Pandemic Update – October 6, 2021

<p><strong>A Convenient Digest and Curated Collection of Verified News and Studies Related to Resources on Vaccine and Pandemic Concerns</strong></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>More parents say they'll seek Covid vaccine for their 5-to-11-year-olds</strong></p><p><strong><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" /></strong></p><p>About a third of parents whose children are 5 to 11 years old say they want them to get vaccinated against Covid-19 right away (up slightly from July), another third wants to wait and see, and one-quarter gave a hard no&nbsp;in a Kaiser Family Foundation&nbsp;poll&nbsp;conducted just as Pfizer released&nbsp;encouraging trial results&nbsp;in kids. Parents also shared what the pandemic has meant&nbsp;for their kids ages 5 to 17 attending school in person:</p><ul><li>Nearly a quarter said their children had to&nbsp;quarantine at home&nbsp;after a possible Covid-19 exposure since the school year began.&nbsp;</li><li>Just over half of parents say K-12 schools should require students and staff to&nbsp;wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status, with this twist: 70% of mothers favor masks while only 42% of fathers do.</li><li>Almost three-quarters of parents&nbsp;favor their child&rsquo;s school policy&nbsp;requiring masks for all and two-thirds think schools are&nbsp;doing the right amount&nbsp;to prevent the spread of Covid-19.</li></ul><p><strong>U.S. nears 700,000 dead</strong></p><p>The U.S. is approaching another grim milestone, a worst-case scenario that seemed almost unthinkable when the pandemic began. Close to 700,000 Americans have been confirmed to have died from Covid-19, with the actual number likely higher. Despite the wide availability of vaccines, deaths in recent months have been overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated and concentrated in the South, where shots have lagged other parts of the country.</p><p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" /></p><p>California just&nbsp;mandated vaccines for schoolchildren once shots are approved for their age group, becoming the&nbsp;first state to require&nbsp;such inoculations. Drugmaker Merck had its best day&nbsp;in 12 years&nbsp;after a study showed its antiviral pill slashed the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from the virus. The treatment could&nbsp;be a method to keep hospitals from&nbsp;being overwhelmed.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Everyone take a deep breath on Merck pill</strong></p><p>Merck&rsquo;s&nbsp;Covid pill is ushering fresh optimism&nbsp;about the course of this seemingly endless pandemic. Early studies show the drug has the potential to cut the rate of hospitalization and death by around 50% in mild to moderate Covid patients.</p><p>It&rsquo;s exactly the type&nbsp;of tool doctors need to keep patients from getting severely ill and clogging up emergency rooms. And it could become the first drug approved for&nbsp;Covid that doesn&rsquo;t require a patient to visit a hospital or infusion center,&nbsp;potentially saving the health-care system millions of dollars.</p><p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" /></p><p>That&rsquo;s all reason to celebrate, should Merck succeed in getting the nod from regulators. But the emergence of such a treatment shouldn&rsquo;t be cause for complacency when it comes to&nbsp;the most effective tool to end this pandemic:<strong><u> </u></strong>vaccines.&nbsp;Thus far, the anti-vaccine movement has appeared to embrace drugs to treat Covid over getting the very shots that would stop people from contracting the virus in the first place.</p><p>The worst example of that is Ivermectin, a horse deworming agent that&rsquo;s gained underground popularity as a Covid treatment despite research showing it&rsquo;s not effective and possibly even harmful for patients. If Merck&rsquo;s new drug, Molnupiravir, is being viewed as a solution for those who refuse to vaccinate, the Covid virus will continue to persist. That&rsquo;s a problem for children who are too young to get shots yet or those who aren&rsquo;t eligible for a vaccine. And if the virus continues to circulate, new mutations have the potential to emerge, potentially rendering vaccines less effective than they already are.</p><p>Antivirals are a challenging class of drugs to develop. Merck, along with partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, said the incidence of drug-related adverse events was similar in the group that took Molnupiravir and the one that took the placebo. Those rates were 12% and 11%, respectively. The details of that side-effect data will be key to figuring out how widely the drug can be deployed.</p><p>It&rsquo;s no question Molnupiravir could be an answer for many patients, assuming it&rsquo;s safe and regulators give it the green light. But the work being done by public health officials to promote vaccines is still critical given that those drugs have the potential to truly stop Covid in its tracks. &mdash;Cynthia Koons</p><p><strong>CDC urges Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy</strong></p><p>Low Covid-19 vaccination rates among pregnant people have sparked an urgent&nbsp;CDC health advisory&nbsp;targeting people who are now pregnant, trying to become pregnant, and breastfeeding. Covid-19 doubles the risk of ICU admission and increases the risk of death by 70% while also elevating the chances of preterm birth, stillbirth, and NICU admission for newborns. According to CDC data, 31% of pregnant people have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Rates vary by race and ethnicity: They are highest among Asian people (46%), lower among Hispanic or Latino people (25%), and lowest among Black people (16%). Through Sept. 27, there were more than&nbsp;125,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases&nbsp;in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths.</p><p><strong>Vaccine mandates seem to work</strong></p><p>Vaccine mandates from large employers &mdash; especially those in health care &mdash; have begun to go into effect. Vaccination rates are increasing and&nbsp;only a small minority of employees are quitting their jobs.</p><p>As New York&rsquo;s statewide mandate for nursing home and health care workers went into full effect on Monday, 92 percent had received at least one vaccine dose, up from 82 percent of the state&rsquo;s nursing home workers and at least 84 percent of hospital workers a week prior.</p><p>Many hospitals or health systems with their own mandates have seen only a small number of holdouts. At Trinity Health, which operates in 22 states, the vaccination rate increased to 94 percent from 75 percent. Novant Health, in North Carolina, says it has a rate above 99 percent and suspended just 375 workers. Only 150 of Houston Methodist&rsquo;s 26,000 employees left.</p><p>A few departures could still compound&nbsp;major staffing shortages, particularly in rural areas. But healthy, vaccinated workers may also ease shortages during outbreaks, since they will be less likely to take sick leave.</p><p><strong>Outside the health care industry, United Airlines is firing about 600 employees over noncompliance with its mandate, less than 1 percent of its workforce. The vaccination rate at Tyson Foods, which is scheduled to put its mandate into effect&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Nov. 1, has increased to about 80 percent from 50 percent in August,&nbsp;The A.P. reported.</p><p><strong>Delta drives uptick in shots, boosters split belief in vaccine, and Covid's here to stay</strong></p><p>The vaccination rate among U.S. adults is creeping up, from&nbsp;two-thirds to three-quarters,&nbsp;and the racial gap in vaccinations may be narrowing, a&nbsp;survey&nbsp;out today reports. The slight uptick in vaccinations was driven by the surging Delta variant, more than a third of respondents said, closely followed by hospitals filling up and knowing someone who fell seriously ill or died. Most expressed faith in boosters, but one-third said needing boosters shows the vaccines don&rsquo;t work.</p><p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" /></p><p>Democrats were almost twice as likely as Republicans to say they&rsquo;ll &ldquo;definitely&rdquo; get a booster if recommended (68% vs. 36%). Looking ahead, differences melted away. About 8 in 10 adults &mdash; vaccinated or not &mdash; say they expect that Covid-19 will continue at a lower level,&nbsp;and resemble the flu.</p><p><strong>Side effect rates from a third Covid-19 vaccine dose look like second shot, early data say</strong></p><p>People who&rsquo;ve received a Covid-19 vaccine booster&nbsp;are reporting side effects similar to those after the second dose, CDC said yesterday.&nbsp;The new report&nbsp;relies on more than 12,500 submissions via V-safe, the CDC&rsquo;s smartphone-based surveillance network, from people who received third shots of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines after they were authorized for people with compromised immune systems: 79%&nbsp;reported local reactions (including itching, pain, or redness at the injection site), while 74% reported systemic reactions (mostly fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches) &mdash; similar to after their second shot. Overall, &ldquo;no unexpected patterns of adverse reactions were observed,"&nbsp;the report says. Caveat: Some vaccine side effects show up only after millions of shots are administered.</p><p><strong>Target marketing for&nbsp;holdouts</strong></p><p>Last year, a consortium of public health groups and Facebook embarked on an experiment to test how well people respond to different sorts of vaccine messaging. Over a period of nine months, they showed vaccine content to more than 100 million people on Facebook across six countries, tweaking everything from the message itself&nbsp;to its tone, format and style, then analyzing how people responded.</p><p>When marketing products, companies often test colors, language, typeface and other variables to determine which ads are most likely to make a consumer click. Why not apply the same sort of A/B testing to vaccines?</p><p>It turned out that not only did certain content evoke more positive opinions about vaccines, but the&nbsp;messaging that did best&nbsp;varied based on the country where it was tested. In Ukraine, for example, an informative tone did a better job at improving perceptions of vaccination than emotional pleas. In some countries, cartoons worked best. In India, the top-performing message was a personal appeal from a doctor talking about why he vaccinated his own kids. In Kenya, the winner was a straightforward message accompanied by an infographic with a recommended vaccine schedule for kids.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to test our vaccine messaging for efficacy and safety just as we test our vaccines for efficacy and safety,&rdquo; says&nbsp;Angus Thomson, a social scientist at&nbsp;United Nations Children&rsquo;s Fund&nbsp;who worked on the study in conjunction with Facebook, The Public Good Projects and the Yale Institute for Global Health.</p><p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" /></p><p>In Kenya, researchers tested several tones of vaccine ads to see which performed best.</p><p>The disparate results highlight the need to tailor messages to specific audiences. To that end, the public health groups have created the&nbsp;Vaccination Demand Observatory, which will continue working with Facebook to get a better sense of what vaccine content performs best where. The work is critically important as the world grapples with the combined obstacles of the hyper-contagious delta variant, sluggish vaccine rollouts in some nations and plateauing uptake in others. In the U.S., where vaccines are widely available, about&nbsp;25% of eligible adults&nbsp;haven&rsquo;t taken their shots.</p><p>The Vaccination&nbsp;Demand Observatory and Facebook are currently working to replicate that initial experiment with more scientific rigor, testing content in four countries. The materials that perform best will then be compared with standard messaging in randomized trials to measure outcomes like vaccine coverage rates.</p><p>The trouble is that often the facts aren&rsquo;t really at the root of vaccine concern&mdash;and such A/B testing can help pinpoint exactly what is and address it directly. Often the problem comes down to a lack of trust, whether in the science itself, the government or the health-care system. That&rsquo;s part of why the tone of a message is just as important as the content.</p><p>That&rsquo;s where the Vaccination&nbsp;Demand Observatory is trying to make a dent.</p><p>&ldquo;We should be valuing and investing in public trust as much as we value and invest in vaccines,&rdquo; Thomson says. &ldquo;Because without any public trust, there&rsquo;s no public immunity.&rdquo;&mdash;Kristen V. Brown</p>
KR Expert - Dr. Chris Stout

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