September 14, 2021

NPR KEEPS UP THE PANIC PORN: I Got A ‘Mild’ Breakthrough Case. Here’s What I Wish I’d Known. So this guy’s vaccinated, gets Covid anyway, and is pretty sick. Not deathly ill, but like worst-case-of-flu-ever sick. “My legs and arms ached, my fever crept up to 103 and every few hours of sleep would leave my sheets drenched in sweat. I’d drop into bed exhausted after a quick trip down to the kitchen. To sum it up, I’d put my breakthrough case of COVID-19 right up there with my worst bouts of flu. Even after my fever cleared up, I spent the next few weeks feeling low.”

But hey, it’s a good thing he got vaccinated! “‘You probably would have gotten much sicker if you had not been vaccinated,’ Francesca Torriani, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Diego, explained to me recently.”

Well, maybe. My own case of Covid — unvaccinated — was much, much milder than he described. Never ran much of a fever, didn’t feel especially bad except for a bit of a headache and loss of smell, recovered pretty fast. And what he describes is, I’d say, probably about a 60th or 70th percentile case in terms of severity — remember that nearly half of infections are essentially asymptomatic, and many are more like a cold.

Did the vaccine make his particular case milder than it would have been? Who knows? Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe it reduces your chance of hospitalization, but the “hospitalization” statistic turns out to be far less useful than you might think:

Here’s a non-paywalled report on the study:

A recent nationwide study may lead health ofificials to rethink how to analyze COVID-19 hospitalizations as a pandemic metric, The Atlantic reports.

After examining the electronic records for nearly 50,000 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 at 100 Veterans Affairs hospitals across the United States between March 2020 and June 2021, researchers found that a significant number of the patients actually had mild or asymptomatic infections. Patients who required supplemental oxygen or registered a blood oxygen level below 94 were considered moderate to severe.

Until mid-January 2021, when the vaccine drive really gained steam and the Delta variant had yet to take hold, 36 percent of patients were considered mild or asymptomatic. But in the next six months, that figure jumped to 48 percent, while an ever greater proportion — 57 percent — of vaccinated patients, who make up a much smaller share of admissions to begin with, had less severe cases.

There are probably a few explanations behind the data, per The Atlantic. Many of the patients may have been admitted to the hospital for an unrelated illness and tested positive upon entrance. Others may have been treated as a preventative measure because of comorbities, and some may simply may have just needed quick, relatively easy treatments before leaving.

Actual study is here. None of this is to say the vaccine is useless, of course, but it’s definitely being oversold in this story.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, the Urban Dictionary’s word of the day is NPR-American.

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