The United States is battling the rising death toll and limited hospital resources under the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of that could be further complicated by the upcoming flu season, health experts said.

“We are preparing for a terribly busy winter,” Associate Dean for Public Health at Brown University, Dr. Megan Ranney, told Citizen Free Press on Tuesday.

The United States is once again at a point where an average of more than 2,000 people die from Covid-19 every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

And hospitals struggle to keep up with the number of patients that are admitted. Staff shortages and employee fatigue in Pennsylvania hospitals have reached a point where some healthcare systems offer bonuses, loan forgiveness, and other incentives to staff. And in Wyoming, nearly 100 members of the state’s national guard were activated Tuesday to help hospitals deal with the surge.

And while it’s still unclear what this year’s flu season holds for you, it could add additional stress to an already stressed health care system.

“The flu continues to kill, not as much as covid-19, but between 12,000 and 50,000 Americans lose their lives each year to influenza,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine of the United States.

Flu numbers were relatively low last year, but experts said that doesn’t necessarily portend what this year will be like.

“Let’s be clear about why flu cases were so low last year, it’s because we were all wearing masks and we were all distancing ourselves,” Ranney said. “These things are no longer done in the vast majority of the country.”

Vaccines are the safest way to control the pandemic, experts have said, but the rates remain lower than necessary. About 54.8% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and over the past month, the vaccination rate has dropped by 30%, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Now, health officials are asking people to get vaccinated against both covid and influenza.

Pediatricians recommend that both adults and children 6 months and older get their flu shots before Halloween, Dr. Flor Munoz, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital, told Citizen Free Press.

Some vaccine clinics across the country offer both vaccines and encourage people who come for one to make sure they get the other.

“If someone wants the flu vaccine and they haven’t had the covid vaccine, we can encourage them to get both, or vice versa,” said Dr. Robert Hopkins, chief of general internal medicine at the University of Arkansas of Medical Sciences. and president of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee.

If healthcare providers can encourage people to do both, “potentially we are going to have a greater impact on both disease prevention efforts,” Hopkins said.

Johnson & Johnson Two-Dose Vaccine 94% Effective, Company Says

Pfizer has suggested that a third dose of its vaccine will increase protection for those already vaccinated, and now Johnson & Johnson has announced that an additional dose of its vaccine is also helpful.

A two-dose version of the vaccine provides 94% protection against symptomatic infection, the company said Tuesday, making a two-dose regimen of J & J’s Janssen vaccine comparable to a two-dose regimen of Moderna or Pfizer.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on February 27. It has been administered to approximately 14.8 million Americans, according to the CDC.

The company released details from three studies that looked at various aspects of its Janssen vaccine, saying that together they showed the vaccine provided long-lasting protection that could be boosted with an additional dose.

“Our single-dose vaccine generates strong immune responses and long-lasting immune memory. And, when a Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine booster is given, the protective strength against covid-19 is further increased,” said Dr. Mathai Mammen, Janssen’s Global Director of Research and Development, in a statement.

The company’s ongoing Phase 2 trial of a two-dose regimen showed that administering two doses 56 days apart provided 100% protection against severe COVID-19 and 94% against moderate-to-moderate COVID-19 in USA.

A second study showed that people who received a booster dose six months or more after their first dose had a 12-fold increase in antibodies, compared with a four-fold increase for people who received a second dose at two months.

Therefore, the protection should be stronger if people receive reinforcements later, Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, told Citizen Free Press.

Four times higher mortality rate in the least vaccinated states

The average rate of COVID-19 deaths in the 10 least vaccinated states was more than four times higher over the past week than the rate in the 10 most vaccinated states, according to Citizen Free Press analysis.

In the least vaccinated states, roughly eight people out of 100,000 residents died of COVID-19 in the past week, compared to just two out of 100,000 people in the 10 most vaccinated states.

Citizen Free Press used data from Johns Hopkins University and the CDC for the analysis.

The least vaccinated states also tend to have higher hospitalization rates.

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows an average of 39 covid-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the 10 least vaccinated states, nearly three times higher than the average rate of 14 per 100,000 people in the 10 most vaccinated states.

States with the lowest vaccination rates have fully vaccinated less than 45% of their residents. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The 10 states with the highest vaccination rates have fully vaccinated more than 62% of their residents. They are Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

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