Not all of the decline in hospitalizations among seniors is a result of the vaccines. Cases have fallen sharply across the U.S. in every age group since the worst of the pandemic this winter; naturally, if there’s less virus circulating in the population, fewer older people will end up in the hospital for that reason alone. But Thompson’s right to note that the *rate* at which hospitalizations have fallen for seniors is greater than the rate in other groups, which suggests a vaccine effect. And part of the reason why there’s less virus circulating in the population is the fact that more than 10 percent of Americans have now been fully vaccinated, a group in which seniors are overrepresented. There are simply fewer vectors of transmission walking around to pass the virus to others, especially among retirees.
Seniors are the red line in this graph:
The effect is more pronounced among the oldest seniors, the 85+ group. We’d expect to find more of them in nursing homes, which had the highest priority for vaccinations in December and January. They’re the dashed red line here:
That’s amazing improvement, suggesting that the vaccine is saving lives without quite proving it. For stronger evidence we turn to Israel, where the number of vaccinated people suffering symptomatic illness is minuscule:
Data released by the Health Ministry Monday provided a further indication of the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine in Israel: Out of those who were tested for the coronavirus at least a week after their second shot, less than 1 percent tested positive, and less than 0.2% developed COVID-19 symptoms.
The data shows that out of 3,387,340 vaccinated people who had had more than a week pass after receiving their second vaccine dose, only 4,711 were found to be positive for the virus and of those, only 907 developed symptoms, including fever or respiratory problems…
Of the 6,095 coronavirus patients hospitalized in serious or critical condition since the start of Israel’s vaccination campaign, only 175, or 2.87 percent, had received the second vaccination dose, the figures show.
That’s an enormous study, covering more than a third of the country’s population, yet fewer than a thousand people had any symptoms of COVID after being infected following vaccination. I’d like to hear more about the 175 who ended up in the hospital, particularly their age and the underlying health problems they may have had. But there’s actually good news today for that group too: Even if science can’t stop you from developing a symptomatic case of COVID on the front end, by vaccinating you, it might be able to save you on the back end with therapeutics. Eli Lilly announced this morning that the results of the latest trial for its antibody cocktail are promising:
Eli Lilly and Co said on Wednesday that its combination antibody therapy to fight COVID-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 87% in a study of more than 750 high-risk COVID-19 patients…
“I expect this data to continue to drive more utilization” of the antibodies,” said Daniel Skovronsky, chief scientific officer at Eli Lilly.
“We have few other diseases where we have drugs that can offer this magnitude of benefit.”
Skovronsky believes the treatment will work on all known variants. The feds have already ordered 100,000 doses, which will come in handy for the ~25 percent of Americans who still insist that they won’t get vaccinated if given the opportunity. The two demographics most likely to say that right now? Younger adults — and Republicans:
For all the attention paid to resistance among black Americans to getting vaccinated, they’re somewhat more willing at the moment than right-wingers are. One way the White House might soften up that reluctance on the right is to just make it easier for people who live in rural areas to get the shot. Some are resisting for ideological or propaganda reasons but others may be undecided yet unwilling to travel far to avail themselves. That’s a problem that can be solved. Read this piece about the CDC chatting with Dollar General, which has a huge number of locations across the country, about possibly partnering with them to extend the vaccine’s reach to rural America. Dollar General doesn’t have pharmacies but it does have refrigeration and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures. J&J would also be ideal for more reluctant rural populations since it’s a single dose; no need to nag people to make a follow-up appointment. If Israel can work with Ikea to get shots into arms, why can’t the CDC and Dollar General make things work?