A strong rise in Covid-19 cases in Europe should serve as a warning that the U.S. could also see significant increases in coronavirus cases this winter, especially in the nation’s colder regions, scientists say.
However, there is more reason for optimism as America enters its second pandemic winter, even in spite of likely increases in cases.
Evidence shows that vaccine protection against hospitalization and death remains high several months after inoculation, vaccines for children older than five years can reduce Covid delivery, and new antiviral drugs have the promise of making Covid-19 a curable disease.
“I expect to see cases increasing – we started seeing this in the last week or so,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. “I don’t think what we see in Europe means that we are facing a huge increase in serious illness and death while we [saw] here in the United States, ”last winter.
In the last three weeks, new cases have increased in several cold weather states across New England and the Midwest. However, vaccines remain about 85% effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
“Even if cases happen this winter, we are very unlikely to see overcrowding [intensive care units] and mortuaries from a year ago, ”said Dowdy.
Immunity given by a vaccine against an infection may allow cases to increase, he said, but far fewer people will need hospitalization. The vast majority of people who were hospitalized or died of Covid-19 this summer, more than 90% in one CDC study, were not fully vaccinated.
“People can still get Covid, there can still be progressive infections, but the great news is, if you’ve been vaccinated, you’re much less likely to be hospitalized or have a severe infection,” said Rupali Limaye, an associate scientist at Johns Hopkins University. and an expert in vaccine communication.
However, vaccine distribution is very uneven across the United States. Only 58.6% of the nation is vaccinated, lower than vaccination in some European nations now struggling with an increase in Covid-19 cases, such as in Germany and France.
“I’ve again predicted a pretty bad winter wave, and it looks like it’s starting to happen,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital. center for vaccine development.
“There are too many unvaccinated and too many partially vaccinated [people]”to stop the” aggressive “Delta variant, Hotez said.
In addition, even if the effects of Covid-19 are mitigated this winter, there could still be a gigantic loss of life. A prediction from the most respected long-term forecasters about Covid-19 in the country found that an additional 100,000 people may die between November 2021 and March 2022.
“We are seeing growing evidence in the northern hemisphere that the expected winter increase has begun to unfold,” said Dr. Christopher JL Murray, chief modeler at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, as he presented a new one. forecast. “Reductions in cases and new infections and hospitalizations have ceased in the United States and have begun to turn around.”
The IHME projection, which Murray described as “optimistic,” predicted 863,000 cumulative deaths from the pandemic by March 2022. Already more than 765,000 people in the United States have died from Covid-19.
The worst case of IHME predicts hundreds of thousands more deaths, for more than 1 million pandemic deaths by March 2022.
“A lot of countries in western Europe are even further ahead of us in the sense that the numbers are growing pretty fast in places like the Netherlands and Denmark, but also in Germany now and a few other countries,” Murray said. Nearly two-thirds of the 1.9 million new infections worldwide are on the European continent, the World Health Organization said.
Furthermore, there are few calls and little appetite to restore social restrictions. The promise of vaccines that could reduce delivery of Covid-19 has prompted local governments across the country to remove social distancing and mask restrictions.
This trend held even when an emerging set of evidence showed that the vaccine’s ability to prevent infection with Covid-19 decreased over time, and the focus of vaccine efficacy shifted to the constant protection given against hospitalization and death.
The risk of “fifth wave” and declining immunity has now prompted a call for “accelerating” shots, or third-dose vaccine doses, for all who have received mRNA vaccines, those developed by Pfizer or Moderna.
The Food and Drug Administration has already authorized higher doses for people older than 65 or who work in high-risk settings. Anyone over the age of 18 who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is entitled to a second dose, as evidence shows that its effectiveness against a serious illness may decrease over time.
Enhancing doses are effective at increasing antibody levels, but are not the most effective way to inhibit Covid-19 delivery. The best way to slow down transmission, experts have said several times, is to vaccinate new people. Experts now widely believe that Covid-19 will be endemic and circulate for decades to come, although the severity of infection may decrease over many years.
The Covid-19 pandemic may never be “over,” as many invented early in the pandemic, Dowdy said. “The point is – when can we get this to a point where it’s tolerable for us as a society? And I think we might be closer to that point than we imagine.
“Zero-Covid won’t happen.”