[COLUMN] COVID-19 data capsules

INDIA, with a population of 1.38 billion, second to China (1.439 billion), is today’s hotbed of the COVID-19 pandemic. In three days, it saw one million new cases, with an official tally of 17.21 million infections and more than 196,000 deaths. Last week, almost 353,000 persons were infected in 24 hours. The hospitals are fully packed beyond capacity, running out of supplies, including life-saving oxygen. The United States, Britain, and Germany have offered urgent medical aid to help manage and contain this tsunami of cases.

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Current COVID-19 stats: Globally – 148,623,843 cases, 3,136,930 deaths; U.S. – 32,875,045 cases, 586,611 deaths; The Philippines – 1,013,618 cases, 16,916; deaths China – 90,610 cases, 4,636 deaths (the stats from this country where the pandemic started are being questioned). COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. are going down. If people continue to get vaccinated and not let their guards down, we might avoid a 4th wave and achieve herd immunity before the end of the year. Behavior greatly affects viral transmission.

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The Journal Cell reports Medicine cited a recent study which shows that the UK variant B.1.1.7 of COVID-19 is 45 percent more contagious (transmissible) than the original SARS-CoV2. Meanwhile, the South African variant B.1.351 is also more contagious, perhaps more deadly, and may have the ability to re-infect people who have recovered from the original version of coronavirus. Whether the current vaccines are also effective remains to be seen.

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According to the US Embassy in Manila, “The Philippine government has suspended the entry of all foreign nationals through April 30, 2021. In addition, the number of inbound international passengers has been limited to 1,500 per day.” The restriction includes all Filipinos abroad who do not have a Philippine passport. Dual citizens are allowed entry, but all entering the country need to have a pre-reserved hotel reservation for five days for self-quarantine. Visit the US Embassy website or Philippine Embassy/Consulates in the U.S. for more details.
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The CDC is expected to revise its guideline to allow people who have been fully vaccinated not to wear mask outdoors except in crowded places. As I reported in my column last week, there were about 5,800 fully vaccinated individuals who got infected with COVID-19 anyway, with 784 of them dying. Whether the infecting viruses were the new strains is not known. It is wise to still be cautious and vigilant, especially for seniors, until the U.S. attains herd immunity, which appears to be around Fall this year. Fingers crossed.

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The WHO reported that there is “no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.” This makes it clear that those who have recovered from COVID-19 still need to be fully vaccinated.

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More than 50 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccines. The extremely rare blood clot side effect of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is about 7 in a million, mostly women, under 50, and one has died. There have been 16 cases reported, with one male. Those older than 50 do not seem to be affected.

The best alternative for anyone concerned is, of course, to get the Pfizer-BioNT or Moderna vaccine instead. More than 9 million J&J vaccines have been administered and the risk/benefit ratio clearly tilts toward the benefit, where these people have been protected against COVID-19, hospitalization, and possible death. The use of the J&J vaccines has officially resumed.

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More than 8 percent of those who have received the first shot of either the Pfizer-BioNT or Moderna vaccines are opting not to get the second dose for fear of side-effects. That’s unwise and dangerous. After hundreds of million doses of the vaccines have been given around the world, it is clear that if a person got the first dose without any problem, the second shot (same vaccine, same ingredients, etc.) would also go without adverse effects.

Having only half the full dose of any medication, including vaccines, does not provide the full benefit of the drug. Partial vaccination obviously confers only partial protection. The full dose (2 shots) of those 2 vaccines is supposed to offer 92 to 95 percent protection over a few weeks. One shot only gives about 52 percent protection, still with a 48 percent risk of getting COVID-19. The risk of side effects is very small compared to the huge benefit the vaccines provide. The more than 150 million individuals in the U.S. who have received the shots is proof of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Even those with the 2-shot full vaccination still have around 5 percent risk, as evidenced by those 5,800 fully vaccinated persons who still got infected (second news capsule above). It is prudent to get the second shot to be fully vaccinated to reduce your risk from 48 percent to about 5 percent.

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Recently, the European Union stated it is looking to resume trans-Atlantic travel “as soon as it is safe to do so” and that Americans would then be able to travel to Europe by summer.

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People with gum disease periodontitis were 3.5 times more likely to need hospitalization for COVID-19, 4.5 percent more likely to require a ventilator, and 8.8 percent more likely to die, compared to those without oral disease, according to research at McGill University. Oral health, as we have written about in the past, translates to cardiac health and overall health of people. Oral hygiene is very important.

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It is now clear that wearing mask, social distancing, and full vaccination work in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In the U.S., the ebbing number of cases, hospitalization, and deaths are good medical indications that we are basically in the right direction. Once 75 to 80 percent of people are fully vaccinated, herd immunity will follow. Hopefully people will opt to get the vaccines without delay. Freedom is in the horizon. Let us not let our guard down. Together, we can defeat this virus.

The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Public Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and anti-graft foundation in the United States. Visit our websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com; Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com.

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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