July 18, 2021 Corona Update

Consider the following scenario:

You meet with a new financial advisor, and he asks you to choose among two portfolios to invest your savings. The first portfolio offers guaranteed high interest returns, and no risk to your initial investment. The second portfolio exposes your initial investment to a very high risk and offers essentially nothing in return. Which option would you choose?

Such is the conundrum that our unvaccinated friends currently face: If they choose option 1 (getting the vaccine) they are almost 100% guaranteed that they will not get sick or die from the circulating Covid 19 Delta variant, and can go on and live a healthy, productive life. An excellent investment and the shot is even free. Option 2 (declining the vaccine) exposes them to the risk of contracting the Delta form of the Coronavirus, potentially getting sick, and potentially finding themselves without respirations or pulse. If they don’t get sick, they will have to worry about getting sick, because this variant is about to spread among the unvaccinated like juicy gossip at a women’s club luncheon. The ramifications of a large chunk of the population getting sick, also exposes them (and everyone else, unfortunately) to a second round of economic ruin. This time, however, the recovery will take years or decades. So much for the retirement portfolio.  

This does not seem like a tough choice, but hey this is America and people still eat a lot of scrapple fried in margarine. When you consider that 99% of the deaths from Covid and 97% of hospitalizations that have occurred in the last two months were in the unvaccinated population, and that all of those deaths were preventable, by getting a safe vaccine, the choice seems pretty clear. Consider that states with a high percentage of their population vaccinated are thriving, with low levels of infection and economic activity returning to normal. While in Mississippi and Arkansas, with vaccination rates of 35%, hospitals are filling up again with sick Covid patients, threatening to overrun local health systems as well as devastating the local economy. 

This wave of infection will be different than the last. It will spread more rapidly and will affect more young adults and children. Unvaccinated children under 12, (there are 48 million of them) who are heading back to school, will be a repository of infection for the entire country. They will spread infection to their unvaccinated parents and grandparents. The country will not be divided between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, but between the vaccinated and the infected. Seven percent of ICU patients in Mississippi are young children, under the age of 12. Childhood illness was almost unheard of with earlier strains of the virus. 

The effectiveness of the vaccines, in preventing death and hospitalizations, is undisputed. (People are either vaccinated or not and that information is available when they arrive at the hospital or coroner) It is curious then that vaccination rates are now heavily correlated with one’s political party. Consider this data from a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 907 respondents, published on July 5th.

 Total Population         GOPDemocrats
Vaccinated or planning to get the vaccine           69%          49%            93%
Unvaccinated or not getting the vaccine           29%          47%              6%

You can draw your own conclusions from this, but the last time I checked, Mr. Corona did not have a party affiliation. The reason for the difference is unclear, but it may be related to where people choose to get information. Several hosts on conservative cable news channels have questioned the efficacy of the vaccine and have even discouraged their viewers from getting it. The Washington Post reports that 65% of the negative vaccine information on Facebook, is coming from just a dozen individuals, who are making it up as they go along. In Tennessee, a senior health official was fired for providing information on vaccinations to parents of 12–17 year-old kids. The state legislature has banned discussing information not only about the coronavirus vaccines, but on other FDA approved vaccines as well. Vaccine misinformation threatens to bring this whole house of cards tumbling down.  

Now on to the real world. 

Many of you have questions about booster shots, and to date there are no official answers. Most experts think there is likely to be a booster shot offered to some sections of the population. These groups are likely to include health care workers, those 65 and older who had their previous shot at least 12 months ago, and the immunocompromised. The effectiveness of a booster shot is still being studied, and preliminary reports show excellent responses in both the level of antibodies produced and the duration of the antibody response. Will the booster be the same as the old shot, or will it be altered to reflect the new variants? Good question. We don’t know yet. Will the booster vaccine be an mRNA type or the viral vector type? Based on efficacy, almost certainly mRNA. Many people who have gotten the Johnson and Johnson vaccine have asked if they should get a booster. Right now, the answer is the same as for the other vaccines.  Not yet. It is possible that J&J recipients will be considered for a booster before Pfizer and Moderna recipients.  Recent reports indicate that vaccinations for young children under 12, originally thought to be available in September, will be delayed several months for further testing.  

What is happening with Covid on the rest of the planet? Consider this quote from Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University School of Medicine.  

“Even if you take a very narrow lens that you only care about the lives of Americans, there’s still a very compelling argument that a first shot for an Indian person does more good for America than a third shot for an American.”    

In large swaths of Asia, Africa and the Middle East the population has barely begun to get vaccinated.  You can see the vaccination rates of every country in the world here https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/mappi8ng-spread-new-coronavirus/

 Outside of economically powerful countries in Europe and North America, vaccine availability is almost nonexistent.  Exceptions are Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Chile. Will the churning of this virus around the unvaccinated world produce variants that will overcome the current vaccines? Let’s hope not, my sweatpants are all worn out. Dr. Jha’s point that vaccinating the world as quickly as possible is in our own interest, in my opinion, is spot on.  

We are not out of the woods yet, folks, so don’t throw away your masks and keep your subscription to the premium cable channels. Encourage your unvaccinated friends and relatives to get the shot. Those of you who watch conservative news networks for the politics, should let them know that broadcasting misinformation about the vaccine is over the line, and should demand better. Boycott their sponsors, write them a letter, and turn them off.  Stop believing the crap on Facebook about the vaccine, because it is crap. This is too serious of a problem for all of us to not take action. 

If you have missed any of Dr. Katz’s Corona Updates, you can find them here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Mo5HGFTFm-aXtMw9iWXSfozG6ihqzYEf?usp=sharing

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