9-11-20 Covid19 update

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The numbers in Arizona continue to improve. Currently, the number of patients hospitalized for Covid 19 is the lowest it has been since April, with 577 people hospitalized throughout the state yesterday. In addition, the number of patients in the ICU was 171, which is the second lowest number since April 8 when the number was 155. Overall, the weekly average of new cases is now below 500 a day. However, it remains above the 300 cases a day we had back in March and April.

Unfortunately, one of the hotspots for new infections has been the universities. UArizona and ASU have seen significant outbreaks due in large part to students not following social distancing recommendations. This problem is nationwide in areas with large college student populations. While young people in general are less likely to get a serious case of Covid19, they are not invincible, and when they end up in the hospital about a third will have life threatening cases.

Recently, Astra Zeneca suspended their vaccine trial due to a participant developing a medical condition which could have been caused by the vaccine. While details are not public, the supposed reaction may be due to the vaccine or may just be a coincidence. That is the challenge with new treatments: determining what is due to the treatment versus something else. Also, side effects which may not appear in a group of thirty thousand patients may occur when the treatment is administered to millions of patients. Therefore, it is important to have good data from the phase 3 trial and likewise to do post release monitoring.

That leads to the question of should someone get a Covid19 vaccine if it were released in the next month or so. At this point in time I advise to wait and see what the data looks like. Especially important will be the side effects of the vaccine. While effectiveness is the goal, safety is the priority.

One concept poorly communicated by public health officials is that vaccines are not necessarily intended to prevent someone from getting the disease. For instance, the main benefit of Flu shots is to keep someone from dying from Influenza pneumonia by getting a less severe case. Clearly, it is nice when the shot prevents the disease completely, yet the main goal is to help someone survive the infection with little or no serious consequences. Likewise, that will be the goal with any Covid19 vaccination.

Finally, if you have not already done so, please take a moment to think of and remember all the people who tragically lost their lives on this day 19 years ago. Take care.

Jeff Mayer, MD
September 11, 2020