Experts said Sunday that outdoor trick-or-treating — particularly for children who are vaccinated — should be fine this year.
“It’s a good time to reflect on why it’s important to get vaccinated. But go out there and enjoy Halloween as well as the other holidays that will be coming up,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday.
Dr. Megan Ranney, associate dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, cautioned against indoor Halloween parties for children too young to be vaccinated and encouraged parents in areas with high virus transmission to mask their children, but agreed that Halloween fun could go on this year.
The big picture for Covid-19 in the US is looking a little brighter as new infections and hospitalizations decline. The average rate of daily new cases has dropped below 100,000, to 93,814 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci said he would like to see new daily cases well below 10,000, but the decline is a start. “Hopefully it’s going to continue to go in that trajectory downward,” he said.
While conditions are improving and the sense of normalcy is expanding, Fauci warned that the fight against the pandemic is not over.
“We have to just be careful that we don’t prematurely declare victory in many respects. We still have around 68 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated that have not yet gotten vaccinated,” Fauci said.
About 56.4% of the US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although experts don’t know the exact percentage of vaccination coverage needed to control the spread of the virus, Fauci has said the “vast majority” of the population will need to get vaccinated.
“We’re not there yet,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said. “This virus can continue in those places where vaccination rates are low.”
The potential for spread is especially concerning as winter holidays — often accompanied by gatherings and travel — approach.
Health experts have promoted vaccination requirements for air travel this holiday season; and while Fauci declined to offer his stance on the matter Sunday, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University Dr. Esther Choo weighed in.
“Now is the time for mandates for airlines,” Choo said. “It should happen quickly because people are making plans right now for our fall and winter holidays.”
Death isn’t the only terrible outcome with Covid-19
It’s important for people to understand “not dying from Covid is a great thing, but that isn’t the only metric we should be using,” Michigan emergency room physician Dr. Rob Davidson said Saturday.
He said at his hospital, some Covid-19 patients have been on a ventilator for more than a month, and some have endured invasive procedures to stay alive.
Even if they recover physically, some Covid-19 survivors end up suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, due to time spent in the ICU, Davidson said.
A study published in February found 30% of Covid-19 survivors experienced PTSD, which is a psychological illness that usually occurs after someone has a life-threatening experience.
The virus can also have negative effects on pregnant people infected during their third trimester and their babies, research shows.
Between March and September of last year, symptomatic pregnant people at one Israeli hospital had higher rates of gestational diabetes, a lower white blood cell count, and experienced heavier bleeding during their delivery. Their babies also experienced more breathing problems, a research team reported in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.
The study has limitations since it only looked at women in one hospital, so its findings may not be true for all people who are pregnant.
Then there is long Covid — when symptoms can last months after infection.
A large study published last month showed more than one-third of Covid-19 patients suffered symptoms three to six months after getting infected. Some had multiple, long-lasting complications.
Breathing problems, abdominal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression were among the most common issues reported.
Accompanying data showed as many as 46% of children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 22 had experienced at least one symptom in the six months after recovering.
Vaccines for kids under 5 may not come until next year
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a proposal to expand vaccines to children as young as 5, and those younger may not have a dose authorized for them until early next year, former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said Sunday.
The FDA is likely to ask for more data and perhaps for studies involving more children, because it is a new vaccine and a new virus, Gottlieb told CBS’s Face the Nation.
“And that could push it into 2022. Previously we had talked about trying to have that data available before the end of this year, which could have prompted an authorization perhaps by the end of the year, at least in kids ages 2-4. I think that it’s more likely that it slips into the first quarter of next year at the very least, but not too far into next year,” said Gottlieb, who is also on Pfizer’s board.
The FDA has called a meeting of its independent vaccine advisers, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), for October 26 to discuss pediatric vaccines. Pfizer has submitted data and a formal request for authorization for its one-third dose vaccine for use in children 5-11. But Gottlieb said he expects VRBPAC to also discuss what might be needed for authorization for the youngest children.
Having more information to consider can raise public confidence in the vaccines, Gottlieb said. He is already confident and plans to vaccinate his own young daughters.
“There’s a lot of parents like me that, as soon as the vaccines available for their children, are going to go out and get their kids vaccinated, that see the benefits of vaccination,” he said. “There’s a lot of parents who still have a lot of questions around vaccination. I think for them, they should have a conversation with their pediatrician to try to get comfortable with the idea of vaccinating kids.”
Gottlieb said he thinks it will be years before the CDC recommends making Covid-19 vaccines part of the regular childhood vaccination schedule, which would open the door to school districts mandating them.
“I think it’s a very long way off. Certainly, CDC’s going to look at children ages 12-17 differently than 5-11,” he said.