COVID-19 Roundup: Delta Variant Concerns Growing; Largest Study of Long Haulers; and Vaccination Rates Among Young Adults

Public Health Officials: Vaccinations Even More Vital With Delta Variant’s Potential Dominance

Overall, the coronavirus pandemic continues to wane in most parts of the U.S. but there is growing concern among public health officials about the spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant for those who are unvaccinated.

The Delta variant, first identified in India, could become a new public health threat, warned President Joe Biden and the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), primarily because it is more contagious and could be deadlier for the unvaccinated.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said in a televised interview that the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant could make it the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. by next month. So far, the variant has spread to more than 80 countries as of June 16, according to the World Health Organization. It is estimated that the Delta variant currently represents up to 20 percent of cases in the U.S., researchers say. White House chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, M.D., the highly contagious variant is the “greatest threat” to the nation’s attempt to COVID-19.

There is some good news: If you have been fully vaccinated, particularly with a two-dose vaccine (from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), you should be protected from the Delta variant, says the CDC.

A recent study out of the United Kingdom found that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine provided about 33 percent against the Delta variant — while two doses of the Pfizer vaccine provided about 88 percent protection.

“The science and the data are clear: The best way to protect yourself against these variants are to get fully vaccinated,” said President Biden during a press briefing on the U.S. vaccination program.

About 66 percent of the U.S. adult population has received at least one shot of a COVID vaccine, says the CDC. Last week, President Biden announced that the U.S. has reached “300 million shots in arms in under 150 days.” The president has set a goal of having 70 percent of the U.S. population receive at least one vaccine shot by the Fourth of July. However, more than 70 percent of Americans age 30 or older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the White House announced this week.

Biggest Study on ‘Long Haulers’ Finds 23% had At Least One Post-COVID Condition

The largest study to date covering “long haul” symptoms has found that nearly a quarter of COVID patients, or 23.2 percent, had at least one post-COVID condition 30 days or more after their initial diagnosis.

Many patients who recover from COVID-19 exhibit persistent or new symptoms more than four weeks after first being diagnosed. These patients are sometimes referred to as “long haulers” or those with “long COVID.”

Drawing from a database of over 34 billion private healthcare claim records, the nonprofit organization FAIR Health studied nearly 2 million patients for the prevalence of post-COVID conditions. This is considered the largest population of COVID-19 patients, so far, studied for post-COVID conditions.

Among the key findings:

  • Post-COVID conditions were found to a greater extent in patients who had more severe cases of COVID-19, but also in a substantial share of patients whose cases lacked symptoms.
  • Of patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19, the percentage that had a post-COVID condition was 50 percent
  • Of patients who were symptomatic but not hospitalized, 27.5 percent had a post-COVID condition;
  • And of patients who were asymptomatic, 19 percent suffered at least one “long haul” condition.
  • The five most common post-COVID conditions across all ages, in order from most to least common, were pain, breathing difficulties, hyperlipidemia, malaise and fatigue, and hypertension (high blood pressure.

More than half of the 1,959,982 patients whose records were studied by FAIR Health reported no symptoms from their initial COVID infection. Forty percent had symptoms, but didn’t require hospitalization. Only 5 percent were hospitalized.

Of the four mental health conditions evaluated as post-COVID conditions, anxiety was associated with the highest percentage of patients after COVID-19 in all age groups, followed by depression, said FAIR Health.

CDC: Lowest Vaccination Rates are Among Adults Aged 18 to 39

Almost a quarter of adults aged 18 to 39 years indicated they would not get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a newly released survey published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Vaccination coverage and intent among adults are lowest among those aged 18–39 years,” the CDC stated.

Since April 19, 34 percent of adults aged 18–39 years reported having received a COVID-19 vaccine. Adults aged 18–24 years, as well as “non-Hispanic Black adults and those with less education, no insurance, and lower household incomes,” had the lowest reported rates of vaccination, the CDC said. Concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness were commonly cited barriers to vaccination, researchers concluded.

Overall, a total of 52 percent were already vaccinated or “definitely planned to get vaccinated,” the survey found. Twenty-three percent reported that they probably were going to get vaccinated, or were unsure about getting vaccinated, and 25 percent said “they probably or definitely would not get vaccinated,” the CDC said.

The CDC adds: “The findings in this report indicate that trust in COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in their safety and effectiveness, was an important factor in the decision to get vaccinated among adults aged 18–39 years, especially for those who were unsure about or probably planning on getting vaccinated.”

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