Today’s TIP News: Omicron cases could make up 100% of COVID cases at one Houston hospital by January; US could see a 73% increase in COVID deaths by January; COVID vaccine developed by TIP Scientific Advisory Council members Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi could be ready for distribution in India; and good news / bad news about good news.
Hello, and welcome to TIP News for Dec. 15, 2021. TIP News is a podcast production of The Immunization Partnership. My name is John David Powell.
In today’s TIP News: Omicron cases could make up 100 percent of COVID cases at one Houston hospital by January; the US could see a 73 percent increase in COVID deaths in two weeks; a COVID vaccine developed by TIP Scientific Advisory Council members Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi could be ready for distribution in India; and there is good news / bad news about good news.
We begin today with word from Houston Methodist Hospital that it saw more than four times as many COVID cases this week over last week, a total of 307 on Monday and Tuesday, for those keeping score at home. And the hospital confirmed to Houston Public Radio that it identified 54 cases of the Omicron variant this month.
Methodist president and CEO Dr. Marc Boom says those Omicron cases accounted for 32 percent of the hospital’s symptomatic patients, up about 13 percent in four days.
Dr. S. Wesley Long is medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Methodist. He says Omicron could make up 100 percent of Methodist’s COVID cases by January.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts about 1.3 million new COVID cases in the US next week along with a 73 percent increase in COVID deaths by early January. The CDC also says Omicron accounts for three percent sequenced cases, which is seven times more than last week. But the CDC points out New York and New Jersey may account for 13 percent of the Omicron case.
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, may be the site of the largest Omicron outbreak so far. Almost 930 Omicron cases over the past week. All among fully vaccinated folks, including some who have had boosters.
And we have news of two studies on the Omicron variant. A recent South African study found Omicron spreads faster than other virus variants, but it is 20 percent less likely to put you in the hospital.
And researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s LKS Faculty of Medicine found that even though Omicron infects humans 70 times faster than previous COVID strains 24 hours after catching it, the infection seems not to be as severe.
Folks in India could be getting a new COVID vaccine created at the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, thanks to the work of a team led by TIP Scientific Advisory Council members Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi.
Hotez and Bottazzi are the co-directors of the Texas Children’s Hospital center. He is dean and she is associate dean of the Baylor College of Medicine National School of Tropical Medicine.
The vaccine is called Corbevax, and it has gone through nearly ten years of research. The goal is to use Corbevax to vaccinate not only India, but other low- and middle-income countries.
Hotez told Houston Public Radio the vaccine is cheap and has no patent, which makes it easier to mass produce outside India. If it gets emergency authorization, it will be distributed only in India, which saw more than 400,000 COVID cases a day in May.
Finally, some good news, bad news about good news.
Researchers at Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry and Sweden's Karolinska Institute found major news announcements related to vaccine releases were associated with a large decrease in negative vaccine sentiment on social media on the day of the announcement, with negative tweets dropping from 40 percent to 20 percent.
But the good-news effect was short-lived, with negative tweets back up to 40 percent within a few days.
Lead researcher Professor Seena Fazel says that although vaccine hesitancy is not new, social media exponentially increase the ability for rumors, half-truths, and outright fallacies to spread globally in seconds. She says this should show the need for clear, positive messaging, even if the positive uptick lasts a short time. She says policy makers and health communicators should consider spacing out news announcements and writing content specifically aimed at social media audiences.
That’s our TIP News for today, Dec. 16, 2021.
TIP News is a podcast production of The Immunization Partnership. We invite you to subscribe to our podcasts, Vaxx Voice, which deals with vaccines in general, and Vaxx to the Future, where we feature information specifically related to COVID-19 and its vaccines. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also find more information on our webpage, immunizeusa.org. For all of us at The Immunization Partnership, I’m John David Powell. Thanks for listening.