Federal officials urged – practically begged – eligible Americans to stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters during a media briefing this week, as cases and hospitalizations rise across the country.
COVID-19 related hospitalizations have doubled since April and deaths remain at about 350 a day, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those 50 and older who were fully vaccinated and had just one booster shot were four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who had the recommended two boosters, she said.
“We are at a point in the pandemic where most COVID-19 deaths are preventable,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. “Vaccines remain our single most important tool to protect people against serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths, and staying up to date is essential as we see BA.5 rise across the country.”
Also in the news:
► The Food and Drug Administration authorized Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the fourth available coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. The Biden administration announced earlier this week it had secured about 3.2 million doses.
► A recent study found daily physical activity among kids and teens decreased by 17 minutes a day during the COVID-19 pandemic.
► Viral particles may be be able to survive on meat in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 30 days, according to a June study.
► About 42% of people in a large survey had unusually heavy periods after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
📘What we’re reading: Are we heading into a “hybrid future” as virtual services lose their appeal post-COVID? Read more here.
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Why aren’t Americans over 65 getting their second COVID booster?
Older Americans continue to represent the most vaccinated population with more than 91% of people over the age of 65 receiving a two-dose primary series, and 70% receiving a booster, according to the CDC.
But months after the Food and Drug Administration authorized a second COVID-19 booster for older and immunocompromised individuals in March, only 34% of those over 65 have gotten the fourth jab.
Pandemic fatigue could be partly to blame, said Dr. Joshua Septimus, internist and associate professor of medicine at Houston Methodist.
“Over 50% of all Americans have had COVID now, so people think, ‘Well, I already had COVID and I did fine so why would I need another vaccine?’” he said. “There’s a lot of malaise and complacency.”
However, other experts argue access may be the bigger issue, as family and caregivers return to working outside the home, and traveling to get the vaccine becomes harder. Many seniors are not even aware they are eligible to get a second booster, said Dr. Ardeshir Hashmi, section chief of Cleveland Clinic’s center for geriatrics.
“If you’re going to use social media (for a vaccine awareness campaign), you’re leaving out the vast majority of the population that are not on those platforms,” he said. “We cannot expect our seniors to adapt and wait for them to show up.”
‘Superbug’ infections soar during COVID pandemic, CDC report shows
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the COVID-19 pandemic may have reversed years of progress combatting antimicrobial resistant in the U.S.
While deaths from antimicrobial resistance decreased nearly 27% from 2012 to 2017, they increased at least 15% in 2020, the report shows. One particular “superbug” – carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter – saw a 78% increase in infections.
During the first year of the pandemic, more than 29,400 people died from antimicrobial-resistant infections commonly associated with health care. Nearly 40% of those patients became infected while in the hospital.
“This setback can and must be temporary,” said Michael Craig, director of the agency’s Antibiotic Resistant Coordination & Strategy Unit. “The COVID-19 pandemic has unmistakably shown us that antimicrobial resistance will not stop if we let down our guard; there is no time to waste.”
OCD and gout drugs fail to help people with mild COVID-19
The World Health Organization this week advised against using two common drugs to treat mild or moderate COVID-19, because studies suggest they don’t improve patient outcomes.
Neither the antidepressant fluvoxamine, often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, nor the gout drug colchicine, was shown to provide benefit to COVID-19 patients.
Researchers had hoped that both drugs, which are inexpensive and readily available, could become part of the treatment toolkit. Anecdotal evidence suggested both had promise, but a review of current research by the WHO’s expert panel, published in the British Medical Journal found little to no evidence that the drugs increased survival or reduced the risk of hospital admission or need for mechanical ventilation.
Three randomized, controlled trials involving more than 2,000 patients were conducted on fluvoxamine and seven with more than 16,000 total patients on colchicine. The U.S. National Institutes of Health continues to study fluvoxamine as part of its ACTIV clinical trials.
Can genetics predict how sick you get from COVID?
National Cancer Institute researchers discovered some hospitalized COVID-19 patients are more likely to carry certain genetic variants than those who had a mild form of the disease.
The study, published Thursday in “Nature Genetics,” concluded people of European and African ancestries with variants of the OAS1 gene had longer COVID-19 infections than others without the variants. The findings suggest people who carry this genetic risk might benefit from treatment with interferons, proteins that can help the body’s immune system fight infection.
The laboratory study found cells treated with an interferon had lower viral loads. Researchers also analyzed data from an earlier clinical trial in which non-hospitalized patients received an interferon, pegIFN-λ1. The treatment helped clear the virus from patients, and those who carried the OAS1 variants benefitted the most, the study said.
Contributing: Karen Weintraub and Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.