Let’s talk about the new Lambda strain and other news!
Well, hello friends,
Welcome to our weekly newsletter.
I hope you and your family are healthy and happy and enjoying the Summer!
Let’s review the latest information on the bad news, the good news, the most common question of the week, and my silver lining.
What is the bad news?
Canada has reported over 1.4 million COVID-19 cases, with almost 26,500 deaths.
Over 185 million cases of the COVID virus had been reported worldwide. Over 4 million lives were lost to COVID-19.
Afghanistan is currently battling a third wave, with more than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus disease each day and many deaths. UNICEF says 1.4 million Johnson and Johnson vaccines are being donated by the United States to settle the outbreak.
Several areas in Southeast Asia have outbreaks, likely secondary to more contagious variants and vaccination shortfalls.
Starting in September, people living in Quebec who have not yet received two vaccines may be denied access to some activities if COVID virus rates increase. The Quebec Health Minster announced plans to introduce vaccine passports to help in the prevention of widespread lockdowns. Some think this announcement will encourage people to get vaccinated, perhaps eliminating the need for passports in the first place.
Two dozen U.S. states saw an uptick of at least 10% new COVID-19 cases over the last week of July. According to the CDC, the case rate has been rising in the U.S. overall, with more than 15,000 new cases a day over last week, 21% higher than the average from the week prior. Hospitalizations have also been ticking up, with over 18,000 people admitted due to COVID-related illness. Again, this is up from 17,000 two weeks earlier, though far below the peak of the pandemic which saw 136,000 cases in January 2021.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant and ongoing pressure to get more people vaccinated is putting pressure on the U.S. Currently, less than 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. In addition, the Delta strain now represents over 52% of new COVID-19 infections, as per the CDC. Luckily, the current mRNA vaccines do prevent most infections from this and other variants. Though the current vaccines being used in Canada and the U.S. are authorized for emergency use only, full approval for the Pfizer vaccine is expected to come this Summer.
Last week Pfizer warned of waning immunity from their vaccine as they work to develop a booster dose to protect from current and potential future strains. “Based on the totality of the data they have to date, Pfizer and BioNTech believe that a third dose may be beneficial within 6 to 12 months following the second dose to maintain highest levels of protection.” We want to continue to avoid exposure.
Pfizer’s response is to create boosters that will produce neutralizing antibodies that are 5-10 times higher than what is already produced after two doses. The new formulation may also protect people from new variants more thoroughly.
What’s the good news?
Our vaccine response in Canada has been spectacular in recent weeks. Canada has given more than 41.7 MILLION COVID vaccine doses. In addition, more than 50% of Ontarians have received 2 COVID-19 doses.
Some restrictions will lift ahead of schedule on July 16, allowing for more significant indoor and outdoor gatherings, indoor dining, and gym openings. We still want to minimize the risk of being exposed but soon, we will be able to congregate inside.
The Calgary Stampede started last week, after being canceled in the previous year for the first time in almost 100 years. To ensure safety, daily attendance has been cut in half. There are many sanitation stations throughout the grounds and staff, and volunteers must wear masks, follow public health recommendations, and receive COVID-19 rapid tests (prior to entry).
CDC guidance last week suggested that fully vaccinated teachers and students will not need to wear masks in school this Fall. So local officials are left to figure out how to ensure people who are not vaccinated follow ongoing public health guidance, while vaccinated people can be mask and distance-free. And as you see above, cases are going up slowly in the U.S. again.
According to researchers at Yale University and the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. would have seen about 280,000 more deaths and 1.25 million additional hospitalizations by June 28 had vaccinations not been given. There is no doubt these vaccines save lives.
As we discussed in previous newsletters and on Instagram, many of us are fearful that we will see additional, potentially more infectious, and deadly strains if people don’t get vaccinated. Each time this infectious disease is passed from one person to another, it has the chance to mutate. More people with COVID-19 means more COVID Petrie dishes. Some people worry it may only be a matter of time before the current vaccines no longer protect us against a new strain.
Did you miss last week’s
“mRNA side-effects update, and vaccines & pregnancy“
Question of the week
What’s the deal with the new Lambda strain? Does it cause mild symptoms or more severe disease?
The Lambda strain is the new kid on the block, and it has spread to more than two dozen countries, with a heavy concentration in South America. Lambda was initially identified in Peru and is responsible for over 80% of the cases in Peru over the last two months and around 30% of cases in Chile.
Cases are starting to pop up in other areas of the world, such as Canada, the U.S., and the United Kingdom.
In mid-June, Lambda was deemed a variant of interest by the WHO, meaning it may be more transmissible than the original COVID-19′ wildtype strain’, could cause more severe illness, or has caused outbreaks in multiple countries.
It is too early to know if Lambda is more deadly or more resistant to vaccines or other treatments. We need more data. A very early study shows that the Lambda spike protein makes it more contagious, more easily able to invade our immune system, and current vaccines may not prevent infection as well. We need to keep cases of Lambda, and all variants, under control.
The silver lining of the week
I am grateful to have incredible friends and family around me. While I don’t think I took this for granted before the pandemic, the last 18 months have certainly opened my eyes to how lucky I am.
In the last couple of weeks, I have ventured out more often, had several dates with friends, patio meals, and attended a good friend’s outdoor birthday celebration. To say this filled my bucket is a vast understatement. As an extrovert, I am fueled by being around others, and with the lovely weather, favorable case counts, and a chance to spend time outside with loved ones, my bucket is brimming over.
I am feeling healthy and happy, and thankful.
I hope you are also feeling a renewed sense of optimism and are enjoying the Summer.
Have a wonderful week, friends,
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.