Biblical and Constitutional Politics

Fitness for One and All

 

Various Covid Updates for January 2022

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

 

In this two-part article are quotes from news articles updating various Covid issues I have written about in various Coronavirus articles.

 

I Was Correct on Boosters

 

      Three large new studies from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight the importance of getting a booster shot to provide the best protection against the omicron coronavirus variant. This is the first real-life data to examine the effect of boosters against omicron, which now accounts for more than 99% of coronavirus cases in the United States….

      Getting boosted was 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations during a period in December and January when omicron was the dominant variant, according to a CDC study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations across 10 states (WTAE. Boosters).

 

      COVID-19 boosters increase protection against death from the omicron variant to 95% in people aged 50 or over, the UK Health Security Agency said on Thursday [1/27/22].

      The UKHSA said that around six months after a second dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines, protection against death with omicron was around 60% in those aged 50 and over. However, this increased to around 95% two weeks after receiving a booster vaccine dose….

      “The evidence is clear – the vaccine helps to protect us all against the effects of COVID-19 and the booster is offering high levels of protection from hospitalization and death in the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA. (Newsmax. Boosters).

 

      The first quote above is from the website for my local ABC TV affiliate from January 22, 2022. The second is from Newsmax five days later. Back on December 2, 2021, shortly after Omicron was first discovered, I wrote: “... those who have gotten boosters most likely will still have protection against hospitalization and death, though breakthrough infections will probably become more common” (under “The New Variant” at Statistical Refutations of Covid Deniers and Antivaxxers: Part Two).

        Similarly, on January 5, 2022, I wrote (under “Natural Versus Vaccine Immunity Revisited” at Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates: Part Two), “What we do know is the vaccines protect against severe illness, even from Omicron, and more so if one receives a booster.”

     It looks I was correct out of the box on my predictions about boosters and Omicron. I was also correct on another point about boosters.

 

   From the WTAE article:

      The studies, released Friday [1/21/22], raise the question of whether people with just two vaccine doses should still be considered fully vaccinated. “I think we have to redefine fully vaccinated as three doses,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a longtime CDC vaccine adviser who was not involved with the studies.

 

      On January 5, 2022, I used the following quote (under “Booster Shot Thoughts” at Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates: Part Two):

 

      Dr. Jonathan Baktari, a pulmonary care physician and chief executive of e7Health, said at this point people should think of the vaccines as a three-shot series. “I no longer call it a booster — it’s definitely a three-shot series,”

 

      It looks like I was correct on both counts. Get boosted. It is effective against Omicron, and boosters should be standard fare for the Covid vaccines. Moreover, Moderna recently reported their vaccine with booster remains effective against Omicron for at least six months:

 

      Moderna announced that a new study from researchers at Duke University shows that its COVID-19 booster continues to provide protection against the coronavirus after six months. The pharmaceutical company said that while there was a six-fold drop in antibody levels, the vaccine remained durable against the Omicron variant, which makes up nearly all of the COVID-19 cases in the United States.

      “The drop in antibodies for the booster is very similar to the drop in antibodies to the Delta variant that was noted six months after the second dose of the vaccine,” said co-corresponding author David Montefiori of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute in Durham, N.C. (iHeart. Moderna).

 

      Thus, I was also correct in recommending getting Moderna for the booster shot. Although, I later updated that to say the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine also showed long-lasting protection of up to at least five months when used as a booster after initial two-doses of Pfizer. The only question remains is how long a Pfizer booster lasts.

      However, as I reported previously, the CDC has soured on the J&J shot due to the risk of blood clots and is recommending against its use in most cases. But it does still say to get it for your booster if you had a negative reaction to the mRNA vaccines for your initial series.

 

      The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine may be considered in some situations, including for persons who:

 

         Had a severe reaction after an mRNA vaccine dose or who have a severe allergy to an ingredient of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines).

         Would otherwise remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 due to limited access to Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines).

         Wants to get the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine despite the safety concerns (CDC. Johnson).

 

      Note also, the CDC updated its guidance and is now recommending getting a booster shot five months after the initial series rather than six months:

 

      The CDC has updated its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses, saying people who received the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines can get boosted five months after their initial series. People who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get boosted after two months (WTAE. COVID-19).

 

I Was Correct on Masks

 

      Another WTAE article verifies two points I made about masks 14 months ago:

 

      N95 masks, also known as respirators, have been proven to provide better filtration and protection over cloth masks made earlier in the pandemic. Research suggests disposable surgical masks are nearly as efficient in filtering nearby airborne particles as respirators when worn correctly, and even more effective when worn with a cloth mask on top (WTAE. Experts).

 

      Cloth masks can keep 30% to 60% of particles from coming in and potentially infecting the person wearing the mask, while surgical masks offer protection against 40% to 80% of particles, said Dr. Nate Shively, an infectious disease specialist with Allegheny Health Network.

      “N95 and KN95 (masks) are going to be much better, because they fit tighter and they have filtration material that are going to keep 95%-plus particles from getting in,” Shively said (Trib Live. Experts).

 

    First, note the line that masks can keep “particles from coming in and potentially infecting the person wearing the mask.” The initial point of research for my three-part article on masks, posted on October 11, 2020, was the question, Does a Mask Protect the Wearer from the Coronavirus? Remember, initially, we were told the purpose of a mask was to protect others from the person wearing the mask. But later, that guidance was updated to saying masks also protected the wearer. But many still did not believe the new guidance, hence my article. My research showed that a mask does indeed protect the wearer by reducing the viral load by which the mask-wearer is infected, reducing the seriousness of that person's illness.

    Second, in Part One of that article, under “A Meta-Analysis of 216 Studies,” I state, “N95s are best, surgical masks are next best, while cloth masks are the least effective.” And in Part Two, under “A Facebook Meme, Types of Masks, and More on Correct Mask Wearing,” I use the quote, “Surgical masks don’t work as well as N95 masks, but they are cheaper and more readily available. This makes them useful alternatives when other masks aren’t available.” That comparison is proving to be correct. It is why I have always worn a surgical mask, when masks are required. They are highly protective, readily available, and easier to wear than N95s.

      A doctor who was interviewed on NBC Radio News on January 27, 2022 agrees with this assessment. He said that although he has ready access to N95 masks, he usually wears a surgical mask, even when treating Covid patients. He said he does so as surgical masks are almost as protective as N95 masks, but they are much easier to wear all day long.

    Disposable surgical masks are also very inexpensive, so they can be worn once, tossed, and replaced with a new one. They can also be washed and reused, though they degrade quickly, and the straps tend to break. Meanwhile, N95 masks are much more expensive than disposable surgical masks. Though N95s can be worn more than once, there are limits. And they cannot be washed, so you need to proper steps to keep them safe:

 

      Still, the C.D.C. guidance can provide a useful framework to help us make decisions about how long to use a mask. Based on the five-day rule for health workers, and assuming they wear the mask all day over an eight-hour shift, that suggests about 40 hours of use per mask, said Anne Miller, executive director at Project N95, a nonprofit that vets and sells high-performance masks…

      Washing a mask, or trying to sanitize it with alcohol, peroxide or even ultraviolet light will degrade it and make it less effective. Just let your mask air out on a hook, in a paper or mesh bag or on a clean shelf. The best way to keep your mask clean is to wash your hands before touching it, hold the mask by the straps, and keep it in a clean, dry place when you’re not wearing it. Keep a few masks on hand and rotate their use so each mask has plenty of time to air out between uses (New York Times. How).

 

      It is possible to find somewhat comfortable N95 and KN95 masks. But you do need to do your research, and you need to be sure they are not fakes that do not filter out 95% of particulates. You can start with the “WTAE. Comfortable” link in the References.

      Finally on masks, I want to expose the lies right-wing media has been saying about the new CDC recommendation. They have been saying the CDC has finally admitted cloth masks don’t work, something they have been saying all along. But that is not true. The CDC is saying cloth masks do not work as well as other types of masks. “Do not work as well as” is not the same as “do not work.”

 

     In fact, what the CDC is now saying is:

      The best mask “is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Trib Live/ AP. Soaring).

 

      Along those lines, conservative commentators are also complaining about the “ever-changing advice of the CDC.” They say it has changed its advice about masks, about whether the vaccines prevent infection, and other issues. But that changing advice is because the virus and situation on the ground keeps changing.

     An email I received o January 14, 2022 from my local health system, Allegheny Health Network (AHN), explains the situation well.

 

      Surgical-type, N95, or KN95 face masks are now required within all AHN facilities.
      At the start of the pandemic, cloth face masks were recommended because more protective options were in short supply.
      However, as new Coronavirus variants emerge — especially omicron — and face mask supply has changed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends folks use surgical-type, N95, or KN95 face masks whenever possible.
      Following the CDC’s guidance, AHN is now requiring all patients, visitors, and care teams to wear a surgical-type, N95, or KN95 face mask while in our facilities. If you don’t have one, we’ll provide one.
      These masks provide the best protection against Coronavirus and its variants.
      Thank you in advance for complying with this new requirement and doing your part to keep our care teams, patients, and communities safe.

 

      The point is, cloth masks were somewhat more helpful with previous variants and were all that were available to the public. But with Omicron being so contagious, and with surgical and N95 masks now readily available, cloth masks are no loner recommended, as they no longer reduce the viral load sufficiently to make a difference in the severity of someone’s infection. For the same reason, the vaccines no longer fully prevent infection, but they do reduce the risk of infection, as will be seen next.

 

 

Right Wing Lies About Fourth Doses

 

       A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine given to people over 60 in Israel made them three times more resistant to serious illness than thrice-vaccinated people in the same age group, Israel’s Health Ministry said on Sunday. The ministry also said the fourth dose, or second booster, made people over 60 twice as resistant to infection than those in the age group who received three shots of the vaccine.

      A preliminary study published by Israel’s Sheba medical centre last Monday found that the fourth shot increases antibodies to even higher levels than the third but “probably” not to the point that it could completely fend off the highly transmissible Omicron variant (Reuters. Fourth).

 

    I mentioned previously about a fourth dose (second booster shot) of the Pfizer vaccine being tested in Israel (see under “Booster Shot Thoughts” at Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates: Part Two). But prior to reading this article on Reuters’ website, I only heard about the results on right wing media, and they only mentioned the last sentence.

      It was worded as, “even a fourth shot does not stop Omicron” by pundits like Dana Loesch and Dan Bongino. But worse was Newsmax’s Carl Higbie on The National Report on January 24, 2022. He said, “An Israel study showed a fourth dose is not effective against Omicron.” And that is all he said.

      That was fake news. There is no other term for it. Similar is the title of a video from The Hill, “Israeli 4th shot trial FAILS, ‘not good enough’ against Omicron.” The pundits in the video repeat this line, then they joke, “well, you need a fifth dose.”

      Then Newsmax really moved into fake news when the next day, the host of Wake Up America said, “A Israel study showed a fourth dose actually reduces immunity.” I have no idea where he got that idea from. It appears to have been just made up.

      What makes this fake news on the Newsmax’s TV shows very unsettling is on its website is a correct reporting of the study. The Newsmax article even indicates the study showed such effectiveness that a fourth dose is now being recommended for all adult Israelis:

 

      An expert panel on Tuesday [1/25/22] advised the Israeli government to begin offering a fourth vaccine dose to everyone over the age of 18, citing research showing it helps prevent COVID-19 infection and severe illness.

      The advisory committee said research shows a fourth dose provides three to five times the level of protection against serious disease and double the protection against infection compared to three doses. The Health Ministry’s director must approve the recommendation (Newsmax. Israel’s).

 

      Thus, a truthful reporting of the full results of the study, as seen in both of these extended quotes, would be it demonstrated the fourth dose was in fact effective at reducing “serious illness” among vulnerable people, at least tripling their resistance, and it doubled their resistance against Omicron infection as compared to those who only got three doses. But the fourth dose did not completely eliminate the risk of infection.

      That last point is not a “fail.” Again, an honest reporting of the results would be the fourth dose did work at reducing both the risk of infection and of serious illness among the most vulnerable. That is discussed later in The Hill video, but many would not watch it that far. And again, right wing commentators only mention the failure at full prevention of infection. It is dishonest for them not to mention about the reduced risk of both serious illness and of infection.

      The only question is if a three times reduced risk of serious illness and two times reduced risk of infection is a sufficient difference to make the use of a fourth dose a widespread practice.        Israel’s “expert panel” seems to think that it is, so much so, they are recommending it for all Israeli adults. Again, that is far from the fake news of saying it was “ineffective” or worse, “reduced immunity.”

      But here in the USA, I doubt our “experts” would reach the same conclusion. Our answer would probably be that it is worth it for highly susceptible people. But for myself, at 60 years old, it probably would not be worthwhile, and probably not even for my 85-year-old dad, given that he has no other risk factors beyond his age. However, for those over 65 who also have significant comorbidities that put them at high risk, then it probably would be worthwhile.

     Thus, I will stick with my previous plan for myself and my dad of waiting for autumn of this year to get a fourth shot. Since my dad got Moderna for his booster in November and I got J&J for mine in December, we should be good through the spring, and summer is low risk for infection given mostly outdoor activities. Thus, the autumn and a return for more indoor activities seems the best time to get another booster. But for the reader and others, I would say, as always, talk with your doctor and do not trust the media, right or left wing, for what you personally should do in regard to vaccines and boosters.

 

Up to Date Better Than Fully Vaccinated

 

      I mentioned earlier in this article that to be fully vaccinated should now mean to have gotten three shots of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) or two shots of the J&J vaccine. But the CDC is now saying a better way of wording it is to ask if you are “up to date” on your Covid vaccine?

 

      Up to date means a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible.

      Fully vaccinated means a person has received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines (CDC. Stay).

 

      This page then has a chart detailing exactly what “up to date” means for each category of person and for each type of vaccine. Thus, for instance, for the Pfizer shots, you are considered, “Fully Vaccinated 2 weeks after final dose in primary series.” But then, “Everyone ages 12+ should get a booster dose at least 5 months after the last dose in their primary series.” And “A person is considered ‘boosted’ and up to date right after getting their booster dose” (CDC. Stay. bolding in original).

      That makes sense and is how it is worded for other vaccines. For instance, I am currently not up to date on my tetanus shot, as it has been more than ten years since my last shot. That is something I will need to talk to my doctor about at my next appointment.

      But here, if you are more than five months out from your second dose of a mRNA vaccine or more than two months out from an initial J&J doses, you are not up to date on your Covid shots. You need to get boosted. And yes, at some point a fourth shot probably will be needed to remain up to date. But again, I doubt that will be the case here in the USA until this autumn (2022).

 

End of the Pandemic? Revisited

 

      The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday [1/24/22] that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19’s acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic.

      “It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting of the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly 6 million people.

      “On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge” (Reuters. Do not).

 

      With spotty immunity in the population and a churn of new variants, the coronavirus is likely to become a persistent but hopefully manageable threat….

      … the coronavirus seems likely to become endemic — a permanent part of American lives, a milder illness, like the flu, that people must learn to live with and manage.

      But the future also depends on a wild card: new variants. Omicron surfaced only at the end of November. Most researchers believe other variants are coming, because too little of the world is vaccinated. Eventually some may be both highly contagious and have a knack for short-circuiting the body’s immune defenses, lengthening the misery for everyone ((New York Times. Yes).

      Vaccine equity is the best way to get out of the current pandemic phase of the coronavirus epidemic, the world’s top public health experts said in a panel at Davos on Tuesday [1/18/22].

      Talking about the vaccination gap at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda conference, World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergencies Director Mike Ryan said that over half of the world’s population has received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 7% of the population has been fully vaccinated in Africa.

      “The problem is we are leaving huge swathes of the world behind...But vaccines are absolutely central. There is no way out of the pandemic right now without vaccines as the central strategic pillar.”

      The discovery of the Omicron variant in southern Africa has heightened claims that low inoculation rates can encourage viral mutations, which can then spread to countries where rates are much higher (Yahoo! Public)

 

      It is my hope and that of most everyone that Omicron will be the last “variant of concern” as WHO words it. Given its high infectious rate, it will be hard for another variant to gain foothold. But it could happen. And if it does, most likely, that variant will arise in low vaccinated areas of not just the USA but in other countries with even lower vaccination rates.

      I disagree with many of the Biden administration’s responses to Covid. But one area of agreement is its plan to give hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines to third world countries. But even better would be to help them build their own vaccine factories. That way, they could produce their own vaccines. But either way, helping the third world get vaccinated could in the end benefit the USA by preventing the rise of other variants that could come back to bite the USA.

 

This two-part article is concluded at: Various Covid Updates for January 2022: Part Two.
 

References:

See Various Covid Updates for January 2022: References.

 

Various Covid Updates for January 2022: Part One. Copyright 2022 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).

 


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The above article was posted on this website January 30, 2022.

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