Jeff Asher: Half of Louisiana’s seniors have the coronavirus vaccine. Here’s the impact. | Coronavirus | #television | #elderly | #movies
Louisiana reached something of a milestone recently: About half of the state’s seniors over 70 years old have initiated their coronavirus vaccinations. That’s a big deal, as nearly 70% of the Louisianans who have died from COVID over the last 11 months have been over 70.
All told, over 10% of Louisiana’s population has had the vaccine initiated so far, with the pace expected to pick up in the next few weeks as more Pfizer and Moderna shots become available. The FDA will meet on Feb 26 to discuss an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, which could come online in March and provide vaccinations to 100 million people in the U.S. by the end of June.
The rollout’s speed has been frustrating at times, but it has been steady and there are signs that it is beginning to pick up speed again. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will only increase the availability of an effective vaccine to anybody that wants one.
The U.K. variant is still threatening, and there is every reason to believe we are not out of the woods yet. At the same time, cases are down, hospitalizations are down, and things are back in the O.K. category for the first time in a while.
With that in mind, I was struck by a comment that New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno made to me a few weeks back. Discussing the state of the vaccine, she said: “I’m afraid we’ll stall out around 50-60%, subjecting our healthcare workers to a daily trickle of really sick people from a totally preventable disease.”
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It isn’t our biggest issue right now, or even the next biggest issue facing us. But there may be a point a few months from now where the vaccine is available to anyone who wants it, and our biggest challenge is convincing skeptical people to take it.
With that in mind, it is worth taking stock of the real-world evidence showing just how effective the available vaccines have been thus far. The best data is coming from Israel, where over 40% of the country’s population had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine as of mid-February.
Older people were prioritized in Israel, much like here, and nearly 90% of people 60 and up had received at least their first dose as of early February. The results seem to speak for themselves: Cases among people 60 and up have dropped by 41% and hospitalizations by 31% from mid-January to early February, compared to drops of 12% and 5% respectively in cases and hospitalizations for Israelis under 60.
Israel has largely been using Pfizer’s vaccine. There is evidence that it and the other vaccines are effective at reducing infections. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said that research is pointing in a “favorable direction.”
There is also reason for optimism that Louisiana’s vaccination strategy is paying dividends. Cases in Louisiana fell an astounding 72% between Jan. 8 and Feb. 10, hospitalizations are also falling rapidly, and there is evidence that the state’s prioritization of older residents who are most at risk of dying is having the intended effect.
Comparing census data with Louisiana Department of Health data on vaccinations shows that about 55% of Louisiana residents over 70 have had at least one shot, while no other age range has had even 20% vaccinated. It is encouraging, therefore, to see that people 70 and up have had the largest drop in reported cases since early January.
COVID was silently spreading through New Orleans like few other places in the country at this point last year, but the evidence is clear that we are now all far closer to the end of this thing than the beginning. Trying to figure out how to get over the final hump is a good problem to have, but it is one we must solve so that one day soon nobody is dying of what will have become a preventable disease.
A Jan. 15 piece in the New York Times by Aproova Mandavilli and Roni Caryn Rabin carried a stark warning from the Centers for Disease Control …