COVID hospitalizations rise statewide as California creeps toward a potential winter spike
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Just yesterday, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced they're seeking emergency approval for booster doses of their vaccine for people 18 and older. In addition, the white house is expected to announce today that 900,000 children have gotten their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine while the latest national milestone is encouraging. Concern is growing here in California, as COVID hospitalizations are rising and regions with lower vaccination rates, the potentially ominous spike in cases ahead of the holiday season, combined with the ongoing issue of waning efficacy continues to give residents pause about how the fight against COVID-19 is going and what's ahead joining me now with the answers to some of your most pressing COVID questions is Dr. Eric Topol director of the Scripps research translational Institute in LA Jolla. Dr. Topol, welcome back to the
Speaker 2: (00:54)
Program. Thanks Jay. Great to be with you. Can
Speaker 1: (00:57)
You explain Pfizer's latest request for emergency use booster authorization from the FDA and how does this differ from prior steps in the authorization process?
Speaker 2: (01:08)
Well, the only authorization they received so far are for people over 65 and those who have immunocompromised or comorbidity vulnerable status. Now they're trying to widen that and expanding it to everyone. 18 years of age and older other countries have given authorization as such for example, Canada, New Zealand, many others, but the us has not come down in the age criteria as low as 18. And Pfizer has data now to support them,
Speaker 1: (01:39)
Should people go and seek out their booster shots and how should they determine how to go about getting additional doses?
Speaker 2: (01:46)
Well, the booster shot does give edit protection. If you're more than five, six months out from getting the second shot, it's time to think about a booster as you go older in age from 40 to 50 60 putts, you just keep having more risks without the booster. So whether it's necessary in even younger age groups like in the twenties and thirties, that's where it gets to be a little less clear, but I think ideally it would be best if all people consider getting it. It's really a personal choice, particularly in young people, but not really in people who are older.
Speaker 1: (02:21)
And as you mentioned right now, the booster shot is available for people who have underlying conditions and comorbidities, but there are many common underlying conditions here that are often missed. Can you talk about those a bit,
Speaker 2: (02:34)
Right, Jane? Well, there are, uh, no shortage of chronic conditions. Uh, getting down to things like obesity, certainly diabetes, hypertension. There are the list of coexisting conditions is quite extensive, but even people who have no coexisting conditions, particularly as they get past age, 50 and 60, they really ought to go and get a booster right now. What we've seen is that there's some reluctance for people to get that. And I understand that if you've gone through a flu like illness from your second shot, who wants to get a third one, but there's a lot of protection and it's possible that that third shot could take us a long way. It's not just another six months. So I really, I think we should encourage these
Speaker 1: (03:16)
Because data show in terms of how well boosters protect versus severe disease across age groups,
Speaker 2: (03:22)
Hospitalizations, and severe disease, and almost all the data we have comes from Israel. And there they define severe disease as hospitalization, or clear-cut signed that there's a oxygen desaturation in the lungs that is, uh, a burgeoning pneumonia, you know, pretty strict criteria. But if you look at the data that's been published now from Israel, hospitalizations and deaths are suppressed with the booster shots, the deaths primarily occur in people who are age 70 and older, but no one wants to go in the hospital with COVID, particularly if you've already had two vaccine shots. So boosters are smart. Uh, and I really think we should be using them more liberally and accepting them.
Speaker 1: (04:08)
As we mentioned earlier, the white house is set to announce today that 900,000 children aged five to 11 have received their first dose. Are you encouraged by that number?
Speaker 2: (04:20)
Yes, it's a good start. 1 million down and a 27 million to go. That's how many children ages five to 11. There are in the United States. We'll never get the 28 million, but it sure would help a lot to get control of the pandemic to get these kids protected, not just from themselves, but other kids and teachers and staff in schools and adults, but also protecting kids from long. COVID protecting them from, you know, the whole pandemic duration, no less, uh, the issues of getting rid of mask in school and all the things of signs of progress. So we really want to get these kids vaccinated. And interestingly, the paper that came out yesterday in the new England journal was really impressive. 91% protection with this low dose of the Pfizer vaccine, just 10 micrograms, which was accompanied by just remarkable safety data. So I think this is a really great, uh, green light to getting children vaccinated. The safety was a concern in teens, but the dose has been lowered to a third and hopefully we won't see any significant side effects in children as we go forward. And time will tell about that, but the trial looked really a very solid,
Speaker 1: (05:37)
The impact that COVID can have on children was at all trivialized during efforts to get them back into the classroom.
Speaker 2: (05:44)
Well, yes, I mean, I think the idea that schools were closed for such a long period of time, and there were evidence evidence in other countries that they were able to stay open. You know, we've had significant issues here in the U S and certainly in California, we haven't had rapid tests on a daily or frequent basis to help to know whether children and staff and teachers were okay to go in that day, which would be idea. We still don't have them in a nearly all schools that would really help. But, you know, I think if we can get the vaccination rates really high, we can get schools to be one of the safest places there are.
Speaker 1: (06:21)
I think we will eventually see a plateau in vaccination rates among children due to hesitancy, as we've seen with other groups.
Speaker 2: (06:28)
That is a problem. You know, when you have adults that won't get vaccinated, sure is unlikely. They're going to have their children get vaccinated. So we haven't gotten that problem resolved in adults. And that's a serious matter in this country. That's setting us up for trouble. We only have 58% of the population vaccinated, even if we got all the children vaccinated, which is unlikely, we're still left way behind where we need to be to get this pandemic in our rear view mirror.
Speaker 1: (06:55)
And what do you make of the recent increase in hospitalizations here in California?
Speaker 2: (07:00)
Well, we have a few things going on at once. You know, I've already mentioned our vaccination rate is inadequate. It's less in California than in many other states, particularly in new England. And it's just above the national average, but it's just not enough. So those people who are winding up in the hospital are much more likely to be the un-vaccinated, but some are vaccinated who had this week immunity and they would have been much better off if they'd gotten the booster shot, then you have the people who have relaxed the idea, the notion that the pandemic is over, it couldn't be more wrong. So these are the major factors that are contributing to the problem. And I think we're still on the upswing, unfortunately in California and San Diego, because we don't have enough recognition of these three Cardinal issues that are ongoing.
Speaker 1: (07:50)
There are places in the world where COVID is currently surging like Eastern Europe. For example, what's driving the surge there and could the U S see the same as holidays and winter approach
Speaker 2: (08:01)
Eastern and central Europe have very low vaccination rate, but what's even more concerning than the Eastern central Europe's status is that in Western Europe, almost every country has considerably higher vaccination rates and more recent vaccination than the us. So they have less evidence of waning and higher people protected. And we are seeing really high rates of COVID in those countries, countries like Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Norway. I mean, the list goes on. That's a horrible sign because these countries are better off than we are. So we should have a wake up call that we are in for trouble, uh, because we're lower vaccinated. We have more waning with people reluctant to get boosters. We have been thinking that, you know, the mask and mitigation is unnecessary when in fact it's actually quite necessary to get through this. So we were not taking heat again. And that's a problem. I've
Speaker 1: (08:55)
Been speaking with Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps research translational Institute in LA Jolla. Dr. Topol, thank you very much for joining us again.
On Tuesday pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced they’re seeking emergency approval for booster doses of their vaccine for people 18 and older.
In addition, the White House is expected to announce Wednesday that 900,000 children have gotten their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
While the latest national milestone is encouraging, the concern is growing here in California as COVID hospitalizations are rising in regions with lower vaccination rates.
The potentially ominous spike in cases ahead of the holiday season combined with the ongoing issue of waning efficacy continues to give residents pause about how the fight against COVID-19 is going and what’s ahead.
Eric Topol, the director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, points to several countries in Europe as a possible look ahead as to what could happen if Americans let their guard down.
Nations where COVID misinformation has run rampant, particularly in Eastern Europe, have seen a high rate of spread as health and safety guidelines are rolled back.
Even more concerning than that, Topol said, is a resurgence in cases in parts of Western Europe that were previously regarded as being on the forefront in the fight against COVID.
Countries like Denmark, Belgium and Norway have all seen jumps in case rates in recent months.
"That's a horrible sign because these countries are better off than we are, so we should have a wake-up call that we are in for trouble," Topol said.
Topol joined Midday Edition on Wednesday with more about the potential surge the nation could face in the coming months.