Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — October 20, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

386. One should understand statistics before leaping to conclusions.

         Q:  I read that Connecticut has reached 80% vaccinations.  Are we at herd immunity?

         A:  No.  Newspapers reported last week that 80% of the people eligible for vaccinations have been vaccinated.  This looks great and reassuring, as it was intended when it was published.  But it is of little value to demonstrate the progress of the disease.  With children under the age of 12 not yet eligible for vaccinations, they were not considered in that metric.  That 80% of the people does not include an estimated 380,000 kids.   Herd immunity is when enough people who can pass the virus on to others reach a critical level, perhaps as low as 80%.  Children under age 12 can pass the disease on to others, and they would have to be included in a statistic that tracks the progress in containing the pandemic.  One official estimate for how many are fully vaccinated in Connecticut is about 70%.  The current caseload of about 12 newly infected people every day for every 100,000 population illustrates we have a way to go before we will reach herd immunity.

387. It is alleged that Moderna is prioritizing its vaccine for profits by limiting its distribution to the poor.

         Q: How do pharmaceutical companies recover their costs for developing their vaccines??

         A:  In the current push for Covid-19 vaccines, the federal government provided millions of dollars to several companies to develop and test their vaccine products.  Normally, pharmaceutical companies recover their research and development costs by charging for the drugs they develop.  Protective patents on new drugs prevent their formulas from being copied by others, which allows them to be offered as lower-cost generic medications.  The retail costs of pharmaceuticals and the profits of drug companies have always been controversial.  Last week, the New York Times published an article that Moderna’s mRNA Covid vaccine is being supplied to wealthy countries, making billions of dollars while keeping poorer countries waiting.  Moderna has shipped a greater share of its doses to wealthy countries than any other vaccine manufacturer according to Airfinity, a data firm that tracks vaccine shipments.  “They are behaving as if they have no responsibility beyond maximizing their return on investment,” said Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC.  Moderna executives have said they are doing all they can to manufacture more of their doses, but have limited capacity.  Unlike other pharmaceutical companies, Moderna does not sell other medications in other countries, and they are heavily reliant on income from their vaccine to sustain their continued existence.   The controversy has reached a high point over the past few weeks with President Biden publicly demanding that all vaccine manufacturers, especially Moderna, need to invest in expanding their production capacity for manufacturing more Covid-19 vaccine doses.

388. The NBA is showing it is serious about players getting vaccinated.

         Q:  Why are some sports figures not getting vaccinations?

         A:  Kyle Irving is an important member of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team.  When he was asked by the NBA if he had already been vaccinated against Covid, he became evasive.  The problem initially was that New York had passed a requirement that everyone entering facilities such as sports arenas be at least partially vaccinated.  Kyle refused to show proof of his vaccination and was initially told he could only play in games away from home.  He would not be able to be present at the 41 scheduled home games.  The NBA has since given Kyle a choice to get vaccinated or take the entire 2021-2022 season off.  Kyle has a reputation of being a contrarian and not always following all the rules.  But if he sits out the season, it could hurt the Nets’ chances of gathering another NBA championship, and diminish his future chances to play professionally.  Time will tell what his future will be.

389. Anchorage is in turmoil over passing a mask mandate.

         Q:  What is going on in Anchorage, Alaska?  I hear that they can’t even pass a mask mandate locally?

         A:  The Associated Press has been reporting on the political repercussions in Anchorage over requiring masks to be worn indoors.  Alaska has been reporting the highest prevalence of Covid-19 in the United States.  The surge of patients more than a week ago caused the major medical center, Providence Alaska Medical Center, to revert to “crisis standards of care.”   As this is the primary tertiary care hospital in the state, receiving patients from other state hospitals, all the feeder hospitals have, of necessity, also shifted to their “crisis standards of care.”  This has affected more than Covid-19 patients.  Heart surgeries have been canceled to preserve resources for those “more likely to survive.”  Specific instances have been reported.  One patient who needed emergency surgery was not attended to.  A second was taken off dialysis because someone else needed it.  In both cases, the patients who were denied care died.

Anchorage has about 40% of the state’s population.  The state’s governor and local mayor are both against mask mandates, reflecting the vocal minority who are aggressively and vocally opposed to such measures.  But the local governing Assembly, starting in September, held hearings proposing to pass a local ordinance mandating all adults to wear masks indoors.  The proposed ordinance did provide for religious and medical exemptions.  During these hearings, several disruptions occurred.  Police arrested one armed person.  Protesters appeared wearing Stars of David comparing mask requirements to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust.  Many who offered testimony issued bold threats to the Assembly members, individually threatening physical violence and property destruction for proposing this mandate.  Last Tuesday, the Assembly voted 9 to 1 to adopt the mandate.  The Mayor, Dave Bronson, vetoed this ordinance the next day, but the Assembly immediately scheduled a meeting to vote to turn down this veto.  Polling shows that a majority of the public supports this mask-wearing mandate.  On Thursday last week, the Assembly voted 9-2 to override the mayor’s veto.  That public meeting was attended by many advocates as well as opponents and was much less anger-ridden.  Many showing signs that stated, “Thank You!”  The now-approved mandate will be due to expire in just 60 days, and also contains a provision the if two of the three hospitals in Anchorage return to normal standards of care for 14 days, the restriction will end earlier.  The vicious anger displayed by the minority is causing great concern over how well this mandate will be followed.

390. Texas ban on any vaccination mandates is challenged by big business.

         Q:  How will corporations who are for vaccination mandates handle Texas’ ban on them?

         A:  Texas governor, Greg Abbott, a strong opponent of vaccine mandates, issued a state order last Monday saying that inoculations against coronavirus should always be voluntary.  His order mandates that no “entity” (business, organization, or group) in Texas can mandate vaccinations for their employees or for people who attend or engage in any offerings provided by these groups.  No requiring service employees to be vaccinated.  No restricting of attendance at sports events, no requiring a vaccination to eat in restaurants or do shopping in stores.   This pitted businesses against the ruling when nationally, employees who hire more than 100 people must conform to OSHA requirements to provide a safe workplace by mandating vaccinations. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, based in Texas, stated last Tuesday they would not comply with an order from the governor of Texas barring private employers from requiring vaccines.  The Greater Houston Partnership, a business group that includes Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and JP Morgan as members, also came out against the governor’s order saying it “does not support Texas business’ ability and duty to create a safe workplace.”

“Texas has just set itself up for a grand political show, but not a potentially legally sound initiative to stop all vaccine mandates,” said James Hodge, the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University.  “It boils down to a lot more politics than law.”  He reflected, “Courts in the US have a long history of upholding vaccine mandates, and of ruling that protecting public health takes precedence over personal choice.”