COVID-19 hospitalizations up in 40 states

”…The more contagious omicron subvariant BA.2 makes up 68.1 percent of new cases in the U.S., according to the latest estimates from the CDC. Rhode Island has the highest proportion of BA.2 cases of all states, according to the latest ranking of states by the subvariant’s prevalence…”


1. Comparative Effectiveness Over Time of the mRNA-1273 (Moderna) Vaccine and the BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) Vaccine (Nature) Observational data incorporating cases of Delta VOC have suggested a higher rate of infection in individuals immunized with two doses of the BNT162b2 vaccine compared with two doses of the mRNA-1273 vaccine, suggesting that the real-world performance of the vaccines may differ from one another. We therefore conducted a retrospective cohort study that examined the incidence and severity of Covid-19 infections as a function of the time from vaccination in over 3.5 million individuals across the United States who were fully vaccinated via either the mRNA-1273 or the BNT162b2 vaccine, including over 8800 infections.

2. More Uniformly Infectious, More Treatable, More Genetically Predictable: How Coronavirus is Getting Closer to Flu (STAT News) SARS-CoV-2 remains a long way from being ordinary. It has not yet found seasonal cadence — take the recent surge in Europe and the U.K., which comes just weeks after the initial Omicron wave subsided — and it’s still capable of inflicting mass death and disability (see Hong Kong’s lethal last few months). But there are signs that the virus — and our relationship to it — is shifting in subtle ways that make it more like seasonal flu than it was at the start of the pandemic. One of the most intriguing shifts involves how Covid now spreads from person to person. Also, flu and SARS-CoV-2 are starting to resemble each other at a more basic level too — how they evolve.


1. Studies Examine Risk of Hearing Loss After COVID-19 Vaccination

(J. Harris: Apparently it happens — but rarely.)


A. First Donepezil Transdermal Patch Approved for Alzheimer Disease

B . First Amphetamine Transdermal Patch Approved for ADHD


1. The global death toll during the pandemic far exceeds what countries have reported, the W.H.O. says.

”… a startling glimpse of how drastically the death counts reported by many governments have understated the true toll of the pandemic…

”…In the United States, the W.H.O. estimated that roughly 930,000 more people than expected had died by the end of 2021, compared with the 820,000 Covid deaths that had been officially recorded over the same period… Overall, roughly 14.9 million more people worldwide died in 2020 and 2021 than would have been expected to in normal times, the experts estimated. Most were victims of Covid itself, they said, but some died because the pandemic made it more difficult to get medical care for ailments such as heart attacks. The previous toll, based solely on death counts reported by countries, was six million…Much of the loss of life from the pandemic was concentrated in 2021, when new and more contagious variants drove surges of the virus even in countries that had fended off earlier outbreaks…Nearly a third of the excess deaths globally — 4.7 million — took place in India, according to the W.H.O. estimates…Scientists also noted that excess death rates were not necessarily indicative of a country’s pandemic response: Older and younger populations will fare differently in a pandemic, regardless of the response. And the W.H.O. experts said that they did not account for the effects of heat waves or conflicts…W.H.O. officials cited Britain as an example of a country that had accurately recorded Covid deaths: Their analysis found that about 149,000 more people than normal had died during the pandemic, nearly identical to the number of Covid deaths Britain reported… a statistician at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, who has studied excess deaths in Germany, said that the country’s rapidly aging population meant that the W.H.O. analysis may have underestimated the number of people who would have been expected to die in a normal year. That, in turn, could have produced overestimates of excess deaths…”

2. A new subvariant is spreading rapidly in the United States.

”…The coronavirus is constantly mutating. While some variants seem to vanish, causing little ripples of surges in their wake, others have kept driving large outbreaks. Experts say a new form, BA.2.12.1, is spreading rapidly and will likely in the next weeks become the dominant form of the virus in the United States. There’s no indication yet that it causes more severe disease…virtually every reported infection across the nation is from an Omicron subvariant, and although BA.2 is still the dominant form, BA.2.12.1 is quickly gaining ground…[ EXPERTS] expects rising infections to spread from the Northeast to the South then the West, driving more outbreaks. “We’re already seeing it here in Louisiana,” said Dr. Queen, who oversees genetic analysis for the virus at the university. “Our most recent sequencing runs of community samples have all been BA.2.12.1, and those samples are from mid-April….But reported cases are likely an undercount of the virus’s true spread, since access to at-home tests has increased and the results are often not officially reported…“We’re in this phase of pandemic fatigue and complacency,” he said. “And while we need to balance the weight of mental health with the risk of contraction, as a result we’ve seen an uptick not only in the Omicron variant but other respiratory illness….”

3. Virus cases spread after White House Correspondents Dinner.

”…On Saturday, the comedian Trevor Noah stood before a ballroom of 2,600 journalists, celebrities and political figures at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and asked: What are we doing here?…“Did none of you learn anything from the Gridiron Dinner? Nothing,” Mr. Noah said, referring to another elite Washington gathering in April, after which dozens of attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. “Do you read any of your own newspapers?”


BOOSTER DOSES The debate over whether additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine booster doses are needed continues to heat up as several Omicron subvariants are driving increasing transmission rates in the United States and abroad. A study from Israel published on May 5 provides evidence that a second booster dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is capable of protecting against infection for 4 weeks and severe disease for 6 weeks. However, the WHO has yet to release an official recommendation for additional booster doses, and many health officials remain skeptical about the widespread administration of boosters since neutralizing antibodies tend to wane rapidly after the first and second booster in healthy populations. One point of agreement among experts is that elderly and immunocompromised individuals receive the most benefit from additional doses of vaccine, and the US FDA has authorized additional booster doses for adults aged 50 and older. Notably, 42% of COVID-19 deaths in the US at the beginning of 2022 were among vaccinated individuals, the majority of whom were not boosted. Additional countries such as Israel, Denmark, and Singapore also have authorized second booster doses for certain high-risk populations. US health officials appear confident they will have enough information to decide whether a second booster dose is necessary for the wider population at some point this summer. A major consideration for additional doses is whether the original vaccine formulation is sufficient or if Omicron-specific vaccine formulations are needed. 



1. ”…the pandemic situation is not the same everywhere in the world. China, for example, continues to employ its so-called dynamic zero COVID strategy of mass testing, quarantining of those testing positive, and lockdown of districts or even whole cities (most recently Shanghai)

2. … the global vaccination strategy is far from on track.

3. … vaccine inequity is mirrored by slow and delayed access to one of the few effective oral treatments for COVID-19—paxlovid…When taken early, paxlovid reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 89%…

4. … now is the time to plan, learn from mistakes, and create strong resilient health systems, as well as national and international preparedness strategies with lasting funding.

5 … Nationally, countries need independent inquiries into their responses to COVID-19. Learning from mistakes is never easy and governments can be reluctant to even accept that they have been made. When the UK High Court ruled last week that it was unlawful to discharge hospital patients to care homes without COVID-19 testing, the UK Government claimed to have acted on the best evidence available at the time. This is a blatant lie. The evidence for asymptomatic transmission was clearly available by late January, 2020.”




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