Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is my heart — Victor Hugo
Response Ability | Vaccines, Variants, Vacations — and what do I think about the new J&J issue.
by, Jordan L. Shlain MD
Welcome to Dispatch #18, which falls on the anniversary of my New York volunteer effort at a hastily-built FEMA tent on the cold sidewalk outside of Columbia’s Washington Heights Emergency Room where I was asked to triage who was sick enough to be admitted to the overflowing ER and who should go home. All I had was a cheap, disposable plastic stethoscope, a pulse oximeter, a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, and an iPad that had live translators. I had no ability to do a COVID test — at the time they were reserved for healthcare workers in the other tent. The whole episode was eerie. I’ve added some video clips and photos at the end if you’re interested.
It’s April and we’re now vaccinating a few million people per day. This is great! Full stop. It was only 5 months ago we were in the global doghouse — and now we’re back. The US is on track to have all adults immunized by summer. While there is much to be grateful for, we can’t turn a blind eye to the access disparity and the greater issues that it represents. If you want to read the details of the vaccine section, know this: get any of the three vaccines being offered in the US — they all prevent severe disease and death. On J&J — what you need to know is the risk of dying from COVID (Covid has already killed 1,712 out of every million Americans) is much greater than the risk of a blood clot (6 in 6,800,000 or 1.13 out of every million Americans). This is real, yet it must be taken in context-see Vaccine section.
Lots of new questions and answers as we trundle through what I hope is the penultimate act of this pandemic. We are seeing rising cases in certain states with a dark cloud of variants obscuring a clear path to herd immunity. Kids are now the major focus of a vaccination effort — and if we want their buy in, politicians and public health professionals need to get on TikTok or Snap! Most Gen Zs want to wait and see what happens.
Cases are starting to rise in the US and there is a real possibility of a fourth wave, albeit not as gnarly as our summer wave, but real enough to strain the healthcare system — and with a younger demographic.
I’m more optimistic about the US than I have been in a long time, but we’re not there yet. We likey have a few more months of mask-wearing for those vaccinated in the U.S. The rest of the world will likely not be vaccinated for years — and this is a problem. The United States has a unique opportunity to show our magnanimity and help less fortunate countries get vaccinated. If we want to be the leaders of the free world, we have to act like it. Generosity is the most powerful form of influence.
OK — let’s get to it.