Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris: What difference does the vaccine make? Just look at this
Data on the number of cases and hospitalizations during the New Zealand delta outbreak sends a resounding message to anyone who doubts the importance of Covid vaccines in protecting against a deadly disease.
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So now we have community cases of Covid-19 in Christchurch. Last night there were only two people, but only time will tell how big the cluster will be. Hopefully, it stays small and the test-trace-isolation strategy can eliminate it without the city needing to raise alert levels. Not surprisingly, the person who unintentionally brought the virus to Christchurch was not vaccinated. They had been in Auckland for a short time and for a legitimate reason. At some point during their stay, they were exposed to the virus. Genomic sequencing and case investigation will hopefully help us understand where and when. While the person tested negative before returning home to Christchurch, it turns out that she was incubating the virus. Now they have tested positive and unfortunately have come in contact with people while they were contagious.
The data from our delta epidemic really speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing people from catching Covid-19 and, if they do, being hospitalized. Just check these numbers. First of all, the cases.
As of October 25, there were 2,681 community cases in the Delta epidemic. Of those 1,984 people, they were unvaccinated – a staggering 74%. About one in four were children under 12 who could not be vaccinated. Partially vaccinated people accounted for 566 of the 2,681 cases. This category – just over 20% – includes people who had only received their first dose or a second in the past 14 days, meaning they were not fully immune. As for people who are fully vaccinated? Only 136 cases, or 5.1%.
It’s a similar story with hospitalizations. As of October 25, 224 people had been hospitalized during the New Zealand Delta outbreak. The overwhelming majority of them, 168 people, were over 12 years old and not vaccinated. It’s 75%. Partially vaccinated people were the second largest group. They were 45. It’s about 20%. Only three of those hospitalized (1.3%) were fully vaccinated.
Simply put, vaccines work. So it’s fantastic that over 85% of eligible people in New Zealand received their first dose of the vaccine and over 70% received two. Before we get too excited, however, we have to remember that this equates to just over 70% of first doses and 60% of full vaccines when you consider the population of New Zealand as a whole.
In other words, there are still a lot of people in our communities who are not yet vaccinated. A large part of them are children under the age of 12. And as we have seen from the data, more than 540 have been infected so far during this outbreak. Eight children under 12 were hospitalized. Hopefully it won’t be long before a vaccine is also available for our children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biologics Advisory Committee just voted 17 to zero (with one abstention) in favor of making a Covid-19 vaccine available for 5-11 years. What they were voting on was a lower dose version of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. Adults are given two doses of 30 micrograms. Children 5 to 11 years old will receive two doses of 10 micrograms.
Unfortunately, it’s not just a matter of diluting the adult doses to get a children’s version. The Pfizer vaccine is made up of MRNA wrapped in small balls of fat then bathed in sugar and salts. All of these ingredients need to be in the right proportions for the vaccine to be effective. This means that the children’s vaccine is a different formulation than the adult version. The question now is how will Pfizer meet the huge demand that there will be for both formulations? I would like them to agree to transfer their technology to other companies and organizations around the world so that everyone can benefit.
While we wait, we need everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated now. This will drastically reduce their chances of being a case, being hospitalized, and potentially transmitting the virus to other people. Time is running out to enjoy the summer vacation and reunite with friends and family.
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