Top government health chief declares 'long COVID' doesn't really exist, study finds flu impairs more people in the long term

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A new study has found that the post-viral effects of COVID-19 are no worse than other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu. The study's author – a top government health official in Australia's state of Queensland – declared that it is time to retire the "long COVID" term because it is harmful and misleading.

Dr. John Gerrard is Queensland's Chief Health Officer, a leading infectious disease specialist, and previously was the Director of Infectious Diseases at the Gold Coast Hospital.

Gerrard is also the lead author of a recent study that found the post-viral effects of COVID-19 to be equal to or even less severe than other respiratory illnesses.

"We believe it is time to stop using terms like 'long Covid.' They wrongly imply there is something unique and exceptional about longer-term symptoms associated with this virus," Gerrard proclaimed. "This terminology can cause unnecessary fear, and in some cases, hypervigilance to longer symptoms that can impede recovery."

The study examined 5,112 adults who had symptoms of a respiratory illness and underwent PCR testing between May and June 2022. Of those individuals, 2,399 tested positive for COVID-19, while 995 tested positive for influenza, and 1,718 tested negative for both.

A year after their PCR tests, the participants in the study were asked about ongoing symptoms.

Of the respondents, 16% said they felt ongoing symptoms a year later, and 3.6% reported moderate-to-severe impairment.

In fact, the people who were infected with the flu had a higher rate of impairments a year later, according to the study.

According to the progressive outlet The Guardian, "The 3% of the study participants who had ongoing impairments after COVID-19 infection was similar to the 3.4% with ongoing impairments after influenza."

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported, "Dr. Gerrard said 94 percent of participants who reported the moderate to severe level of functional limitations experienced fatigue, post-exertion symptom exacerbation, brain fog and changes to taste and smell a year after their infection."

Gerrard will present the study next month at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona.

"Our evidence suggests that there isn't, that it is not dissimilar to other viruses," Gerrard declared. "That does not mean that you can't get these persistent symptoms following COVID-19, but you're no more likely to get it after COVID than with other respiratory viruses."

Gerrard emphasized, "But in the vast majority of people, recovery is the norm."

Gerrard said during a Friday press conference, "I want to make it clear that the symptoms that some patients described after having COVID-19 are real, and we believe they are real. What we are saying is that the incidence of these symptoms is no greater in COVID-19 than it is with other respiratory viruses, and that to use this term 'long COVID' is misleading and I believe harmful."

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Natural immunity provides better protection against COVID than vaccines – even against hospitalization, new study finds

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People with natural immunity to COVID-19 have better protection against the respiratory disease than those who received mRNA vaccines, according to a new study.

A group of researchers from Estonia took a pool of 329,496 adults between Feb. 26, 2020, and June 25, 2021.

The analysis was based on data from 246,113 individuals who qualified as one of four categories. The scientists categorized the individuals as those with no immunity against COVID, those with natural immunity from previously being infected, those who had vaccine-induced immunity, and those who had both natural immunity and who were vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.

"Natural immunity conferred substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization," the authors of the study wrote. "Our study showed that natural immunity offers stronger and longer-lasting protection against infection, symptoms, and hospitalization compared to vaccine-induced immunity."

The Epoch Times reported, "People who received a vaccine were nearly five times as likely as the naturally immune to test positive for COVID-19 during the Delta era and 1.1 times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 during the Omicron era, researchers in Estonia found."

Individuals who were vaccinated against COVID were seven times as likely to be hospitalized during the Delta variant era, and two times when the Omicron variant was spreading, according to the outlet.

The study declared that hospitalization due to COVID was "extremely rare" for those with hybrid immunity. The researchers discovered that hybrid immunity had "substantially lower rates of reinfection" than those with natural immunity. However, the protection was diminished during the Omicron period.

The Estonian researchers noted, "Studies on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines suggest that protection against SARS-CoV-2 decreases over time, waning considerably after six months."

The authors concluded, "Our findings suggest that the risk of infection (and of developing severe disease) is affected not only by age and comorbidities but also by personal history of immunity-conferring events and by the viral variant responsible for the epidemic. Therefore, personalized risk-based vaccination strategies could be both effective and cost-effective."

The study was published on Nov. 21 in Scientific Reports – a peer-reviewed journal that is part of the Nature Portfolio and covers natural sciences, psychology, medicine, and engineering.

In February, a study was published that declared that natural immunity provides "at least as high, if not higher" levels of protection against COVID-19 as two doses of an mRNA vaccine. The research analyzing 65 studies from 19 different countries was published in The Lancet – one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world.

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New CDC study finds prior COVID infection offered stronger immunity than vaccines during Delta surge

A new study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that prior infection with COVID-19 offered stronger protection than vaccination against reinfection and hospitalization during the Delta variant surge last summer and fall.

What are the details?

The study, which analyzed data from May through November of 2021 in California and New York, was published Wednesday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

It found that in California, only 0.5% of unvaccinated individuals with prior infection were diagnosed with a new infection, and only 0.003% (or 378 people out of 1,370,782) were admitted to the hospital.

The figures were lower than those of vaccinated individuals without prior infection, of whom 1.5% were diagnosed with an infection and 0.007% (or 10,737 people out of 15,484,235) were hospitalized.

Similar data was produced in New York during the same time period, although New York did not produce hospitalization data.

The study also showed that a third group of individuals who were both vaccinated against the virus and had a prior infection — sometimes called "hybrid immunity" — fared the best during the Delta surge. And lastly, a fourth group consisting of unvaccinated individuals without prior infection accounted for by far the most infections and hospitalizations.

In short, the data demonstrated that both vaccination and prior infection produced immune protection against the Delta variant.

What else?

Researchers were keen to note that vaccination remains the safest way to protect oneself against health complications resulting from the virus, since infection-derived immunity carries with it some obvious risks.

“A COVID vaccination helps protect by creating an antibody response without the person having to experience severe illness and death,” Benjamin Silk, one of the study's authors and an epidemiologist at the CDC, said during a call with reporters Wednesday, according to Politico. “Vaccination provides safer protection.”

"Vaccines continue to reduce a person's risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 and are highly effective at preventing severe illness," he added.

Researchers also noted that some of the data was collected at a time when vaccine immunity was fading and before booster shots became widely available.

"Importantly, infection-derived protection was greater after the highly transmissible Delta variant became predominant, coinciding with early declining of vaccine-induced immunity in many persons," the study's authors said, noting that further research was needed to determine the efficacy of vaccine boosters.

Anything else?

Still, for the many who have voiced support for naturally derived immunity and argued that individuals with prior infection should not be subject to vaccine mandates, the new research likely serves as vindication.

Some scientists, such as Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of Southern California, believe the study's findings should impact public health policies moving forward.

"No one who cares about public health is ever going to say that it's better to get infected than get vaccinated when we have a safe vaccine," Klausner told NBC News. "But in terms of policy, this supports all the clinical research and other data that suggest that immunity after infection is real, is durable."

Because of that, he said, "policy in the United States should be updated, like in many European countries, to allow for people to go to work, to go to school, if they have evidence of recovery of infection without requiring vaccination."

Stunning new data shows risk of death from Omicron is 91% lower than Delta, CDC-funded study says

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is far milder than Delta, according to a new study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The eye-opening data revealed that those infected with the Omicron variant are 91% less likely to die than those who are infected than the Delta strain.

The clinical study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente Southern California health care system – which operates 138 medical offices and 13 medical centers, plus has an affiliation with 37 community hospitals in Southern California. The study analyzed 52,297 Omicron cases and 16,982 Delta cases in Southern California between Nov. 30, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022.

The study found that those infected with the Omicron variant were 53% less likely to have symptomatic hospitalization, had 74% less chance of being administered to the intensive care unit, and had a 91% lower risk of death compared to individuals with the Delta variant. Only one person of the more than 52,000 people with Omicron died, versus 14 deaths in the 16,982 with Delta. In addition, there were zero patients with Omicron who required mechanical ventilation, according to the research.

"Hospital admissions occurred among 235 (0.5%) and 222 (1.3%) of cases with Omicron and Delta variant infections, respectively," the authors of the study said.

Patients infected with Omicron had a median duration of hospital stay of three fewer days than those with Delta.

"During a period with mixed Delta and Omicron variant circulation, SARS-CoV-2 infections with presumed Omicron variant infection were associated with substantially reduced risk of severe clinical endpoints and shorter durations of hospital stay," the authors of the study concluded.

The CDC-funded study – which has not yet been peer-reviewed – did not reveal the ages of those who died or their vaccination status.

On Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky shared the study on Twitter.

Despite the promising news, Walensky tempered the optimism by saying, "While less severe, #Omicron is much more transmissible & we are seeing the unprecedented impact. Over 1M cases in a day, 99% of counties with high transmission & strained healthcare systems. Protect against #COVID19: get vaccinated + boosted, wear a mask & stay home if sick."

While speaking at a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing on Wednesday, Walensky said public health officials will monitor "deaths over the next several weeks to see the impact of Omicron on mortality."

"Given the sheer number of cases, we may see deaths from Omicron, but I suspect the deaths we're seeing now are still from Delta," the CDC head revealed.

While less severe, #Omicron is much more transmissible & we are seeing the unprecedented impact.\n\nOver 1M cases in a day, 99% of counties with high transmission & strained healthcare systems.\n\nProtect against #COVID19: get vaccinated + boosted, wear a mask & stay home if sick.
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH) 1642008210

The Omicron strain became the dominant variant in mid-December and now accounts for an estimated 98.3% of all new cases, according to CDC data.

There were 829,209 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. on Jan. 12 compared to 90,024 cases on Dec. 12.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged how transmissible the Omicron variant is and said nearly everyone will contract it.

"Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody," Fauci told J. Stephen Morrison – senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Those who have been vaccinated ... and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death."

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said that "most people are going to get COVID."

"I think it's hard to process what's actually happening right now, which is: Most people are going to get COVID," Woodcock said at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. "And what we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, you know, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens."

Study says vaccinated people easily spread Delta variant in households, COVID vaccine protection wanes earlier than previously believed

The Delta variant of COVID-19 can transmit easily from vaccinated people to members of their households, a year-long British study found. Scientists at the Imperial College London published a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal on Thursday that discovered that the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine wanes earlier than previously believed.

The study involved 621 people in the U.K. and found that their peak viral load was similar regardless of vaccination status.

The study found that of 205 household contacts of people who had the Delta infection, 38% of household contacts who were unvaccinated tested positive for COVID-19, and 25% of vaccinated contacts tested positive for the Delta variant of coronavirus.

"By carrying out repeated and frequent sampling from contacts of COVID-19 cases, we found that vaccinated people can contract and pass on infection within households, including to vaccinated household members," Dr. Anika Singanayagam, co-lead author of the study, said.

Ajit Lalvani, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London who co-led the study, said, "Vaccines are critical to controlling the pandemic, as we know they are very effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19. However, our findings show that vaccination alone is not enough to prevent people from being infected with the Delta variant and spreading it in household settings."

"The ongoing transmission we are seeing between vaccinated people makes it essential for unvaccinated people to get vaccinated to protect themselves from acquiring infection and severe COVID-19, especially as more people will be spending time inside in close proximity during the winter months," Lalvani added.

The study revealed that the median length of time since vaccination that the vaccinated infected contacts were recruited for the study was 101 days compared to an average of 64 days for uninfected contacts. This could point to a timeframe when COVID-19 vaccines lose their protective immunity — which is a much shorter time period than previously reported.

Lalvani, who is the director of the Health Protection Research Unit in Respiratory Infections for the National Institute for Health Research, was shocked by how quickly the vaccine lost its efficacy and advised people to get booster shots.

"What we found, surprisingly, was that by three months after the second vaccine dose, the risk of acquiring infection was high compared with being more recently vaccinated," Lalvani stated. "This suggests that vaccine induced protection is already waning by about three months after the second dose."

"We found that susceptibility to infection increased already within a few months after the second vaccine dose — so those eligible for COVID-19 booster shots should get them promptly," he recommended.

Imperial epidemiologist Neil Ferguson said, "Immunity wanes over time, it is imperfect, so you still get transmission happening, and that is why the booster program is so important."

Singanayagam hypothesized, "Our findings provide important insights into... why the Delta variant is continuing to cause high COVID-19 case numbers around the world, even in countries with high vaccination rates."

In April, Pfizer and BioNTech proclaimed that their COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for at least six months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that eligible people get the booster at least six months after their second shot. The CDC says those who are eligible to receive a booster shot include anyone age 65 and older and anyone over 18 who is in long-term care settings, has an underlying medical condition, or works/lives in high-risk settings.

90% of COVID-19 deaths occur in countries with high obesity levels: study

The vast majority of worldwide COVID-19 deaths have been in countries that have high obesity levels, according to a new study involving scientists, medical professionals, and researchers from over 50 regional and national obesity associations.

Analysis by the World Obesity Federation found that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million global coronavirus deaths, or about 90%, were in countries with high levels of obesity. For the study, researchers examined COVID-19 mortality data from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory.

In nations where at least 50% of adults are overweight, COVID-19 death rates spiked 10 times higher. Tim Lobstein, senior policy adviser to the WOF and the study's author, said the death rates in countries with large obese populations were "dramatic."

"The report, released ahead of world obesity day on Thursday, did not find a single example of a country where less than 40 percent of the population was overweight having high death rates," the Financial Times reported. "On the other hand, no country with high death rates — at least 100 per 100,000 — had less than 50 percent of its population overweight."

The United States has 152.49 coronavirus deaths per 100,000, and 67.9% of adults overweight. The United Kingdom has 184 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000, and 63.7% of adults overweight, according to the WHO. For comparison, Vietnam has the lowest coronavirus death rate in the world at 0.04 deaths per 100,000, and the second-lowest level of overweight people at only 18.3% of the adult population.

Lobstein applauded counties such as Japan and South Korea, who "prioritized public health across a range of measures, including population weight, and it has paid off in the pandemic."

Age has been the biggest predictor of severe outcomes regarding coronavirus infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: "Risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk."

Now the World Obesity Federation proclaims that the results of the research "shows for the first time that overweight populations come a close second" to advanced age. The WOF calls for obese individuals to be prioritized for the coronavirus vaccine like the elderly are currently being prioritized.

"[This] must act as a wake-up call to governments globally," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Financial Times. "The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from COVID-19 is clear and compelling."

"Investment in public health and coordinated, international action to tackle the root causes of obesity is one of the best ways for countries to build resilience in health systems post-pandemic," Ghebreyesus added. "We urge all countries to seize this moment."

It should be noted that early in the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all U.S. governors issued stay-at-home orders that locked down the country, prohibited Americans from exercising at gyms, banned athletic leagues, and prohibited children from utilizing playgrounds.