COVID: Beginning of the End
Pfizer is approved for Teens
This is 3-day-old news by now, but the Pfizer 2-shot course is approved for ages 12–15. Expect a long waitlist at the Pediatrician’s, as doctors’ offices are seeing a lot of demand and aren’t staffed for mass vaccination. There is availability at the large vaccination sites, and also at Pharmacies. [Update: there was plenty of availability at Walgreens on Thursday, so we easily got our 12-year-old vaccinated]
Looking forward, Pfizer has started testing on ages 2–11, with approval expected in September. Meanwhile, Moderna has been testing on kids 6-months and up, and may be able to seek approval before school restarts in the fall.
Shot and a Chaser
Leave it to my beer-loving Buffalo people to make this discovery: the antidote to vaccine hesitancy is alcohol! Instead of begging healthy adults to take time to travel out of their way to come to a vaccine clinic, it made more sense to take the vaccine clinic to the people…in this case to the brewpub. For eligible adults who agreed to get the vaccine, their first beer was free.
This is more than just a cute story: it really calls out how fine the line is between getting a shot, or not: More people got dosed at one pub than at all of the official County sites!
As we try to address the large percentage of people who are on the fence about getting vaccinated, it’s important to remember that uptake is much better if the process is free, when it’s convenient, and if there is some small incentive or upside to the patient. Who wants to drive to the convention center, struggle to find parking, and wait in line to get a shot that you’re not sure you really want? Shot and a Chaser addresses all of those friction points.
We need more outside-the-box ideas like this. (The Blazers are willing to vaccinate people at games, but this hasn’t worked out.) Governor Brown has said that Oregon can reopen when 70% of eligible adults are vaccinated….but I’m not holding my breath for that. 61% of eligible adults in Multnomah County have gotten the 1st dose, but immunizing the next 9% is going to be very very very tough, especially when you see that vaccine sites have wide-open availability because demand for the shot has dried up.
COVID Craziness Reaches a Peak (pun alert!)
At the intersection of politics and COVID is a new headline: China is installing a COVID barrier at the top of Mount Everest. That’s right, in a place where everyone is outdoors, where the average summer temperature starts with the word “negative”, and where nearly everyone is breathing from their own personal oxygen supply, there will now be a physical barrier to prevent the spread of virus particles between China and Tibet. I wonder how well COVID really transmits at 29,032 feet, in subzero temperatures, and blustering winds?
NYT Writes a Lame Story
The New York Times ran a story this week about “new tests” that can detect not just COVID, but Influenza and RSV all on one test swab. Some of these tests can detect 20+ respiratory pathogens. That all sounds good and new and exciting except for three points:
#1: we’ve been using these tests for 8+ months, so it’s not exactly news.
#2: These tests are sometimes being used in place of a simple COVID test because doctors think it’s a nice upgrade for the patient if a fancier test is ordered. But it’s a big test that the patient doesn’t need, and unnecessary testing is the absolute biggest waste of time and money in healthcare today.
#3: Related to #2, these tests cost a lot of $$$$, sometimes up around $1,500, and may not be covered by insurance. While almost all insurances do cover COVID testing ($70–135), these are Respiratory Panels that include coronavirus, rather than COVID tests…Some insurers are getting wise to these panels and won’t cover them. If you’re one of the 40% of Americans with a High Deductible Health Plan, make sure that any COVID test you get is just for COVID, else you might end up with a $1,500 out-of-pocket bill.
Oh, and About the New CDC Recommendations
I was going to save this for a separate email after I’ve had time to think on it, but so many people have been asking so here are a few hot takes:
— I have repeatedly predicted that the pandemic would be over by the end of May. Maybe the CDC feels the need to stay one step ahead of me, so they declared the end of the pandemic on May 13th? This announcement was random, unexpected, and somewhat perplexing.
— There is a chance that the CDC is making a desperate move to try to stay relevant. Since some states have already unmasked regardless, maybe they feel that they’ve been too cautious and if they take a more relaxed approach to masks that there is a chance that states will start to follow CDC guidance again?
-Perhaps the CDC wants to incentivize vaccine holdouts to get the shot? “If you’re good citizens, if you get vaccinated, you can take your mask off!” It strikes me as a bit paternalistic, and rather reminiscent of offering a toddler M&Ms if they poop in the potty.
— But the opposite will likely happen: since we don’t have vaccine ID cards, wearing a mask will be on the honor system, and plenty of unvaccinated people will let their compliance slide and they’ll be going maskless. Kids too will forget about masks, because when parents don’t mask it’s tough to enforce kids wearing one.
— Chaos is about to ensue, as large retailers have already jumped on the no-mask bandwagon. Starting Monday, even Starbucks will be mask-free.
— The chaos will be rather interesting in the most corona-cautious locations, like Oregon and NYC. I really don’t know how this is all going to play out, since Oregon now has much stricter mask requirements than the CDC. Will we stand firmly cautious, or go with the flow?
— Unmasked conservatives have called public mask-wearing “the red MAGA hat for Team Blue”. It is tough to separate science from politics when it comes to masks, but that’s what I’m hoping to do in the next COVID Convos. Stay tuned!