Roundup: So Far, 60% in U.S. Have Been Infected With COVID; Slide in Routine Vaccinations Among Kindergartners Concerning; and More

CDC: 60% of U.S. Population has been Infected With COVID-19, Fueled Largely by Omicron Surge

By the end of February 2022, nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population had been infected with COVID-19 at least once, an increase propelled largely by the Omicron variant surge, according to data released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infections also sharply increased during Omicron among children and adolescents. As of February 2022, about 75 percent of children aged 11 years and younger, and adolescents aged 12 to 17, carried blood antibodies that reflect previous infection. The reason for the sharper increase: Many children and adolescents remained unvaccinated.

The breakdown of U.S. adults who have been infected: About 64 percent of adults ages 18-49, about 50 percent of adults ages 50-64, and 33 percent of adults 65 and older, the CDC said in the study.

CDC officials emphasize that these results should not be interpreted as a reason to avoid vaccination against COVID-19.

“These findings illustrate a high infection rate for the Omicron variant, especially among children,” states the CDC.  Antibodies from previous infections “should not be interpreted as protection from future infection. Vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from COVID-19, including hospitalization among children and adults.”

The CDC adds that COVID-19 vaccination “following infection provides additional protection against severe disease and hospitalization.”

CDC researchers analyzed blood samples collected from September 2021 to February 2022. They determined which samples contained antibodies to the virus, then they categorized the data by age, gender and geographic location. The type of antibody detected is produced after infection — and note only from getting vaccinated.

The greatest increases in antibodies derived from infection occurred in the age groups with the lowest vaccination coverage, the CDC said.

The proportion of the U.S. population fully vaccinated by April 2022 increased with age (5–11, 28 percent; 12–17, 59 percent; 18–49, 69 percent; 50–64, 80 percent; and older than 65 years, 90 percent).

CDC Concerned About Slide in Routine Vaccinations for Kindergartners During Pandemic

Kids in kindergarten in the U.S. fell behind in getting their routine childhood vaccinations during the pandemic, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the decrease represented one percentage point nationally, there is concern among public health officials that the trend could be sharper among all kids. That’s because children aged 4 to 6 years who attend kindergarten generally have a higher vaccination coverage, compared to those who are not enrolled.

State and local school vaccination requirements serve to protect students against potentially serious, vaccine-preventable diseases. Measles, for example, is one of the most contagious viruses in the world. Beyond flu-like symptoms and a rash, measles can develop serious or deadly complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). 

The slide in childhood vaccinations is associated with skipped checkups during the pandemic. The CDC adds: “The COVID-19 pandemic response created various barriers that limited the amount and quality of student vaccination data collected and reported by local health departments.”

For the 2020–21 school year, vaccination coverage nationally was 93.9 percent for two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR); 93.6 percent for the state-required number of doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP); and 93.6 percent for the state-required doses of varicella vaccine.

Compared with the 2019–20 school year, vaccination coverage decreased by about one percentage point for all vaccines, the CDC said.

Concluded the CDC: “Vaccination coverage could be improved by increased outreach by schools and immunization programs to first-time students, including kindergartners and first graders, and by follow-up with under-vaccinated students. As schools return to in-person learning, high vaccination coverage is necessary to continue protecting students from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

New Research on Obesity Finds No Benefits to Intermittent Fasting

A dieting strategy known as “intermittent fasting” had gained some popularity in recent years. It’s a plan in which a person eats meals over a few hours, and then doesn’t consume anything for the next 14 hours or more.

New research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, represents one of the most extensive studies on this topic. The study concludes that intermittent fasting did not lead to improvements in obese individuals, compared to more traditional calorie restrictions without time restrictions or periods of fasting.

The study followed 139 people on calorie-restricted diets over 12 months. All the women in the study ate between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day, while men consumed 1,500 to 1,800 calories. Most significantly, the participants were split. A control portion was allowed to consume those calories at any time of the day,  while the other group could only eat between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. — which is a key strategy of intermittent fasting.

The researchers, from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, found that there was no weight-loss benefit for the group of time-restricted eaters. Intermittent fasting also failed to produce improvements in weight-related health factors, including blood glucose levels, blood pressure or insulin.

“In this 12-month trial, we found that the 8-hour, time-restricted eating regimen did not produce greater weight loss than the regimen of daily calorie restriction, with both regimens resulting in similar caloric deficits,” the study authors wrote. “Among patients with obesity, a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more beneficial with regard to reduction in body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction.”

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