COVID vaccine for kids under 5 could be available as soon as June 21

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New study finds vaccinations have saved thousands of lives in NC, but could have saved more

A man wears a ‘I Do Not Comply’ pin at a protest against masks, COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccine passports outside the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control on March 13, 2021. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage | Getty Images

Researchers from the Brown University School of Public Health reported this week that COVID-19 vaccinations have saved thousands of lives — both across the country and in North Carolina — but could have saved many more.

More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19, and the researchers concluded that nearly one-third — more than 318,000 of those deaths — could have been prevented if more people were vaccinated. North Carolina has suffered more than 24,000 deaths and, as the report notes, more than 16,000 people have died from COVID-19 since vaccines became available in early 2021.

Thanks largely to the Cooper administration’s leadership, North Carolina actually did a better job than a lot of southern states in vaccinating its population, but on the whole, the state’s overall vaccination rate of 61.8% still trails the national average of 67.4%. (The vaccination rate in South Carolina, for instance, is only 56.6%. In Georgia, it’s only 54.9%).

What’s more, according to the Brown report, it’s possible to accurately estimate how many lives would have been saved here if the state had achieved higher vaccination rates.

If our state had achieved an 85% vaccination rate, for example, the researchers determined that we would have seen 5,389 fewer deaths. At a 90% vaccination rate, 6,462 lives would have been saved. And at 100%, the lives saved figure would have risen to 8,604 — that is to say, more than half of those who died since 2021 could have been saved.

The bottom line: while it’s true that achieving a 100% vaccination rate is all but impossible for any vaccine, the report provides still more compelling evidence that vaccines save lives and that North Carolina leaders did the right thing by combating the lies and misinformation spread by vaccination opponents.

What’s more, it still not too late to make more headway. While recent COVID variants have shown a maddening capacity for infecting vaccinated people, it’s also clear that vaccinations have helped assure that thousands of people have gotten much less sick than they would have otherwise.

Note: A story prepared by Dillon Rosenblatt for the Arizona Mirror helped inform this report.

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The best editorial of the weekend: A physician explains the “desperation” NC’s Medicaid expansion blockade has caused

North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid is a cruel experiment that’s caused large numbers of premature and unnecessary deaths, write physician Steve Luking. Image: AdobeStock

If you haven’t already, be sure to catch the extraordinary essay that veteran Rockingham County physician Steve Luking penned for the Greensboro News & Record over the weekend. In “As lawmakers wait; people are dying,” Luking makes plain in straightforward human terms what statistics have shown repeatedly over the last decade as Republican legislators have refused to follow the lead of most other states by expanding Medicaid to cover uninsured lower income North Carolinians: the decision is quite literally killing people.

And, not surprisingly (at least to anyone with a heart and a brain) the pandemic has made things much worse — especially in rural areas like the ones he served for three decades. After describing how he and his brother/medical partner set up open-air tents in 2020 to deal with the influx of COVID-19 patients, Luking writes this:

If legislators had stood at my side as I cared for the uninsured sick, many who were essential workers, I think they would reconsider their votes against Medicaid expansion. More than one in eight essential workers are uninsured in our state. Expansion would have provided basic coverage for many of them.

For instance, a single mom with two children, Dianne (patients’ names have been changed to protect their privacy) worked in a local grocery store. She had lost her Medicaid coverage when she was hired. She did not qualify for insurance, and so she was stuck, essentially uninsurable.

I saw Dianne one day in my tent, early in the pandemic. She had a fever and a bad cough, and felt miserable and scared. Several co-workers had come down with COVID.

The swab was positive. She told me she couldn’t pay for it so I gave her a loaner oxygen monitor, and watched her leave to pick up her kids at school.

Very early in the pandemic, before we had office-based testing, I also saw a feverish, uninsured farmhand. He was wheezing and appeared potentially unstable. When I advised him to go to the ER, he shook his head no.

“No insurance, can’t afford it,” he said. He drove away, undiagnosed.

Another uninsured patient was an aide for an elderly client who was hospitalized with COVID-19. She, too, developed a fever and cough and rapid breathing, but refused to go to the ER because she already had a prior thousand-dollar bill.

What kind of society demands that essential workers keep working in a dangerous pandemic, while squarely rejecting their access to insurance?

Luking then goes on to take comfortable lawmakers, like Greensboro’s Rep. Jon Hardister, to task for their offensive statements about not expanding Medicaid to “able-bodied” people — a term that probably holds superficial appeal with right-wing focus groups, but makes no sense at all in the real world. Here’s Luking: Read more