In the News
The new COVID vaccine: will it work?
The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization for the latest vaccine that will include the B.4 and the B.5 variants. Will it work? In all honesty, no one knows but my opinion is that it will make a significant difference. There are two reasons for my optimism.
First, the booster that was in use until now (it has been suspended as of this week) has been very effective in reducing the mortality rate although, as is quite obvious, it does not lower the risk of becoming infected. I expect that we will see the same phenomenon with the latest vaccine.
Second, the portion of the immune response, cellular immunity, which lasts longer than humoral immunity (i.e., antibodies measurable in the blood) may last a very long time, perhaps years. Every dose of the vaccine engages cellular immunity.
Yesterday I received my flu shot. Note that the influenza season is officially under way, and that because so few people suffered from that disease in the past two years, and the fact that we are pretty much back to normal regarding socialization, it is likely that this flu season will make up for lost time. Like the COVID vaccine, the flu vaccine is not very good at preventing disease but it is VERY good at preventing death.
BTW – are you aware that persons who receive the flu vaccine are less likely to have a stroke or heart attack in the six months following vaccination, whereas those who get influenza are MORE likely to have a stroke or heart attack in the weeks following infection?
The bottom line: trot over to your local pharmacy and get on the notification list for the new vaccine and while you’re there, get the flu shot.
Another lie: “Over 75% of COVID-19 deaths are in persons who received the vaccine.” Some unscrupulous media (please excuse the redundancy) have distorted a statement by the director of the CDC, Dr, Rochelle Walensky. What she actually said was that more than 75% of the deaths that occurred among fully vaccinated people were in those who had four or more comorbidities (such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease/hypertension or kidney disease). What was NOT included in the stories is that having even one comorbidity increases one’s risk of dying. Considering that 42% of Americans are obese, that more than one-half have abnormally high blood pressure, that 12% are diabetic and that of persons over the age of 65, more than half have at least one marker of heart disease, her comment understates the problem. N.B.: every one of these diseases is lifestyle-related and has nothing to do with aging.
Other news – the polio scare
There was a report of a recent case of polio in the U.S. but some journalists and even some medical workers have not identified the problem accurately. It helps to understand the background.
The vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s is very effective and as result the number of cases of polio quickly plummeted from tens of thousands per year to nearly zero. Dr. Albert Sabin came up with an oral form that was especially valuable in developing countries that could not readily afford needles and syringes. It quickly became the standard around the world. Unfortunately the Sabin vaccine is a live virus, unlike the Salk vaccine which consists of a killed virus. Among hundreds of millions of doses of the Sabin vaccine there are occasional mutants that regain the ability to cause paralysis. In countries such as the U.S. where wild polio virus has been eliminated and no longer causes any illnesses, there were more cases of vaccine-associated polio-like illness (note the italics) than that caused by the wild virus until in 1990 U.S. health authorities switched from the Sabin vaccine back to the inactivated Salk version.
Most countries still use the oral, live vaccine, and in poor countries with substandard sewage treatment facilities the vaccine virus can spread just like its wild cousin. Although, like wild polio, only about one infected person in about 200 develops paralysis or dies, that still amounts to a couple of thousand cases of polio-like illness every year. Furthermore, vaccination rates in many of those countries are quite low so that the mutant vaccine virus can spread in the community.
There has not been a case of paralysis due to the wild poliovirus in the U.S. since 1979. The young man in New York who became a victim had never been vaccinated and his disease was not caused by the wild virus. That is a distinction that has been lost in many media accounts. Health authorities in New York did not mince words; the mutant virus probably came from outside the United States. The enormous number of persons coming into this country illegally is likely to result in more cases of paralysis and perhaps even an outbreak. That’s not only because of unvaccinated immigrants, but because immunization rates dropped significantly during the current outbreak and because so many parents are refusing to have their children immunized.
A warning: the wild polio virus has not been completely eradicated. It is still circulating in two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The reason? Zealots in those countries claim that the vaccine will harm their children and have actually killed dozens of United Nations immunization team members. With increasing numbers of persons coming here from those two countries the wild virus may yet again begin to devastate our children.
Doc, I will definitely get the flu shot as soon as available from the VA. But, it is still hard for me to believe that the flu almost disappeared for two years during the Covid pandemic. I suspect that many people had the flu and covid, but covid was the diagnosis. My wife was diagnosed with Infuenza A at the end of February 2020. No covid test at the time but we learned much later that could have the flu and covid at the same time. Regards, Neighbor Bill
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