Pandemic Perspective #40 March 6, 2021
So far nearly 300 million doses of the several new COVID-19 vaccines (including Russian and Chinese) have been administered and the earlier-feared complications and possible deaths from the vaccines have just not materialized. Earlier this week the CDC reported that deaths among vaccine recipients occurred in 0.0015 percent and analysis of each has concluded that the vaccine did not cause any of those deaths.
Is that information trustworthy? It’s unlikely that the media and anti-vaxxers could have missed casualties on even a modest scale. Their silence tells the story: this is a safe vaccine and has resulted in reactions mainly among persons with known allergies. From the reports I have seen these unfortunate persons were treated promptly and successfully.
The hesitancy to receive the vaccine because of risk of side effects is no longer justified but there are still many persons, including healthcare workers, who claim that we don’t know if the vaccine will prevent disease. That fear is also being diminished but obviously at a slower rate because not enough time has passed to evaluate that with certainty.
What about mutations, of which there are now several hundred, a number that was not unexpected even from the beginning of the outbreak? Coronaviruses mutate a lot. There are some now circulating around the globe that are able to spread more easily and may cause more serious disease. This virus has been so full of surprises that no one can predict accurately but the technology of the age is not only able to identify such mutants quickly but manufacturers of the vaccine now have the ability to tweak their product to maintain vaccine efficacy – or so we hope! Specifically, the just-released single-dose J&J vaccine is effective when tested in an environment where there is significant occurrence of some of the new variants.
In light of these facts and the recognition that the fatality rate of this virus is lower in the United States (1.8%) than in the rest of the world (2.2%) the hand-wringers have become less vocal. Yet the fact remains that the death toll will continue to rise, certainly at a slower rate as we are now seeing. By mid-summer the adverse effects of a lockdown will exceed the dangers of the virus. For our children that is already certainly the case. Perhaps life will again return to something that we will recognize as normal. Texas has just opened all businesses and in a couple of months we’ll learn if that is a wise move.
NOTE: To those who have an interest in the history of the U.S. West – Wild West magazine has just published my article, No prescription for gold fever in the April 2021 issue. It describes the health challenges faced by the forty-niners and how physicians treated them in the generation prior to the explosion of science-based medicine. To the credit of the editor, the illustrations are remarkable and add a great deal to the text.