COVID-19: Weekly Update (October 17, 2022)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved bivalent boosters for children aged 5 to 12. A survey reveals that 4 in 10 Americans misled others about having COVID-19 or following preventative measures during the peak of the pandemic.

As of October 12, the 7-day moving average of daily new cases decreased by 11.9% compared with the previous 7-day average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is increasing.

There is a 4.4% decline in new hospitalizations and an 8.5% decrease in deaths compared with the previous 7-day moving average.

Most (79.7%) counties are with low community level, while 2.1% of counties are with high, and 18.1% are with medium community level.

The FDA authorized boosters for children

Last week, the FDA issued emergency use authorizations (EUA) for bivalent Moderna and Pfizer boosters in children aged 5 to 11. Bivalent mRNA vaccines target the original strain of the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus and the Omicron subvariants BA.4/5.

The FDA says that since children have gone back to school in person, there is a potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus. According to the agency, vaccination “remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.” However, children typically have less severe disease, and 88% of children ages 5 to 11 already have protection from prior infection.

In addition, this age group has the lowest risk of severe COVID-19. For comparison, children ages 5 through 11 years experienced 2.6 hospitalizations per 100,000 at the peak of Omicron in January 2022. The hospitalization rate is currently 0.3 per 100,000.

In the graph below, the top yellow line is infants zero to six months of age; the next yellow line is infants 6 months to 4 years old. The gray lines at the bottom are ages 5-11 and 12-17 years. Very young infants can struggle with many respiratory infections, and not all COVID-19 hospitalizations were strictly for COVID-19 — the children may also have had respiratory syncytial virus or parainfluenza.

COVID-19 hospitalizations by age group

The FDA’s approval for bivalent vaccine boosters in adults is based on data from the clinical studies of a bivalent vaccine targeting the Omicron variant BA.1 and the preclinical trials in mice from the Omicron BA.4/5-adapted vaccine.

Following preventative measures

A study by the University of Utah Health found that one in four (41.6%) Americans misled others about having COVID-19 or following preventative measures during the peak of the pandemic.

The study, the findings of which were published in the journal JAMA Network Open, included 1,733 US adults. Of those, 24.3% said they lied to the person they were with or about to be with about taking more COVID-19 preventive measures than they actually were. In addition, over one in five (22.5%) respondents said they lied about breaking quarantine rules.

Some people said they did not mention that they might have had, or knew that they had, COVID-19 when entering a doctor’s office; or told someone they were vaccinated when they weren’t.

The most common reasons to mislead others were wanting life to feel normal and wanting to exercise personal freedom.

Interestingly, 47% of the survey respondents were not vaccinated, a higher proportion than might have been expected (during the time of the survey, the CDC reports 72% had at least one dose). More people said they were not vaccinated when they actually were than the reverse.

This could reflect many underlying realities, one of which might be the person’s social peer group tended not to favor vaccination, but it was required by work or school, or a feeling that it was no one else’s business.

Risk of dying “close to zero”

Dr. Ashish Jha, head of the White House COVID-19 task force, said on Tuesday that being up to date with vaccination and getting medical treatment significantly reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19.

“If you are up to date with your vaccines and if you get treated, if you have a breakthrough infection, your risk of dying from COVID is now close to zero. I really think that is remarkable progress,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Dr. Jha did not provide any data to support his claim. However, last week, he said that 70% of the people dying from COVID-19 are 75 and older, have not received the boosters, or are not receiving necessary treatment.

About 300 people are still dying due to COVID-19 every day, according to the CDC. Dr. Jha encourages Americans to get the flu shot and their COVID-19 booster before Halloween to ensure the immune system has time to prepare before the November and December holiday gatherings.

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