American Coronavirus: Are you coming home from the holidays? Getting vaccinated or boosted is the first step to a safe trip, says expert

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Amid a nationwide spate of cases fueled by the Omicron coronavirus variant ahead of the holiday season, parts of the country are reporting an increase in hospitalizations and deaths. And people need to be prepared for an increased risk of infection while traveling by taking preventative measures, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

“If you’ve only received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, even though it officially counts as fully immunized, we know its impact on the breakthrough symptomatic disease is close to zero,” Hotez told CNN’s Amara Walker on Saturday. .

The initial two-dose regiment will always protect “better against serious illness,” he said, “but you still have to be beefed up, I think, if you want to travel safely.”

Booster shots can take two weeks to provide maximum immunity, doctors said, meaning the sooner you are vaccinated the better. Other measures, including wearing a quality mask, can help reduce the risk of infection.

Millions of immunocompromised Americans are expected to delay future travel plans by a few weeks if possible in the hopes that the current wave will not last as long as previous ones, Hotez said.

And because of Omicron’s contagiousness, “even if you’re boosted, you have to deal with the possibility of getting symptomatic illness through airports and on Ubers,” he said.

The United States has fully vaccinated nearly 62% of its total population, leaving millions of unvaccinated people at higher risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the United States. And more than 31% of those vaccinated received extra doses or boosters.
Even though early research indicates that Omicron may cause less severe disease than the Delta variant, the recently detected strain is highly contagious and threatens to strain healthcare resources, officials and experts have warned. A feature of the season has been the shortage of Covid-19 test kits – a crucial tool in trying to appease the fast-moving virus.

Dr Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that while there is always a risk of contracting the virus while traveling, mitigation efforts are available.

“So if someone has been exposed in your eye socket or in your circle, or has been infected, you don’t have to assume everyone has it. Keep doing things like wearing masks around people. or tests, “Faust told CNN’s Boris Sanchez. On Saturday.

And for those who travel, Faust advises looking for “the weak links in the chain”.

“It’s not necessarily the plane itself. It could be the airport queue in the bathroom where you have to be very careful with masks and other mitigation measures,” a- he declared. “And I think depending on your threshold, you have to adjust accordingly.”

Narrow processing options for Omicron

Along with millions of travelers, Omicron was also partly responsible for the Christmas weekend cancellations of around 1,700 flights within, to or from the United States, according to the tracking website. Aviation FlightAware.
Airlines, including Delta and United, said they were facing staff shortages due to Omicron, which became the dominant constraint in the United States last week as authorities announced a new wave of measures to fight against the spread.
There is a new drug to prevent Covid-19, but there will not be enough for eligible Americans

And as for the fight against Omicron, there is currently a monoclonal antibody treatment that is still expected to be effective against the strain, the United States Food and Drug Administration said in a statement on Thursday.

The treatment known as REGEN-COV or the combined use of bamlanivimab and etesevimab is “unlikely” to “remain active” against Omicron, the statement said. This means that sotrovimab is the only monoclonal antibody treatment currently available to control the Omicron variant.

The office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response has decided to suspend allocations for other monoclonal antibody therapies and that 300,000 additional doses of sotrovimab will be available in January, the agency said.

The United States is also experiencing a shortage of Evusheld monoclonal antibody treatment, which will only be given to people with weakened immune systems and who do not have active Covid-19 infections. Federal officials have purchased up to 700,000 doses of the preventive drug, enough to help only one-tenth of the seven million people deemed eligible.
The Covid-19 vaccine is administered at a pop-up clinic in the international arrivals section of Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California on December 22, 2021.

Minorities are still at higher risk of suffering the most serious consequences from Covid-19

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, racial and ethnic minority communities have borne the brunt of Covid-19 – whether through disease, death or economic struggles.

Almost two years later, some of these disparities persist.

Racial and ethnic minority groups who had other health problems and contracted Covid-19 were more likely to have a higher hospital death rate than white patients, according to a study published Thursday in JAMA Health Forum.
Latinos still scrambling over Covid-19 in New Jersey are on high alert on Omicron

The study, which tracked data from more than 14 million hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries between January 2019 and February 2021, found a drop in non-Covid-19 hospitalizations and an increase in Covid-19-related hospitalizations. 19 in all areas.

But “the average rate of black and Hispanic Covid-19 hospitalizations exceeded that of white beneficiaries until February 2021,” the researchers wrote.

“Recipients hospitalized with Covid-19 were more likely to be from racial and ethnic minority groups compared to hospitalized prepandemic recipients,” they also noted.

The “persistently increased disparity” in non-Covid-19 mortality may be linked to factors such as differences in access to Covid-19 tests, access to care and changes in the composition of cases and the quality of care linked to pandemic factors, the authors wrote.

For Covid-19 hospitalizations, mortality was not “significantly different” for black patients compared to white patients, but mortality increased by 3.5 percentage points in Hispanic patients.

The researchers suggested that a “spillover effect”, which increased hospitalizations for Covid-19, may have altered the distribution of hospital resources “potentially increasing racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes.”

For hospitalizations unrelated to Covid-19, mortality in black patients increased nearly 0.5 percentage points higher than in white patients, “a 17.5% increase from the pre-pandemic death rate in hospitalized black patients “.

CNN’s Virginia Langmaid and Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.

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