Flu Season is Here: Step 1 Get Vaccinated

Flu Season is Here: Step 1 Get Vaccinated

A package containing a COVID booster medication. (Maxine Friedman/Capital News Service)

WASHINGTON – Some researchers and medical professionals are concerned that newly discovered Omicron subvariants could cause one of the most dangerous waves of the pandemic yet. But public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aren’t sounding any alarms.

The differences underscore the all too familiar problem of mixed messaging when it comes to COVID-19.

Contrary to popular belief and the country’s current downward trend in cases, many health officials agree that the pandemic is not over.

Omicron, a highly mutable variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is one of five “variants of concern” recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to a CDC tracker, it currently dominates the more than 97 million recorded COVID infections in the US as of November 2.

But as more variants emerge, even the simplest terms like “concern” or “rapidly spreading” seem to be grossly misunderstood.

During Omicron’s mid-summer heyday, a Daily Beast article called the sub-variant BA.5″the most dangerous so far”, citing health experts.

In other online reports, including Forbes Articles and Twitter threads, many have continued to draw attention to the potential threat of subvariants, claiming that US officials have not adequately prepared the country for the arrival of new Omicron spawns, such as XBB, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.

“I don’t think this is a panic time,” said David Wentworth, chief of the Virology, Surveillance and Diagnostics Branch in the CDC’s Influenza Division. “We have emerging variants, but they are sub-lineages of the Omicron umbrella. So they’re all antigenically related to each other.”

Antigenic, Wentworth said, means that even if the names are different, the protein spikes could look similar.

“They have a similarity that your immune system recognizes,” Wentworth said.

The XBB subvariant, a hybrid of two Omicron strains, has been named “an evolving threat” by Fortune magazine due to its ability to “escape immunity” in some cases.

In August, international public health agencies released statements about the increase in cases of Omicron sub-variants, such as XBB.

According to its website, the CDC encouraged people to get vaccinated in September, but continues to omit XBB data from its Nowcast due to the small percentage or infrequency of the subvariant in the country.

Similarly, following previous communications from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, traces of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 were found by sewage surveillance in the United States in early September. As of October 29, the CDC Nowcast, which the agency says “enables timely public health action,” shows BQ.1 and BQ1.1 accounting for 14% and 13.1% of cases, respectively, in this country..

However, this information is new to most people, Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and co-founder of a nonprofit public health organization, World Health Network (WHN), told Capital News Service.

Feigl-Ding and some other health experts on Twitter have called out the CDC in recent weeks for “deliberately” withholding information on these”mortal” variants of the Agency Nowcast until recently. He said the CDC now has to “padding” the data, leaving many questioning the CDC’s ability to prepare the country for another wave.

But Wentworth disputed that characterization.

“We have nothing to hide,” Wentworth said in an interview with CNS. He added that the CDC’s rule is to enter variants of concern only after they have accounted for at least 1% of cases.

The Nowcast page also says it takes two to three weeks to update, as the agency must aggregate all of the wastewater monitoring data.

That upsets Brian Castrucci, president and CEO of the Beaumont Foundation, a private foundation focused on improving public health. He has worked to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public. He is also a father of two, heart attack survivor, diabetic, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patient.

“I look at the (COVID) messages as that person, and I don’t even know what to do,” Castrucci said. “What is the truth?”

The CDC and other public health organizations do not deny that there may be another spike in cases. In fact, the CDC has even noted on its website that progress is possible.

On the same webpage, the CDC says that the Omicron variant has been shown to cause “less severe illness and death,” unlike the Delta variant.

“If you can’t communicate the logistics, then it’s very difficult to act,” Castrucci said.

With updated vaccines, also called bivalent boosters, in addition to preliminary vaccines and boosters, the CDC said people have a better chance of avoiding a COVID-19 infection.

“They can help restore protection that has diminished since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” said CDC Director Dr. Rachelle Walensky. said in a statement On September 1. “This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you’re eligible, there’s no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to get it.”

Still, with anti-vaccine sentiments and vaccine doubts posted on social media, it’s harder than ever for health agencies like the CDC to reach the public.

“It’s not that we have people who are against science,” Castrucci said. “It’s that people are now finding scientists who agree with them.”

In July, Texas doctor Mary Talley Bowden was suspended from Twitter after the social media platform said she had posted “misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”

“127 deaths reported to VAERS in children ages six months to 17 years. Take them off the market. #StoptheShots,” she said.

According to an article Per investigative reporter Emily Miller, Bowden has treated more than 4,000 COVID-19 patients and told more than 120,000 of his Twitter followers not to get vaccinated.

“If you don’t think this is still a big problem and it’s not that serious, you’re going to be attracted to that flow of information,” said Cynthia Baur, director of the University’s Horowitz Center for Health Literacy. from the Maryland School of Public Health.

On October 12, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced approval for anyone over the age of five to receive bivalent boosters from Moderna and Pfizer.

The Maryland Department of Health told Capital News Service on Oct. 19 that the vaccines and boosters are “widely available in the state” and will make Marylanders “COVIDReady”.

The next day, the state Department of Health sent an automated text message to more than 2 million people, saying that more than 522,000 Marylanders had already received the bivalent booster shot.

“Don’t miss out on the holidays and schedule your booster today by visiting covidvax.maryland.gov”, the message said.

General, nearly 23 million Americans they have received the updated booster on October 27 since the initial distribution of the vaccine, which is a slower pace than in the first few months after the original mononuclear vaccine doses came out.

The public isn’t really familiar with medical terminology, Castrucci said.

“Bivalence? And what does that mean?” he said.

Look up the meaning of bivalent vaccines in Google com have skyrocketed dramatically.

“And then also within our own ranks in medicine and public health, there are people who speak out against vaccination, which makes the scientific community appear compromised in its own perception of vaccine safety,” he said. Castrucci.

On Oct. 17, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha and federal public health officials met with leading health organizations to discuss ways they are managing and communicating information about the pandemic. , especially as flu cases begin to rise.

“Administration officials asked the organizations to ensure that their members are doing everything possible to ensure that Americans receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu shots this fall, including through individual patient counseling. as well as phone calls, emails and text reminders to patients. ”, said a statement from the White House.

President Joe Biden too made comments on October 25 on the state of the country’s fight against COVID, a stark contrast to where he thought the country was just a month ago when he stated in a “60 minutes” interview that the pandemic was over.

“We still have hundreds of people dying every day from COVID in this country. That number is likely to increase this winter,” Biden said. “But this year is different from last year. This year, almost all deaths are preventable.”

The president also provided information on the frequency of up-to-date booster shots.

While high-risk people, such as those who are immunocompromised or the elderly, may need more than one vaccine, most Americans, he said, will only need one each year.

Castrucci said it’s important for the public health community to find a way to agree on “clear and consistent messages” as the pandemic continues.

“If you can’t trust anyone,” Castrucci said, “you’ll fall in love with anything.”

By MAXINE FRIEDMAN
capital news service


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