Coronavirus – The Latest News and Information
Children and adolescents are contracting the fast-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant, just as health officials predicted before schools opened across the country. There are now more children being hospitalized for COVID-19 than when the United States first started tracking pediatric cases about a year ago.
Children represented 26.8 percent of weekly COVID-19 cases nationwide between August 26 and September 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Two weeks prior to this report, children represented 22 percent of weekly reported cases.
“It is scary to see the number and severity of COVID-19 cases rising in children with the delta variant and so many kids still left unprotected,” said Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin, a community pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic. “The pandemic never stopped, and unfortunately, it only takes one lit match to reignite the inferno.”
Children 12 and older are allowed to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 12 wear a mask in public spaces and around people they do not live with.
Report: Moderna’s Vaccine Offers Better Protection
The Moderna vaccine offers stronger protection against COVID-19 than the Pfizer vaccine while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine provided the weakest protection, according to a CDC study published in September in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires one dose.
The study reviewed data of nearly 3,700 patients in 21 hospitals in 18 states between March and August. Among patients who were fully vaccinated, researchers found the Moderna vaccine was 93 percent effective against COVID-19 hospitalization, Pfizer’s vaccine was 88 percent effective, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was 71 percent effective.
The data further showed Moderna’s vaccine protection fell slightly to 92 percent effective at more than four months after the second vaccine dose. Pfizer’s vaccine protection, however, declined significantly from 91 percent effective to 77 percent effective at more than four months after the second vaccine dose.
Besides vaccines, scientists are looking at pills as another way to fight against COVID-19. At least three antivirals in pill form are in the clinical trial stages. Results are expected as soon as late fall or winter.
FDA Gives Green Light to Pfizer Booster Shot
With studies showing the significant decrease in Pfizer’s vaccine effectiveness over time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its approval for certain populations to get a singe booster dose of the vaccine.
Third shots of Pfizer’s vaccine were recommended for:
- People 65 or older
- Adults 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions
- People at high risk for COVID-19 exposure, such as healthcare workers, teachers, day care staff, grocery workers, and people in homeless shelters or prisons
The recommendation only applies to people who previously received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
New COVID-19 Symptoms Reported
Fever, chills, fatigue, and a continuous cough were among the top of the original COVID-19 symptoms in 2020. Now, because of the Delta variant, the ongoing Zoe COVID Symptom Study, based in the United Kingdom, has identified the new top five symptoms as:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell
The study allows people to report their symptoms on an app so that scientists can analyze the data.
In Europe, a small number of people reported having three new symptoms after receiving Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations:
- Erythema multiforme, a form of allergic skin reaction
- Glomerulonephritis or kidney inflammation
- Nephrotic syndrome, a renal disorder characterized by heavy urinary protein losses
Breakthrough Infections On The Rise
Breakthrough infections are occurring more frequently than previously reported, according to the CDC. Breakthrough infections occur when people who have been fully vaccinated contract COVID-19.
Public health officials believe that breakthrough infections rarely cause severe illness or hospitalization, which is what usually happens to people who have not been vaccinated.
Will Stone, a journalist from Seattle, said he contracted COVID-19 even though he received the Pfizer vaccine in April. However, like many other fully vaccinated people, Stone said he loosened up on wearing masks all the time and physical distancing. He also started traveling, visiting friends, eating indoors and even went to a wedding attended by other vaccinated people.
“I was just one more example of our country’s tug and pull between fantasies of a post-covid summer and the realities of our still-raging pandemic, in which even the vaccinated can get sick,” Stone wrote in an article for Kaiser Health News.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, during a briefing in August, that breakthrough cases are likely due to “both waning immunity and the strength of the widespread delta variant.”
While the Delta variant currently dominates in the United States, another spreading strain has surfaced in the country. The new R.1 variant was first found in Kentucky which was first identified in an outbreak at a skilled nursing facility there.
A CDC report found the “attack rates were three to four times as high among unvaccinated residents and [workers] as among those who were vaccinated.” The CDC has not listed R.1 as a variant of concern.
Public Message About COVID-19 Should Change
Ann E. Wallace, a Jersey City resident, developed COVID-19 in March 2020. While she survived the disease, Wallace said she is still experiencing a variety of COVID-19 symptoms. Wallace is one of many “long-haulers,” people who still have symptoms long after their initial infection.
Wallace says she has had about 100 symptoms, ranging from muscle and joint pain, to brain fog and impaired verbal recall, to insomnia and nightmares. She often wonders if she will ever fully recover from it. Wallace now writes about her experience and supports other long haulers who “often feel invisible and ignored” and are often “dismissed by doctors who do not believe we are still sick.”
In light of problems COVID-19 survivors face and how the disease has evolved over the past year, infectious disease specialists say there needs to be “new mental models to make sense of the pandemic as it exists right now” because people are still confused over the virus and its changes.