrong way”…
  • “Just saying”…

A recent report (GP de Chambrun et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015; 13: 1405-15) debunks claims that vaccines increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  A report by Thompson NP et al (Lancet 1995; 345: 1071-74) suggested that measles vaccination could increase risk of IBD.  In the current study, the researchers examined 11 previous studies for review and meta-analysis.  Vaccines included: BCG, DPT, smallpox, poliomyelitis, pertussis, H1N1,measles, mumps, rubella, and combined MMR.  This study included 2399 patients with IBD and 33,747 controls. Bottomline: “Results of this meta-analysis show no evidence supporting an association between childhood immunization or H1N1 vaccination in adults and risk of developing IBD.” With regard to the measles vaccine in particular, the relative risk was 1.33 (CI 0.31 -5.80) in cohort studies and the relative risk was 0.85 (CI 0.60 -1.20) in case-control studies.

What types of words do you hear people use before saying something someone is not going to like?

Related posts: