Everyone wants vaccines to be perfect – and the COVID-19 ones nearly are. Only a tiny fraction of those who are vaccinated end up seriously ill from an infection.
But still, some fully vaccinated people will get sick, some will pass on the virus, and a very small number will die despite their shots.
“The efficacy of the vaccines in preventing hospitalizations and death is unbelievable,” said Carlos del Rio, an epidemiologist and distinguished professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “It’s not 100%. But nothing in this world is 100%.”
At a time when the infection rate has doubled, many remain unvaccinated and the delta variant is vastly more contagious than the original, it’s important to recognize vaccines aren’t flawless, he and others said.
“I understand it’s kind of a tough pill to swallow for many people,” said Anthony Santella, a public health expert at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.
Several recent high-profile cases have brought public attention to the fact that people who are vaccinated can still catch the virus.
Last Thursday’s Yankees-Red Sox game was postponed because six Yankees – most, but not all, of whom were vaccinated – tested positive for the virus. At a homeless shelter in Northern California, a number of vaccinated residents tested positive during an ongoing outbreak. And six vaccinated members of the Texas Legislature, who had fled the state to prevent a vote on changes in the state’s election laws, have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.
The fourth wave of COVID-19 cases is here. Will we escape the UK’s fate? It’s too soon to know.
The common thread for all those infections was that they were caught by routine testing, not because people fell seriously ill, noted Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Of the more than 159 million fully vaccinated Americans as of July 12, a reported 5,492 have been hospitalized, and 791 have died related to symptomatic COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In May, the CDC stopped tracking all so-called breakthrough infections, focusing only on state and local health department reports of hospitalizations and deaths, so there’s no way to know how many infections there have been or whether they are increasing because of the delta variant.
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and former Baltimore health commissioner, called that decision “inexplicable.”
Without that data, she said, it’s impossible to know how many people are getting infected after vaccination, whether certain people, perhaps senior citizens, are more vulnerable to breakthrough infections, and how easy it is for people who have been vaccinated and then infected to pass on the infection to others.
“We just don’t know the answers to these questions, and that is really preventing clinicians from giving good guidance to our patients,” she said.
Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are growing probably because more virus is circulating, not because vaccines don’t work against the delta variant, which now accounts for more than half the infections in the United States, experts say.
Vaccines remain effective against severe disease from the delta variant, said Ellebedy, who studies the body’s response to vaccination.
But the variant is vastly more contagious than the original virus, so the unvaccinated are particularly vulnerable.
“If you’re vaccinated, you should not worry about the delta variant,” del Rio said. “If you’re not vaccinated, you are really in trouble because it’s likely that you will get infected.”
Range of protection
Even healthy people respond differently to vaccination, so it is normal to see variation in protection among the vaccinated, Ellebedy said.
For 95 people out of 100, vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will provide effective protection.
The problem is, it’s essentially impossible to figure out ahead of time who is most vulnerable. Certain factors like age, obesity and lung disease increase the risk of serious disease if someone is infected. So does the load of virus they inhale and what medications they’re taking, he said.
Some people will test positive for the virus despite vaccination, but the immune protection they received will keep virtually all those people from getting seriously ill.
Vaccination also makes people less likely to shed large amounts of virus, Ellebedy said, meaning they are less likely than an unvaccinated infected person to get someone else sick. Anything that decreases the amount of virus replicating itself in the respiratory tract will decrease the probability of passing on that virus, he said. “Transmission will decrease like everything else.”
And though the data remains thin, vaccination also likely protects against long-haul COVID-19, in which people have symptoms weeks or months after they clear their initial infection, said David Holtgrave, dean of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany, State University of New York.
“Long-haul symptoms in persons who are fully vaccinated may be theoretically possible but are likely rare given the overall effectiveness of the vaccines (after being fully vaccinated); however, we could use more data to know that for certain,” he said via email. “That is why we need this more robust national surveillance system.”
A previous coronavirus infection provides some protection against the delta variant, but someone who got COVID-19 months ago might not have enough of an immune response left, del Rio said.
“My advice if you have been infected, is you should trust your natural immunity for about three months. But after three months, you should get vaccinated,” he said.
People who were infected and then vaccinated are probably well-protected. Ellebedy said.
Context also matters, Ellebedy and others said. Someone who is vaccinated and who lives in a community with a high vaccination rate and a low infection rate probably can get away without a mask.
Ellebedy lives in Missouri, where infections have recently doubled and just 40% of the public is vaccinated. So he masks up in public, indoor places.
While the CDC said mask-wearing isn’t mandatory except in medical and transportation settings, numerous experts told USA TODAY it’s a good idea to wear a mask in indoor settings with people who are possibly unvaccinated.
Wearing a mask on top of being vaccinated is the safest way to avoid getting infected or passing on the virus to someone whose weakened immune system prevented them from getting full protection from the vaccine.
“Everyone should closely look at the environment where they are,” Ellebedy said. “Delta unfortunately has brought these doubts back again.”
In the United States, infections have more than doubled since the week of June 22. Total cases have risen in all 50 states since last week, and deaths also are beginning to climb, although the infection rates remain 90% below what they were at the peak in January.
That puts vaccinated people at risk because there’s simply more virus out there, said Dr. George Rutherford, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.
“The more people who are running around infectious, the more you, as someone who’s been vaccinated, are likely to come into contact with it,” he said
Unvaccinated are getting sick
At Staten Island University Hospital in New York, there are 15 COVID-19 patients, 13 of whom are unvaccinated, said Dr. Theodore Strange, the hospital’s chairman of medicine.
One of the vaccinated patients, a 93-year-old man with many other health problems, received his shots at the beginning of the year but may have had a weaker response because of his age and health, Strange said. The remaining vaccinated patient was hospitalized for something else and didn’t know they had COVID-19 until a coronavirus test came back positive.
Strange said his COVID-19 patients are about 10 years younger now than they were a year ago, with an average age of 55-60. Some are even younger, he said, rattling off ages: “29, 38, 42, 50.”
Vaccinations deserve the credit, he said, because about 70% of people on Staten Island over 65 are vaccinated, compared with 38% of those 40 and younger.
He’s disappointed more people haven’t been willing to be vaccinated, despite the risk of infection and of “being the bullet in the gun,” potentially bringing the virus home to older, more vulnerable relatives.
He related a conversation he had last week with a patient who didn’t want to be vaccinated. Strange had recently prescribed the man a medication with many more potential side effects than the vaccines.
“The pill I gave him was clearly more much poisonous than any vaccine,” Strange said, but the man didn’t want to take something he perceived as coming from the government.
Strange has been trying an individual approach to persuade people to get the shots, including visiting a local bowling alley, churches, park benches, “whatever it takes.”
But still, he said, the curve of coronavirus infections is very similar to the one followed by the 1918 flu, a pandemic that lasted three years.
“If we’re not going to avail ourselves of current technology and science,” he said, “then shame on us.”
Contributing: Mike Stucka
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID after vaccine: Serious illness is rare with breakthrough cases
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Russian Troops Dead After Getting ‘Treated’ to Poisoned Meals, Ukraine Officials Say
In a show of hospitality, Ukrainian citizens in the besieged region of Kharkiv have reportedly been “treating” Russian troops local delicacies—laced with poison.
At least two troops from the 3rd Motor Rifle Division of the Russian Federation died immediately after eating stuffed buns served by the residents of Izium, a town about 80 miles southeast of Kharkiv, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine wrote Saturday in an announcement posted to Facebook.
Another 28 Russians are being treated in intensive care from eating the contaminated treats. The condition of these poisoned invaders has yet to be confirmed.
According to the Intelligence Directorate, several hundred Russian soldiers have also suffered severe illnesses from drinking poisoned alcohol while occupying the region. Ukrainian officials said that the Russian military is “writing off these cases as so-called ‘non-combat losses.’”
Though Russian troops have reportedly retreated from the capital of Kyiv. The New York Times reports that insurgent forces are still fighting to gain control of Izium, despite the locals’ culinary efforts. Control of the eastern town would allow Russians to strategically secure access to the occupied Donbas region.
Massive ship called Ever Forward is stuck in Chesapeake Bay
Despite two failed attempts to free it this week, a sister container ship to the Ever Given that got stuck in the Suez Canal last year has been lodged in the Chesapeake Bay for 21 days — and now cargo holders have to pay to help free it.
Why it matters: The Ever Forward (yes, bask in the irony) is the largest ship to get stuck in the Chesapeake Bay and it’s carrying 5,000 containers of … stuff.
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What’s happening: The ship’s owner — Evergreen Marine Corp. — has invoked a maritime law dubbed “General Average,” under which people whose belongings are on a ship must share in the cost of freeing it.
Zoom in: It’s unclear what’s in the thousands of containers aboard the Ever Forward, but at least one cargo holder — a Bloomberg journalist who recently moved from Hong Kong to New York — has been sharing her experience waiting on her furniture.
“The entire contents of our apartment, all of our furniture, lots of books, things of sentimental value are all in a container stuck in the Chesapeake Bay,” Tracy Alloway told NBC Washington.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which is handling Ever Forward’s PR, per the Port of Baltimore, told Axios that “general cargo” is on the ship and referred further questions to Evergreen.
Zoom out: The Ever Forward has been idling near Baltimore, en route to Norfolk, since a wrong turn leaving Baltimore on March 13 ran the boat aground in shallow water (24 feet of water — when it needs 42 to float, per NBC Washington.)
The Ever Forward has been stuck thrice as long as its sister ship sat marooned between the Mediterranean and Red seas last year.
Tuesday and Wednesday were the first attempts to refloat the boat using tug boats.
A third attempt will be coming soon, “using two anchored pulling barges from the stern and five tugs,” Doyle wrote on Twitter.
The big picture: You can stay informed on the progress via istheshipstillstuck.com, a website that went viral last year during the Suez fiasco.
The boat has become a tourist attraction and Downs Park (there’s a $6 entry fee) in Pasadena, Maryland is apparently the best place to see it.
By the numbers: Comparing giant, stuck container ships.
The Ever Forward — currently lodged in Baltimore en route to Norfolk for 21 days and counting — 1,095 feet long, 117,340 gross tons. Ran aground due to a wrong turn in the Bay.
The Ever Given — stuck in the Suez Canal for 6 days – 1,312 feet long, weighing in at 224,000 gross tons. Ran aground due to a large wind gust.
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California has $600M in unclaimed can, bottle deposits
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is sitting on a $600 million pile of unclaimed nickel and dime deposits on recyclable cans and bottles and now wants to give some of that back to consumers.
To get the state’s nearly 40 million residents to recycle more and send more deposits back to them, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration unveiled a plan Friday to temporarily double to a dime the refund for a 12-ounce (355 milliliters) bottle or can. California already pays 10 cents on containers over 24 ounces (709 milliliters), and that would temporarily double to 20 cents.
The move would make California among the highest-paying recycling programs in the country. Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, said the effort would help California again become the recycling leader it was 35 years ago when it started its cash refund program.
When someone in California purchases a regular-sized soda, a 5-cent charge is applied that can be recouped if the container is brought back for recycling. Under Newsom’s plan, the deposit charge would remain the same but the return amount would double. The goal is to raise the recycling rate for beverage containers from 70% to at least 80%.
Oregon and Michigan already offer 10-cent refunds and advocacy groups say that amount for each glass or plastic bottle or aluminum can has been enough for consumers to recycle at least nine of every 10 containers.
The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog’s President Jamie Court, a frequent critic of the recycling program, called the plan “a very positive step” and “a bold proposal to give people their money back.”
“That money isn’t doing anybody any good sitting in the bank,” Court said. “We need a complete structural fix, but this is a good interim step.”
California’s proposal feeds the latest national effort to boost recycling as beverage distributors face increased pressure to include higher percentages of recycled material in their containers, National Stewardship Action Council executive director Heidi Sanborn said.
Just 10 of the 50 states have deposit programs now, but many are considering them — potentially creating a confusing patchwork and beverage labels crowded with different states’ deposit amounts, something she said distributors want to avoid.
California’s doubling of refunds would be temporary — a duration for the change has yet to be decided — and is expected to cost $100 million. If approved by the Legislature the refund increase would take effect sometime during the next fiscal year that starts July 1.
It’s uncertain if any boost in recycling would last once the higher price ends, Sanborn acknowledged, but she hopes instead California will decide to make the increase permanent. She’s also hopeful pressure from states will spur attempts by U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon to craft a national bottle bill.
Newsom’s plan also attempts to ease a bottleneck that began years ago as more neighborhood recycling centers closed and Consumer Watchdog said many grocery stores also were refusing to take back empties in-store as required.
To increase access, Newsom’s administration proposes spending $100 million on grants to add about 2,000 automated recycling machines, also known as reverse vending machines, at high schools, colleges and retailers. Consumers dump their empty containers into the machines, which issue a refund.
Another $55 million would go for state-funded mobile recycling programs in rural areas and other places with few recycling options.
Consumers are very upset that “they are unable to return their bottles and cans and get their money back as promised,” said Sanborn, who also heads California’s Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets & Curbside Recycling.
Sanborn blamed the closure of many California recycling centers on the state’s failure to quickly adjust its complicated payment formula to meet changing market conditions.
Many of California’s recyclables go to China, which toughened standards in 2017 on accepting contaminated material, including plastics. The move “totally slammed the recycling industry” nationwide, said Kate O’Neill, a University of California, Berkeley, environmental science professor and author of the 2019 book “Waste.”
The U.S. market is recovering now with the addition of domestic recycling facilities, but there still is a problem matching supply to demand, O’Neill said.
Recycling officials had expected beverage consumption to drop during the pandemic, as it does during most economic downturns, Wagoner said. Instead, container sales in California increased by 2.5 billion over three years, to 27 billion last fiscal year, meaning a record number of deposits flowing into the state’s recycling fund.
The number of refundable containers recycled in California meanwhile hit a record high of more than 18.8 billion in 2021 — but that still left plenty of money on the table.
Repeated attempts to improve the state’s recycling system have struggled in the Legislature, even as California tries to boost its recycling rates, minimize food waste, and work toward a circular-use economy.
Wagoner said Friday’s proposal is an interim step while the administration continues talks with lawmakers over permanent fixes.
Democratic state Sen. Bob Wieckowski said he tried a bill last year with proposals similar to what the administration is now suggesting, “and they didn’t want to hear about it.” He anticipates people now hoarding their recyclables until the double redemption period, then facing long lines once it begins.
His proposal this year would put more responsibility on producers to recycle their containers.
“It has a little gimmicky nature to it,” Wieckowski said of the state’s plan. “We have 45 Band-Aids on this program, and sometime you have to get out of the Band-Aid business.”
Fort Lauderdale police arrest Black hotel clerk who called for help
New body camera video released by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department shows officers pushing a Black hotel employee before arresting him. The employee, Raymond Rachal, was the person to call the police after an incident in the lobby where Rachal claims a man was yelling racial slurs at him.
Police investigating ‘appalling’ incident recorded inside a Wilmington High School bathroom
Police and school officials in Wilmington are investigating a “serious and disturbing physical altercation” inside a boys’ bathroom this week that left the superintendent of schools “appalled,” not only because of the incident, but because some students recorded video and posted it online.
The video is difficult to watch.
In a letter to the school community dated March 30th, Superintendent Glenn Brand said the incident happened on Tuesday and investigators are working to identify the students involved.
The recording sent to Boston 25 indicates a student was picked up inside the bathroom and had his head forced into a toilet inside a stall in the bathroom. The video below has been blurred due to the ages of those involved.
“I am truly appalled by the actions of these students which are unacceptable and do not represent the core values of this educational community,” said Supt. Brand. ”It is my expectation that each and every one of our students has the right to attend a school that is safe and supportive. While I recognize that the vast number of our students consistently make appropriate choices to support such an environment, we will have zero tolerance for those that do not.”
“The Wilmington Public School prioritizes, above all else, the safety, well-being and respect of all of our students and staff,” said Supt. Brand.
“It is therefore with tremendous disappointment that I write to inform you of a serious and disturbing physical altercation that occurred in one of the boys’ bathrooms (Tuesday),” said Brand. “Not only is the incident itself concerning, but also that some of our students recorded the altercation and posted this online.”
“All students who are found culpable will be held fully accountable and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as well as the removal of appropriate privileges that are afforded to those students,” said Supt. Brand. “I assure you that we will pursue relevant legal actions should such be deemed warranted following the investigation.”
The superintendent also alluded to other recent trouble at the school.
“This incident comes in the wake of a number of other concerns recently involving troubling student behavior. Everyone has an obligation to help foster the type of school environments that our students deserve, including our staff, families and most importantly, our students themselves,” said Brand.
A statement posted to the school’s website on Friday by the Wilmington High School Student Class Officers, called the incident “horrific.”
“If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million, yet many of us were left speechless by the thoughtless actions of others that transpired earlier this week in one of our school bathrooms,” according to the statement. “These horrific actions perpetrated by an embarrassing group of individuals do not represent who we are as a student body. We are honor roll students, college bound-career focused seniors, varsity athletes, robotic champions and so much more. Our image should not be clouded by these individuals.”
Boston 25 spoke with Wilmington Police Chief Joe Desmond about the incident.
“Obviously there were a lot of kids in the bathroom and this young man was taken and physically dragged into the bathroom,” said Desmond.
The chief says the students pick the student up and lower him head down into the toilet. “It clearly looks like an assault as far as where I come from,” said Desmond.
Police are also looking to see if this incident rises to the level of a hate crime or civil rights violation. Chief Desmond says they have at least three recordings and they are working with the school to identify everyone involved.
“Kids should be able to go to school and feel safe and feel supported and not worried about being picked on or God forbid this incident is horrible. That poor kid” it’s terrible,” said concerned parent Roberta Biscan.
The school superintendent is scheduling bystander training that will be mandatory for all students. According to police, the case is moving quickly and charges are likely to be filed.
Watch for updates on Boston 25.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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Why this huge catfish was released by a fisherman who didn’t even bother to weigh it
Ivan Garren from Cleveland, Tennessee caught a huge catfish Thursday while fishing in Wolftever Creek.
Garren, who used skipjack as bait, was fishing in a depth of about six feet when he hooked the monster.
He did not weigh or measure the fish but estimated it was about 38 pounds. He wanted to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible after taking a couple of pictures.
“I release all big fish for other people to enjoy,” Garren said.
As big as the fish was, Garren said he has caught bigger.
Wolftever Creek is located in Hamilton County near Middle Valley, Tennessee. It is known for having a large population of catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass and crappie.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee fisherman releases huge catfish without weighing
The Judds reunite for CMT Music Awards performance
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Judds, one of the most successful duos in country music in the 1980s, are reuniting to perform on the CMT Music Awards, their first major awards show performance together in more than two decades.
The mother-and-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna will perform their hit “Love Will Build a Bridge” on the awards show on April 11, airing on CBS and Paramount+, during an outdoor shoot in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
“It feels both surreal and what a thrill it is. What a thrill to finally get her back on the stage because she’s been waiting for 20-plus years,” Wynonna told the AP of her mother, Naomi. “As a daughter and as an artist, it’s a win-win.”
Originally from Kentucky, Naomi was working as a nurse in the Nashville area when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.
The Judds won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music and had more than a dozen No. 1 hits, including “Mama, He’s Crazy” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ’bout the Good Old Days).”
In 1990, Naomi Judd announced her retirement from performing due to chronic hepatitis. Wynonna has continued her solo career and they have occasionally reunited for special performances.
“To have all the incredible opportunities that I have had, being reminded of all that, just makes me very humbled and I just want to bask in the moment,” Naomi Judd told the AP.
This is also their first ever performance together at the CMT Music Awards. Country star Kacey Musgraves will introduce the pair prior to the performance.
“Music is the bridge between mom and me, and it it bonds us together. Even in the not easy times,” said Wynonna Judd. “We show up and we sing because that’s what love is about, right? So what a beautiful celebration.”
Hosted by country singer Kelsea Ballerini and actor Anthony Mackie, the fan-voted awards show will also feature performances by Ballerini, Kane Brown, Miranda Lambert, Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Cody Johnson, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Carly Pearce and more.
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