COVID-19 Roundup: Vaccines 94% Effective Against Hospitalizations; Less Mask-Wearing for Fully Vaccinated; and More

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Vaccines 94% Effective Against Hospitalizations Among Adults 65 and Older, CDC Says

Adults 65 years and older were 94 percent less likely to be hospitalized because of COVID-19 if they were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.

The study reviewed hospitalizations in two U.S. hospital networks covering 24 hospitals in 14 states. The study included data on 417 adults ages 65 and older with COVID-19-like symptoms who were admitted to hospitals between January 1 and March 26. Among those patients, 187 tested positive for COVID-19 and 230 tested negative. The researchers found that among those who tested positive, most were unvaccinated.

Receipt of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines “was 94 percent effective against COVID-19 hospitalization among fully vaccinated adults, and 64 percent effective among partially vaccinated adults aged 65 years or older,” said the CDC.

The findings are consistent with the vaccines’ initial clinical trial results, which showed an efficacy of about 94 percent to 95 percent, researchers from the CDC and several other institutions stated.

The new study included data from California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

“These findings are encouraging and welcome news for the two-thirds of people aged 65 and up who are already fully vaccinated,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. “COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and these real-world findings confirm the benefits seen in clinical trials, preventing hospitalizations among those most vulnerable. The results are promising for our communities and hospitals.

CDC Update: Fully Vaccinated Can Shed Mask During Many Outdoor Activities

If you’re fully vaccinated, U.S. health officials now say you no longer need to wear masks outdoors for most activities, including walking, running, hiking or biking, either alone or with members of your household, or at small outdoor gatherings.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading outdoors is very low, states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in updated mask-wearing guidance. So much so that even unvaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask if they go hiking, jogging, bicycling or running alone or with a household member.

“When choosing safer activities, consider how COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the number of people participating in the activity, and the location of the activity,” states the CDC. “Outdoor visits and activities are safer than indoor activities, and fully vaccinated people can participate in some indoor events safely, without much risk.”

Despite the relaxation of mask-wearing for many outdoor activities, the CDC did not say that the fully vaccinated can shed their masks altogether. There are concerns that include the spread of coronavirus variants and the unknown vaccination levels in every community — including in areas with still high-caseloads across the nation

According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated, you can do the following without a mask:

  • Walk, run, or bike outdoors with members of your household
  • Attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends
  • Attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people
  • Dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households

However, you should wear a mask, even if fully vaccinated, when attending “a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade, or sports event,” adds the CDC.

Many COVID Patients Get New Ailments months after recovering from mild cases, a C.D.C. study finds.

A new study has found that many adults who tested positive COVID-19 and did not require hospitalization with mild or moderate disease sought medical care in subsequent months, and two-thirds of those were diagnosed with a new health condition they did not have before.

The findings by investigators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente involved 3,171 members of the Kaiser Permanente Georgia (KPGA) integrated healthcare system. More than half were Black.

“To better understand longer-term healthcare utilization and clinical characteristics of non-hospitalized adults after COVID-19 diagnosis, CDC and KPGA analyzed electronic health record data from healthcare visits in the 28–180 days after a diagnosis of COVID-19,” the CDC stated.

Two-thirds of the patients who had mild disease initially sought medical care one to six months after their COVID-19 diagnoses, and about two-thirds of those who sought care were found to have an entirely new condition. The new diagnoses included cough, shortness of breath, heart rate abnormalities, chest or throat pain, and fatigue, “which likely represent ongoing COVID-19 symptoms,” the study said.

“Although the frequency of visits for these symptom diagnoses decreased after 60 days, they persisted beyond 120 days among some patients,” the CDC said. “Clinicians and healthcare systems should be aware of the possibility of medical encounters related to a previous diagnosis of COVID-19 beyond the acute illness.

Whether the number of outpatients visits among non-hospitalized adults 28–180 days after initial mild or moderate COVID-19 is higher — compared with adults who did not have COVID-19 — remains unclear, the CDC said.

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