Coronavirus Morning News Brief – March 22: Vaccination Rates Stall as Possible Surge Looms, Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked in 2020

England’s National Health Service to Offer ‘Spring Booster’

By Jonathan Spira on 22 March 2022
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A nurse at a N.Y.C. vaccine center waits for a patient

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 742nd day of the pandemic.

Regular readers of this space know that the Morning News Brief has tracked vaccination rates for well over a year now.

The first person in the world to receive a vaccine was Margaret Keenan of Coventry, England, who was 90 when she received the jab on December 8, 2020.  She was followed by William Shakespeare, who was 80 at the time, who also received it at University Hospital Coventry.

Later the same month, Sandra Lindsay, the director of critical care nursing at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, became the first person in the United States to be inoculated against Covid on December 14, 2020.

Coronavirus vaccines became more widely available in the spring of 2021 and demand quickly exceeded availability.  Today, the inoculation campaigns in the United States and much of Europe have faltered.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday that only 100,000 doses were administered the previous day, marking a low point in the vaccination campaign.

This comes amidst warnings of a potential surge, this one fueled by the new omicron subvariant, known as BA.2.

Almost 18% of those eligible in the United States, and 12% of those over the age of 18, have yet to get a first dose of vaccine, according to data from the CDC, and the prognostications about a possible coming surge there appear to have little effect on increasing vaccination rates.

The percentage of those who have received a booster, or third, dose of vaccine has stalled as well.  Over 50% of those over the age of 18 have yet to get the third jab, although this is the only area where the needle is inching ahead ever so slightly.  On January 1 of this year, almost 64% had not yet received a booster.

Scientists and physicians in general see the need for a renewed urgency to get individuals vaccinated and boosted in the United States, as the country braces itself for a potential surge, but the demise of such programs as New York City’s $100 incentive for vaccinations or booster shots, which expired at the end of February, sends the wrong message.

In other news we cover today, school mask mandates for children under 5 in New York City will end, the National Health Service is planning a “spring booster” campaign, and a study found that there had been more alcohol-related deaths in 2020 than those from the coronavirus.

Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.

UNITED STATES

New York City’s school mask mandate for children under the age of 5 will end April 1, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday.  The move follows the elimination of the mask mandate for pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade earlier this month.

The action comes despite the views of the city’s new health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, who last Friday said that mask mandate for younger children was still necessary.  Using his 2-year-old child as an example, Vasan said that, while he’d “love nothing more than to send my kid to day care without a mask,” masks were necessary in such cases because those under the age of 5 aren’t yet eligible for inoculation against the coronavirus.

Finally, alcohol-related deaths were up 25% in 2020 versus the prior year, a new study shows.

The peer-reviewed study was conducted by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health, and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday.

The study revealed that, among adults younger than 65, alcohol-related deaths had actually outnumbered deaths from the coronavirus in 2020.  In that year, 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died of alcohol-related causes, while 74,075 individuals under 65 died from SARS-CoV-2.

GLOBAL

Calling it a “spring booster,” England’s National Health Service began to offer a second coronavirus vaccine booster shot to people 75 years of age or older, anyone in a nursing home, and individuals over the age of 12 who have a suppressed immune system.

The second booster dose should ideally be administered six months after the first booster was received.

Meanwhile, poorer nations will receive as many as four million courses of Paxlovid, drug maker Pfizer’s treatment for Covid, under a supply agreement with UNICEF.

Pfizer said it could make 110 million courses of Paxlovid available in 2022. The medication has been found to be highly effective in staving off severe disease in Covid patients when given early in the course of an infection.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, March 22.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 472.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.2 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 6.1 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 409.1 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.3 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday is 57,600,631,  a decrease of 41,500 from Monday’s 57,642,131. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 57,539,715, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 60,916, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 46,131 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the previous day, compared to 7,844 on Monday, 11,718 on Sunday, 36,373 on Saturday, and 35,852 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Weekend figures are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 29,612, a 29% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,056, a decrease of 28% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded over 81.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 998,840. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just over 43 million, and a reported death toll of 516,574. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 657,363, and has seen over 29.6 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position, 24.2 million cases, and the United Kingdom is in the number five slot with 20.3 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, over 255 million people in the United States – or 76.8% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 65.4%, or 217.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 558.7 million. Breaking this down further, 88.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 227.9 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 75.3% of the same group – or 194.5 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 48% of that population, or 93.3 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 64% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Tuesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.01 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 14.4% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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