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Friday, March 11, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

How Many Have Died From Covid? Toll May Be Triple The Confirmed Tally

The global death toll from the covid-19 pandemic has been alarmingly undercounted, researchers find. They estimate the total to be 18.2 million people.

Covid Study Finds 18 Million Deaths, Three Times Official Tally

The pandemic’s death toll may be three times higher than official Covid-19 records suggest, according to a study that found stark differences across countries and regions. As many as 18.2 million people probably died from Covid in the first two years of the pandemic, researchers found in the first peer-reviewed global estimate of excess deaths. They pointed to a lack of testing and unreliable mortality data to explain the discrepancy with official estimates of roughly 5.9 million deaths. (Gale, 3/10)

USA Today:
‘Very Sobering’: Global Deaths From COVID May Be More Than 3 Times Higher Than Official Toll, Study Says

As the U.S. approaches the grim milestone of one million COVID-19 deaths, a team of researchers published the first peer-reviewed study looking at excess death estimates on a global scale. The results are alarming, health experts say. Excess deaths is the difference between the number of recorded deaths from all causes and the number of expected deaths based on past trends. Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation found an estimated 18.2 million people may have died by the end of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than three times the official toll of 5.9 million, according to the study published Thursday in The Lancet. (Rodriguez, 3/10)

In more news about covid cases —

Detroit Free Press:
Michigan COVID-19 Death Rates By County: Education, Age, Trump Factors

Who died of COVID-19 in Michigan during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic was heavily influenced by demographics like age, education level, the county where they lived, vaccination rates — and even who got their vote in the 2020 presidential election. As Michigan marked the grim two-year anniversary Thursday of the day when the first cases were identified, a Free Press analysis of state and federal data shows a higher death rate in counties where a larger share of people voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. “I would expect to see significant correlation,” said Peter Jacobson, professor emeritus of health law and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. (Jordan Shamus and Tanner, 3/11)

The Boston Globe:
Number Of COVID-19 Deaths In Mass. Will Drop Under State’s New Counting Method

The official count of COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts will decline by about 3,700 under a new surveillance system that state health leaders say more accurately captures the true toll from the virus. “We think this is an absolutely critical step in improving our understanding of who COVID has impacted most significantly during the pandemic,” Dr. Catherine Brown, the state’s epidemiologist, said at a media briefing Thursday. Currently, the state’s reported confirmed and probable deaths total about 23,700. Under the new method, that could drop to about 20,000. But Brown said a team at the state’s health department is still crunching the numbers and would release them Monday. (Lazar, 3/10)

Nevada Shifting To Weekly COVID Stats As Cases Keep Falling 

State health officials are moving from daily to weekly reporting of COVID-19 statistics as the public health emergency fades and new infections and hospitalizations continue to fall to their lowest levels in Nevada since last June. Beginning next week, they’ll also be changing the way they track the spread and response to the coronavirus, including dropping regular reporting of positivity rates that are increasingly skewed due to widespread use of home-testing results. (Sonner, 3/10)

Crain’s New York Business:
NYC Says It Is Ready To Take On ‘Test To Treat’ Initiative

Despite modest stockpiles of oral COVID treatments, New York City says it is ready to carry out the new federal initiative to treat patients who test positive on the spot. The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday outlined details for the “Test to Treat” initiative, introduced by President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address last week. The program allows individuals who receive a positive COVID test result to receive treatment with antiviral pills on the spot. It kicked off Monday, and participating pharmacy-based clinics, federally qualified health centers and long-term-care facilities are eligible to receive direct distributions of molnupiravir and Paxlovid from HHS. Molnupiravir was developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Paxlovid comes from Pfizer. (Sim, 3/10)

The ‘Deltacron’ Variant — Something To Worry About, Or Just A ‘Scariant’?

Experts say it’s too soon to worry about deltacron and that it appears unlikely to spread as easily as omicron. In other covid news, a database created by the Federation of State Medical Boards shows that at least 26 states have proposed or passed legislation that would make it easier for patients to get ivermectin, USA Today reported.

USA Today:
A New COVID Variant Called Deltacron? Here’s What We Know

A potential new COVID-19 variant, a combination of the delta and omicron variants – you can call it “deltacron” – has been identified. The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the new COVID-19 combination has been detected in France, the Netherlands and Denmark. It’s also been found in the U.S., according to a new report soon to be published on research site MedRxiv, and viewed by USA TODAY. The San Mateo, California-headquartered lab Helix, which works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track COVID-19, sequenced 29,719 positive COVID-19 samples collected Nov. 22 to Feb. 13 from across the U.S., according to the research team, which included the University of Washington Medical Center and testing company Thermo Fisher Scientific. (Snider, 3/10)

Deseret News:
Should You Worry About The New ‘Deltacron’ Variant?

Society has had a run-in with a “deltacron” variant before. In January, scientists in Cyprus said they had discovered a COVID-19 variant that mixed the omicron and delta variants, per Bloomberg News. However, the medical community — including biologist Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute — disputed the science behind “deltacron.” Experts called it a “scariant” of COVID-19 that wouldn’t pose much of a threat, but made for a scary headline in the news. (Scribner, 3/10)

The Atlantic:
So … What Will The Next Variant Look Like?

Let’s start with the worst-case scenario, because it’s also probably the least likely. A new variant checks each of the Big Three boxes: more transmissible, more deadly, and much more evasive of the defenses that vaccines and other SARS-CoV-2 flavors have laid down. In this version of events, even immunized people could suffer high rates of severe disease; additional boosters might not mount a sufficient blockade. The chasm in protection between the vaccinated and unvaccinated would start to close—perhaps rapidly, if the new variant collides with us when many people aren’t up-to-date on their shots and population immunity is low. (Wu, 3/9)

In other pandemic news —

Axios-Ipsos Poll: Media Habits Defined The COVID Culture War

The key factor determining how Americans have handled COVID-19 — more than race, education or even political affiliation — is where they get their news, according to an analysis of two years of data from our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Partisan divisions weaken U.S. leaders’ ability to deal with such existential crises — and the modern media landscape feeds that cycle. In March 2020, when everything changed, roughly nine in 10 Americans, regardless of their preferred media outlet, said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Within weeks, though, that trust was plunging among Americans who mostly watch Fox News or other conservative outlets, as well as those who cited no source. (Talev, Bettelheim and Alberti, 3/11)

The 19th:
Moving In With Other Adults Has Become A Lifeline For Single Moms Hit ‘Tenfold’ By The Pandemic

As a single parent, Gabriela Villagomez-Morales faces one question with uncomfortable regularity: What are you willing to do for your kids? It’s the question Villagomez-Morales’ own mother asked her when, at the start of the pandemic, her job at a child care facility ended indefinitely. Other workers could tap into coronavirus relief, including enhanced unemployment payments, to keep the lights on and a roof over their heads. But despite being a taxpayer who contributes to that system, Villagomez-Morales and other undocumented immigrants couldn’t access those programs. Without those payments, she had no way to make rent in the home she shared with her four children, ages 20, 18, 10 and 9. So when her mom posed the question, they both knew the answer. (Carrazana and Mithani, 3/10)

And in news about covid vaccines and treatments —

USA Today:
Lawmakers Push Legislation To Protect Doctors Who Prescribe Ivermectin For COVID-19. Can They Do That?

Dozens of state lawmakers push bills that would make it easier for doctors to prescribe ivermectin for COVID-19, even though the anti-parasitic has not been proved effective at preventing or treating the disease. As of Thursday, at least 26 states have proposed or passed legislation that would increase patient access to the drug, according to a database created by the Federation of State Medical Boards. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said the bills “drive (him) nuts.” (Rodriguez, 3/10)

Study: Third COVID MRNA Vaccine Dose Needed Against Omicron

mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing adult hospitalizations from the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants, but three doses are needed to reach the same efficacy against Omicron as two doses offer against the first two strains, suggests an observational test-negative study yesterday in BMJ.A team led by University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers prospectively estimated the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 hospitalization among 5,728 adult COVID-19 patients and 5,962 uninfected controls at 21 US hospitals. (Van Beusekom, 3/10)

The Boston Globe:
Scientists Say We Need Universal Coronavirus Vaccines, But Will They Arrive In Time?

Over the last several months, the COVID pandemic has become an exercise of vaccination whack-a-mole. A variant arises, and the vaccine manufacturers figure out how to tweak their product to address it — but not quickly enough. New variants keep arising, making the variant-specific shots outdated before we even get a chance to use them. But what if scientists could develop one universal vaccine that could address all variants? That work is underway at academic labs and biotech firms, including several in Boston, and in recent months, progress has picked up speed. (Cross, 3/10)

The Atlantic:
Vaccinating Kids Has Never Been Easy

In September 1957—two years after church bells rang in celebration of the new polio vaccine, two years after people rejoiced in the streets, two years after Americans began lining up for their shots—the proportion of children fully vaccinated against polio remained at about 50 percent. Supply was not the problem. Nor were doubts about the vaccine’s safety or efficacy, concluded a report from around that time by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now known as the March of Dimes, which had funded research into the vaccine. But the “initial excitement” had nevertheless “faded,” and vaccine proponents found themselves in an incremental slog to reach the remaining unvaccinated Americans. Well into the 1960s, doctors held “Sabin Oral Sundays,” dispensing sugar cubes dosed with a drop of the oral vaccine invented by Albert Sabin. It would ultimately take more than two decades to go from ringing church bells to polio eradication in the U.S. (Zhang, 3/10)

Novavax, Eyeing The COVID ‘Vaccine Hesitant’ And Kids, Unveils New Education Campaigns As Nuvaxovid Nears US Finish Line 

Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were quickest off the mark in getting COVID vaccines into American arms, but Novavax is hoping to add another pandemic vaccine to the U.S. mix soon—and it’s pushing new campaigns to get the word out. The biopharma, which has approvals and authorizations in Europe and around the world, is now on the cusp of a potential green light in the U.S. And with a market comes the need for marketing. (Adams, 3/10)

In related news —

Moderna CEO’s Pay Jumps 41% To $18.2M As COVID Vaccine Giant Expands Globally

Moderna’s business took flight in 2021 thanks to authorizations for its COVID-19 vaccine, and so did its CEO’s pay. Moderna is hiking CEO Stephane Bancel’s 2021 pay by 41% to $18.2 million, citing “unprecedented growth” at the mRNA specialist, a securities filing (PDF) shows. The CEO pay bump comes as the Massachusetts biotech generated $18.5 billion in revenues last year, a massive increase over the prior year when it recorded $803 million. (Liu, 3/10)