COVID update, variants and vaccinations
Dr Bradly Bundrant
There are a number of elements of COVID-19 that are of great concern. First and foremost, cases are on the rise again, in Texas and across the country; there is about 10% increase week to week for more than two weeks. Hospitalizations are also on the rise. Previously we had seen a long period of decline in these numbers, then a plateau and now a sustained increase over two to three weeks. It’s a fact, and facts are stubborn things. We cannot change population statistics, but we can understand and respond to them. Here’s a bit of background: Researchers recently monitored a group of about 4,000 healthcare workers and rescue workers in Texas and elsewhere, from December 2020 through April 2021. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and they showed that 172 of them people got sick with COVID during this time. Of these, only 5 were fully vaccinated, 11 had received one of the 2 vaccines, and the other 156 who contracted COVID were not vaccinated. Looking at this same data in another way, the evidence has shown that the full series of vaccinations results in about 91% protection and that partial vaccination provides about 81% protection. In addition, we know from other sources that almost all recent hospitalizations and deaths involve unvaccinated people.
The vaccinations themselves are cause for concern. There are two main types of COVID-19 vaccines. The first available vaccines came from Pfizer, and then a little later the Moderna vaccine became available. These are both known as mRNA vaccines because they consist of a brand new type of vaccine that uses messenger RNA to directly instruct the body’s own molecular machinery to build proteins that ultimately induce a response. immune system in the body. The other vaccine in this country is from the company Johnson & Johnson (J&J, also in collaboration with Jansen), and it uses a more familiar type of technology in which a modified virus is injected into the body to trigger an immune response. Astra-Zeneca is another company that has a similar vaccine that is widely used in other parts of the world, but not in the United States. The best evidence indicates that there are risks associated with these vaccines, as there are with all vaccines and indeed with all drugs. We know that the likelihood of developing a particular side effect depends on age, gender, genetics and personal history of exposure and medications, etc. There is, for example, a risk of particular blood clotting disorder in women of childbearing age who Vaccine J&J or Astra-Zeneca. They have about a 1 in 10,000 chance of developing this disorder, compared to a 1 in 2 in 100,000 chance that the same thing will happen without a vaccine. This should be viewed against the virtual certainty of having a blood clotting disorder if you get very sick with COVID-19. Anyone hospitalized with COVID has some kind of blood clotting abnormality. The cause of death is often linked to abnormal blood clotting. With mRNA vaccines, there appears to be an association with inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) in young men and boys after vaccination with one of these vaccines. However, myocarditis is much more common and severe to COVID in this same population. In summary, all of the side effects seen with vaccines are also seen in COVID-19, and they’re at least as common in illness as after vaccination, and you have all the other bad things COVID causes besides!
There is also a great concern about the variants. The original virus is sometimes referred to as Wuhan-1. This is the variant that has caused so many deaths in Italy and New York. Before we had very many local cases, this variant had been supplanted by another variant known as D614G. These two types are often grouped together and referred to as the original or “wild type”. The D614G variant spread faster (was more transmissible), but did not cause disease worsening. This variant was quickly replaced in the UK by another variant known as B.1.1.7, or âalpha. *â The alpha variant is about twice as transmissible and also caused disease that was about two times. times more likely to result in hospitalization twice as likely to result in death. It became the predominant strain here, until very recently when the delta variant became predominant. Delta spreads 2-4 times faster than wild type and is at least twice as likely to cause serious illness, hospitalization, or death. Research shows, however, that treatments and vaccines work equally well in alpha and delta variants as they do in wild types. There are two other types that are potentially of more concern. In South Africa, a variant known as beta (aka B.1.351) made headlines when vaccines offered only 50-70% protection against it, instead of 70-100% of protection for other types tested. There is also another variant that appears to be from Brazil and has a similar ability to evade vaccines. This one is known as gamma (aka B.188.8.131.52 or P.1), and in the past month it is responsible for most of the 1.85 million new cases and 50,800 deaths in Brazil. . By comparison, India recorded 1.5 million new cases and 45,000 deaths during the same period. India has 6 times the 214 million inhabitants of Brazil.
The best news about the variants is this: Even though vaccines only offer a 50-70% reduction in disease risk with beta and gamma variants, vaccines still offer almost 100% protection against serious illnesses and deaths due to these variants. The best news about vaccines is that anyone who needs them – every 12 years and over – can get one. In Ballinger, call the Ballinger Memorial Hospital Clinic at (325) 365-5737 and you have your choice of one of three injections for which you are eligible. Likewise, in Winters, call the North Runnels Hospital Clinic at (325) 754-1317. Supplies may be limited.
* Since the power structure has decided that it is not politically correct to name a virus or variant based on its place of origin, it has been decreed that the UK variant is to be called alpha, the variant South African is beta, the Brazilian variant is gamma, the Indian variant is delta, and the Peruvian variant is lambda.