April 2, 2021

long haul

Wow. Jamie and I are ending our week on the Oregon coast. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and deliberately avoided news of work and politics. I took three nights off this week instead of writing, because we were out of range. It has been incredibly good for me. We saw whales and tide pools, amazing storms, walked miles on beaches, hiked to a very big spruce tree, ate fresh crab, drank good wine, and rested. A wonderful time.

Now I am ready to get back at my work. Happy to know more and more of my friends and patients are getting their protection from COVID with a vaccine. More data for the PfizerBioNTech vaccine shows it is 91% effective for at least 6 months and with no new safety concerns. They also released data showing it is safe and effective in teenagers as well, which means it will likely be approved so teenagers can be immunized before the start of school next fall.

Also news comes that the NIH is conducting a trial to test a new updated Moderna vaccine that targets the new worrisome B.1.351 SARS-CoV-2 variant from South Africa, that is more resistant to the vaccines that are available. That study has a site in Seattle, testing the efficacy of it. We know that the available vaccines can still prevent serious illness with B.1.351 variant, but it is not as effective in preventing infections.

Public Health officials in Washington and elsewhere see signs of increasing infections, which is worrisome. They warn we may have to roll back our stages of openings if this fourth wave starts to grow. The good news is that many of the more vulnerable, such as the elderly, have already been vaccinated, which will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths. However, the new variants are a threat if they continue to rise. But still the vaccines are not 100% in preventing infections and much of our population has not been immunized.

That means if infections increase, so will the possibility of “Long Covid”. Deaths are only one statistic of the aftermath of COVID-19 and a grim one; but consider the long term effects that many are having, often after a relatively mild case of COVID-19. The symptoms are often more than “brain fog” and can include heart arrhythmias or new onset diabetes. People affected are unable to get help and support because the syndrome is new and not understood well. If someone lives in an urban area or near a medical school, they may be able to find support and a clinic to help, but maybe not. Some patients with Long Covid find support in on-line groups and are entering into research protocols to help researchers understand better the complexities of the syndrome. And unexpectedly, some but not all, have their symptoms improve after they get their vaccinations. This is good news, but better understanding of the causes can help with improving the lives of those living with it. We need more clinics and help available across the country to help those suffering. Best to avoid infection in the first place.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, even if you are vaccinated. Soon, soon, soon, we can be together.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.