COVID-19: Dire Predictions from WHO and Good News for Older Patients
Although vaccines and effective therapeutics are powerful tools in preventing and treating COVID-19, we’re not done battling the disease just yet. The World Health Organization and the University of Washington have dire predictions for COVID-19 deaths through spring 2022. For those stories and more, read on.
WHO Projects European COVID Deaths to Top 2 Million by Spring
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported its projections for the 53 countries in Europe to have another 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 by spring 2022. This would exceed 2 million total in the region. In something of a surprise move, WHO Europe, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, recommended booster doses should be a priority for vulnerable populations, including people over 60 and health care workers. The UN’s international WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, have called for a moratorium on boosters through the end of the year so developing countries that have had problems acquiring the vaccines can have access.
In the U.S., as of November 22, there were 771,118 deaths from COVID-19. If the current daily average continues, the country will pass 800,000 deaths by December 19. The University of Washington is projecting more than 880,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by March 1, 2022.
J&J’s COVID-19 Vaccine Fully Approved for Adults in Canada
Health Canada has granted Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine full approval for adults 18 years and older. The approval was based on initial data from the Phase III ENSEMBLE trial showing it was 85% effective in preventing severe disease, as well as protection against hospitalization and death, starting 28 days after vaccination.
“We are delighted by Health Canada’s decision to approve the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine based on Phase III clinical data that proves the vaccine’s robust safety and efficacy,” said Mathai Mammen, Global Head, Janssen Research & Development, J&J. “As vaccination rates continue to climb, a vaccine that prevents severe disease and protects against COVID-related hospitalization and death will help ease the strain on healthcare systems and is an important option for people in Canada and around the world.”
Breakthrough Infections More Common than Most People Think
Breakthrough infections are when someone who is fully vaccinated catches COVID-19. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told CNBC that breakthrough infections are more common than people realize and encouraged booster shots.
“At this point, I think we need to accept that there’s a lot of breakthrough infections happening, particularly people who are out a significant portion of time from their original vaccination,” Gottlieb said. “There’s probably more infection happening among the vaccinated population, more spread happening in that population, the unboosted portion of that population, than what we’re picking up because we’re just not systematically tracking this.”
Elderly COVID-19 Vaccine Recipients Aren’t at Risk of Serious Adverse Events
A study out of France in people 75 years or older did not find an increase in acute myocardial infarction, stroke, or pulmonary embolism 14 days after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine. They studied vaccinated and unvaccinated adults in that age group between Dec. 15, 2020, and April 30, 2021, throughout France. Over that period, 11,113 people in that age group were hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction, 17,014 for ischemic stroke, 4,804 for hemorrhagic stroke, and 7,221 for pulmonary embolism in people who had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They did not find an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events associated with the vaccine.
After Hospital Stay, Blood Clots in COVID-19 Patients Still a Risk
A study out of Henry Ford Health System in Michigan followed COVID-19 patients enrolled at five Detroit hospitals from March 1 to November 30, 2020. The average age was 63.4 years, and nearly half, 47.6%, were men, the other half, 52.4%, women. The study found that people with a history of blood clots and high D-dimer and C-reactive protein concentrations were more likely to have potentially serious blood clots after being released from the hospital.
After being sent home, risk factors for venous thrombosis included a history of thrombosis, peak D-dimer concentration higher than 3 micrograms per milliliter, and C-reactive protein level higher than 10 milligrams per deciliter in the hospital. Perhaps not surprisingly, when given prescriptions for anticoagulants in people released from the hospital had lower rates of venous thrombosis. The risk also dropped with time.