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Mythbusting COVID – Nick Landekic

by Nick Landekic, special to RINewsToday

There is a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding, and outright disinformation circulating about COVID. It’s costing people their lives.

Here are some common myths and the realities behind them.

Myth #1: The pandemic is over.

Reality: The COVID pandemic is not over. Over 254,000 Americans died of COVID last year. 62% of recent hospitalizations in Rhode Island have COVID as a primary or contributing cause. As much as we’re all tired of COVID, we are still very much in a crisis.

Myth #2: COVID has become mild and is nothing to worry about.

Reality: Several large, published clinical studies have shown that Omicron infection is not any less severe than other variants, and results in just as many if not more deaths. The decline in death rates is due to people being vaccinated or having immunity from prior illness, not because COVID has become ‘milder.’ 50 times more people died of COVID last year than from the flu. It’s not ‘mild.’

Reality: 98% of COVID deaths are in those over age 50. If you’re older and want to avoid getting infected, you cannot take the same risks that younger people might be able to get away with.

Myth #3: The COVID vaccines were just a money grab by big pharma.

Reality: The COVID vaccines are estimated to have saved 3 million American lives, prevented 18 million hospitalizations, and stopped 120 million infections. Without the COVID vaccines our healthcare system probably would have collapsed. 3 million deaths would be equivalent to the combined populations of Rhode Island, Maine, and Vermont.

Vaccines substantially reduce the risk of severe illness or death from COVID. The reason they are not as effective as they once were is because the virus has mutated and evolved to become more resistant.

Myth #4: The COVID vaccines aren’t safe.

Reality: Over 13 billion COVID vaccine doses have been given to over 5.5 billion people. More people have safely taken them than any medicine in history. There will always be some adverse effects to any medicine, but many studies have shown the risks of getting infected with COVID are FAR worse than vaccination. The COVID vaccines appear comparably safe to the many other vaccines that have been safely used for many years.

Myth #5: Masks don’t work.

Reality: There are literally hundreds of published studies showing that wearing a good mask, particularly N95 or equivalent (KN95, KF94, or FFP2) can substantially reduce your risk of getting infected by as much as 85% or even more. Masks continue to be the single most effective protective measure you can do for yourself, and one that the virus cannot mutate to evade.

Myth #6: COVID is a crisis in China because of their lockdowns.

Reality: COVID is spreading in China because of insufficient vaccinations. The vaccines used in China are different than the ones available in the U.S. and rest of the world, and are not as effective. The first issue is the Chinese vaccine appears to need three doses for the initial series, and only two were given. The second issue is the Chinese vaccine does not seem to last as long, and there was little follow up with boosters. The third issue is in China the most vulnerable population, the elderly, is also the least vaccinated because of cultural hesitation.

‘Zero COVID’ lockdowns work only either as long as they are in place, or when combined with a comprehensive vaccination program. China did not insure everyone was vaccinated, which resulted in the current catastrophic outbreak.

Myth #7: I’ve had COVID, and it was no big deal.

Reality: Having COVID is a major strain on your body. Every time you are infected it can be worse. Studies have shown that each subsequent infection carries a two to three times higher risk of organ damage, severe illness, hospitalization, or death. It’s like getting hit with a baseball bat – it’s best to have that happen as few times as possible.

Reality: Studies have shown the virus persists in our organs and tissues for a year or more after the initial infection. Regardless of how mild or severe the acute infection was, between 10%-45% of survivors have Long COVID, lingering health problems that can last for years. COVID has significantly shortened life expectancy in the U.S. for two years in a row.

Myth #8: I have nothing to worry about because I’ve already had COVID and am protected.

Reality: There is no limit to how many times you can have COVID. ‘Natural’ immunity from infection wanes over time, just like with any vaccine. With over 500 variants now circulating worldwide, you can get infected again with a different variant very soon after a first infection, in less than a month. You can even become infected with more than one variant at the same time.

The science of COVID is complicated, and rapidly changing. Less than four years ago the world had never heard of COVID. Despite all the research it’s impossible to learn and know everything about something as complex as the COVID virus in just a few years. The virus is also constantly mutating and evolving, becoming more contagious and resistant to vaccines and drugs. This is happening much more quickly than is generally seen with other contagions because so many people are infected at any one time. As we learn more about COVID, the guidance for what to do will change over time. By avoiding vaccinations or other public health measures, we feed the virus and help it to mutate. Every infected person is a variant factory.

12 people are responsible for 65% of the disinformation circulating about COVID. They make a lot of money spreading falsehoods, and it’s costing people their lives.

COVID is going to be with us for a long time. Learning to live with it doesn’t mean ignoring it and a ‘let ‘er rip’ approach. Consider getting information from a nonpartisan, independent, nonprofit source like The People’s CDC (https://peoplescdc.org)  for smarter, safer ways to do things.

We may be ‘done with COVID’, but unfortunately the virus is not done with us. As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The thing about science is, it’s true whether or not you choose to believe it.” Choose facts. Choose to stay healthy. Choose to live.

References

Editor’s Note: One of the missteps in how COVID was handled, was not providing the opportunity for people to do their own research, read from trusted sources, and make decisions for themselves, and their families. Nick ends this article by providing our readers with a plethora of resources to be better informed and we thank him for that.

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Nick Landekic of Bristol is a retired scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur who has spent more than 35 years working in the pharmaceutical industry.

To read past stories by Landekic on COVID, go here: https://rinewstoday.com/?s=nick

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