Savvy consumers are getting flu and covid shots (hint, hint)
As many as 4 in 20 patients infected with the coronavirus report they have not fully recovered after months and 1 in 20 of those with the disease say they have not recovered at all. The viral illness, which has claimed more than 1 million lives and has infected more than 97 million of us, still kills just under 400 people daily on average.
Meantime, the southeast and south central parts of the United States — including the District of Columbia — are reporting the nation’s highest rates of influenza cases, as this infection is showing an early season surge. Just a reminder that in pre-pandemic times, flu sickened as many as 41 million Americans annually, leading to as many as 700,000-plus hospitalizations, and up to 50,000-plus deaths.
After years now of coping with the catastrophic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, and especially with the sustained harms of long covid, and with evidence growing that this year’s flu season will be tough and break with a recent period of mild caseloads, why aren’t more folks using common sense and getting safe, effective vaccinations to increase their protection against these debilitating and lethal diseases?
Sure, many of the sterner, much-resisted public health measures aimed at battling the pandemic have come down, with regular folks no longer required to cover their faces, maintain distances, and minimize their socializing. But the pandemic isn’t over, much as everyone would like it to be. The wily virus keeps mutating, and new vaccines targeted at widely spreading Omicron variants are widely available — now, including for use with children — affordable, and, according to increasing data emerging, they are safe and effective against the disease.
The shots are not foolproof. They have shown that they better can protect patients, especially the vulnerable — including those with underlying medical conditions, the old, and the young — from severe infections that lead to hospitalization or even death. So many Americans have acquired a degree of protection from the coronavirus due to illness or vaccination, that the coronavirus may not be quite the menace it was just a few short months ago.
Still, serious consequences can result from coronavirus infection, notably for those who suffer the disease’s still poorly understood long form. As the New York Times reported of a large, Scottish study of those with this condition, estimated to afflict as many as 23 million patients:
“People with previous symptomatic covid infections reported certain persistent symptoms, such as breathlessness, palpitations, and confusion or difficulty concentrating, at a rate roughly three times as high as uninfected people in surveys from six to 18 months later, the study found. Those patients also experienced elevated risks of more than 20 other symptoms relating to the heart, respiratory health, muscle aches, mental health, and the sensory system.”
The struggles of long covid patients require more than medical responses but also attention to their needs with jobs, education, poverty, and disability, the New York Times reported.
As for the flu, the early onset of its annual season both concerns public health experts and underscores their warnings that the country may see more severe conditions with the disease than the nation has experienced in more recent times. The various health measures targeting the pandemic had the beneficial side-effect of slashing the usual force of seasonal flu.
But in the southern hemisphere, which, due to the reversed seasons, have more and more up-to-date experience with the infection, the flu season has been a bad one. U.S. health officials hope this does not occur in this country.
In my practice, I not only see the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the clear benefits they may enjoy by staying healthy and far away from the U.S. health care system. It is, according to research conducted in pre-coronavirus pandemic times, fraught with medical error, preventable hospital acquired illnesses and deaths, and misdiagnoses.
Common sense, long experience, and growing amounts of rigorous research have underscored the importance of prevention in improving our health. It is far cheaper and easier to avoid big, costly, invasive, and painful medical interventions and treatments. Instead, we all to need to think and do more about eating healthfully, exercising, skipping smoking, getting plenty of good sleep, using substances like alcohol or marijuana in moderation (or not at all), taking care in driving, and minimizing stresses in our lives.
To combat infectious diseases, vaccines have proved their value in historic fashion. The world made revolutionary progress in diminishing and even nearly eliminating the menace of diseases, including polio, measles, the mumps, meningitis, and more. But evidence-light, anti-science, nonsense-spouting personalities have popped up to buttress the opposition to vaccination. The pandemic only fueled this counter factual political movement, which, sadly, has engulfed the opposition Republican Party.
Though Republicans in Congress have stubbornly resisted funding further federal efforts to battle the pandemic, notably through campaigns to vaccinate people and to develop new and better shots, the federal government and insurers are paying for inoculations, especially for the coronavirus and flu.
Please talk to your doctor if you’re unsure what shots are best for you. Consult your kids’ pediatrician to ensure the young have the vaccinations that will help them thrive. If in doubt, ask your doctors if it doesn’t make more sense to be sure — and vaccinate. You and those you love. We have much work to do to quell the pandemic, avoid a rough flu season, and to get infectious diseases, with vaccinations, back to a more optimal, much controlled state.