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Dr. Janette Nesheiwat: We are bringing the COVID pandemic to an end. Here's how to keep the trend going

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The tide has turned COVID cases, hospitalizations, and the death rate are all on the decline. For the first time since August, the U.S. is now averaging under 100,000 new daily cases.

No longer are the days of hopelessness and no tools in our arsenal to fight Covid. I recall the days early in the pandemic when all I had was oxygen, inhalers,  supportive care.

But now we are blessed. We have a variety of treatments and therapeutics that can truly save lives even if we do see another surge of cases during the winter holidays as we fast approach Thanksgiving and Christmas.

US SURGEON GENERAL: FDA LIKELY TO OK COVID-19 VACCINES IN YOUNGER KIDS AMID SCHOOL YEAR

The FDA is to meet October 26 to discuss pediatric vaccination safety and efficacy profile. In the meantime, Merck recently released data that its new antiviral pill Molnupiravir cut the risk of death and hospitalizations by 50 percent in
those with mild to moderate COVID.

This is incredible. The findings were so significant Merck halted its study to submit to the FDA because they know it can save lives. This is a major advance in the fight against this illness as it can help slow the spread of disease if started early and save lives plus it can be easily prescribed by a doctor.

But let’s use it now. The FDA should swiftly grant EUA authorization as we still have more than 1,700 deaths across the country every day.

The beauty of Merck’s new drug, Molnupiravir, is that it’s a pill, not an IV drug. If prescribed you would take 1 capsule twice a day for 5 days. Similar to our flu treatment, called Tamiflu, that should be started within 48 hours of symptoms for most effectiveness.

There is one problem: the big price tag. It only costs Merck $17 to make a 5 day course yet charges $700. It’s extremely expensive. Big Pharma knows we are desperate to save lives and end this pandemic.

I hope the price is negotiated down to avoid further health inequality and racial disparity. The beauty of this drug is that it can help in managing this disease and never allowing Covid or any disease result in lockdowns, school closures, loss of jobs, and loss of life.

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And let’s not forget the highly effective life saving monoclonal antibodies which reduce viral load and the severity of symptoms in addition to reducing the death and hospitalization rate by nearly 70 percent. If administered to high risk patients immediately after a Covid diagnosis it can reduce the risk of severe disease and death by nearly 80 percent. Remdesivir, Actemra, Decadron are all extremely useful medications to treat Covid.

To keep this trend of decreasing Covid cases and deaths moving in the right direction, it’s important to understand risk and know how to protect yourself. Be aware of the prevalence of Covid in your community and protect yourself with vaccination if you haven’t had recent infection which provides natural immunity for an uncertain length of time.

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So, let’s focus on the 65 million Americans eligible to be vaccinated. Only 55 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Let’s increase testing, continue vaccinations efforts and boosters for those eligible with Pfizer but don’t worry if you’ve had Moderna or Johnson & Johnson like I have. Data will probably come out soon allowing a mix and match of vaccines resulting in hybrid immunity. For example, if you’ve had J&J and you’re a female under 50, it will probably be recommended you get a Moderna or Pfizer shot as your second dose. Don’t forget for most, two doses of an mRNA vaccine is extremely effective in preventing severe disease and death.

Now last but not least, we can’t forget about flu shots. Last year we had fewer than 1,000 deaths from the flu. Usually it’s about 40k-60k deaths per year Why? because of the flu vaccine, mask use, and hand washing. The same precautionary measures used to prevent Covid apply to other diseases as well such as influenza, rhinovirus, RSV, strep, and more. 

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Flu season is here. be sure to get your flu shot by the end of October. I am already diagnosing  cases of flu among my patients. You can have both Covid and flu together and that is dangerous and doubles your risk of death. But fortunately, that can easily be prevented.

We are on our way to ending this pandemic. We have “flattened the curve.” The surge has peaked and is now on the decline. Let’s keep it that way. We certainly don’t want another spike in cases over the holidays and we now have the power to prevent that through vaccination, mask use, and routine testing. 

Know your risk. Protect yourself, your family, and your community.

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