U.S. pandemic deaths climb toward 750,000 as shots for kids near

kidvax-300x195The coronavirus pandemic’s fourth, lethal Delta-variant surge keeps receding from its scary September peaks, with “fewer than half as many cases … being identified each day, and tens of thousands of fewer coronavirus patients … hospitalized.”

Still, as the New York Times also has reported, “trouble spots continue to emerge in parts of the West. Alaska leads the country in recent cases per capita, while Colorado has the fastest rate of case growth.”

The pandemic’s grim toll also is lessening but still takes an unacceptable 1,400 lives daily (versus 2,000/day in September).

And the still climbing and likely underestimated number of lives lost to the disease is nearing 750,000 — equivalent to the population of Denver, and exceeding the numbers of people who live in Boston, Nashville — and, yes, the District of Columbia.

How many deaths were preventable?

If those numbers fail to shock, a leading advisor to the Trump Administration has told a U.S. House investigative subcommittee on the coronavirus that the former president and his aides could have prevented 30% to 40% of the deaths that have occurred due to the virus, if they were not distracted by a reelection campaign and so willing to accept and endorse medical disinformation.

Dr. Deborah Birx, hand-picked by Trump to advise him on the pandemic, said she was not guesstimating but had subjected available data to rigorous scrutiny with other experts to develop her view that 130,000 coronavirus deaths were preventable — with face covering, social distancing, discouraging large gatherings, and other steps the previous administration dismissed.

Birx has expressed regret at her role in an administration that embraced at times wild and anti-science views and politicized public health, leaving a legacy of toxic partisanship that has continues to complicate efforts to quash the pandemic.

Law enforcement and first-responder officials from coast to coast, for example, are leading a noisy opposition to mandates that they take vaccines that have proven safe and highly effective in safeguarding tens of millions of people from hospitalization and death due to the coronavirus.

The vaccines were a top priority of Trump officials and might have been regarded as a scientific marvel of the previous president’s time in office. Instead, vaccine hesitancy and outright, belligerent resistance has become a calling card of Republicans and those claiming that they cannot be held to measures that benefit society as a whole — because their individual “choices” trump the greater good.

Vaccinating youngsters

The nation will test anew what has become the less-heard-about norm — the willingness to be vaccinated against deadly and debilitating infections, including the coronavirus — as federal regulators imminently are expected to allow an emergency use of a lower-dose Pfizer vaccine to protect kids, ages 5 to 11.

Biden Administration officials have said the nation has secured sufficient supplies to vaccinate tens of millions of youngsters nationwide as soon as experts approve the shots. They have undergone clinical trials that found them safe and highly effective in young kids, whose siblings older than 12 already were eligible for vaccination. (Moderna has found its vaccine safe and effective in youngsters ages 6 to 12 in clinical trials and is expected to seek federal approval for shots for youngsters soon.)

Federal officials want kids to get their shots at their pediatricians’ offices, drug stores, as well as in clinics and hospitals. Vaccinations will be offered at many schools. Health officials in the District of Columbia are ready to give coronavirus shots, pronto, including at schools and clinics, with details to be publicized after the shots are federally approved, a Washington Post local staff reporter said on Twitter.

The push to vaccinate youngsters has raised questions, because, relatively speaking, fewer of them have experienced severe coronavirus cases, including those requiring hospitalization, and the numbers of pediatric deaths due to the disease have been small (in the hundreds). Concern grew, though, as the data and statistics began to turn negative during the surge of cases involving the highly contagious Delta variant. Data on an array of pandemic-related issues — including how the disease has hit kids — has been difficult to rely on, it must be said still.

Experts also have insisted that children, even while asymptomatic, can be a key way for the coronavirus to spread. This has increased as a worry as schools have re-opened for in-person learning and older adults — aunties, uncles, as well as grandparents — have resumed their activities, including seeing much-missed kids. Older adults, especially those with underlying health conditions and who may be immunocompromised (including by age itself), may be more susceptible to breakthrough infections, even after vaccination and with booster shots.

As of Oct. 29, federal officials reported that 192 million Americans are fully vaccinated, with 16.7 million having received a booster.

Pandemic’s not over

We are not done with the coronavirus and the huge trauma it has inflicted on us all. Please get tested, if appropriate, and get vaccinated. Officials are trying to make it as easy and convenient, as possible — and it’s free.

All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms. If you’re uncertain about getting a booster or optimizing your mixing and matching of coronavirus shots, talk to your doctor, pronto. And, while you’re at it, ask about and get your annual flu shot.

It is true that, along with vaccines, medical scientists are developing more effective therapies to treat the coronavirus and prevent its greatest harms. These treatments are more expensive than getting shots. It is good news that at least one maker, Pfizer, has pledged to share its coronavirus treatment pill’s formula with poorer nations.

We cannot ignore disease and death and embrace nihilism and fatalism. We can quell the coronavirus and we must do so before it mutates again in ways that can be even more disastrous.

Photo credit: Max Perales, 8, participated in June in a Stanford Medicine clinical trial of Pfizer vaccine in youngsters ages 5 to 11.
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