Life Expectancy Down; Delta’s Share Up

Attendees seek shelter from the sun beneath an umbrella during a COVID-19 prayer vigil. Washington, DC, July 20, 2021. Image: Win McNamee/Getty
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Attendees seek shelter from the sun beneath an umbrella during a COVID-19 prayer vigil. Washington, DC, July 20, 2021. Image: Win McNamee/Getty

American’s life expectancy dropped 1.5 years in 2020—to 77 years, 4 months. It was the biggest single-year drop since World War II, AP reports.

Last year’s 3.3 million US deaths eclipsed any other year in US history.
 
Drug overdoses and homicides also played a role, but the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for 74% of that overall life expectancy decline, new CDC numbers show.

The decline was uneven:

  • Life expectancy fell ~2 years for men; ~1 year for women

  • Life expectancy dropped 3 years for both Black and Hispanic Americans; 14 months for white Americans

Why? Black and Hispanic communities have been dogged by access barriers to health care, more crowded living conditions, and often inflexible, lower-paying jobs that required them to work through the pandemic.

From an alarming drop--to an alarming rise: The Delta variant now makes up 83% of US COVID-19 cases, a huge jump from 50% at the beginning of July, according to the CDC, ABC reports.
 
Still-unvaccinated populations are driving Delta’s rise, CDC chief Rochelle Walensky said, emphasizing that getting vaccinated is the best way to slow the spread of variants.

Speaking of Vaccines...

There’s more talk of possible booster shots for Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.

The latest: A new preprint study (not yet peer-reviewed) has found much lower efficacy for the J&J shot against the Delta and Lambda variants than the original virus, The New York Times reports.
 
The results don’t match up with earlier, smaller studies—sponsored by J&J—that found a single shot continued to be effective against the Delta variant even 8 months post-vaccination.
 
The authors are not suggesting people avoid getting the J&J jab, but that eventually J&J recipients should perhaps receive a booster dose—of either the J&J, Pfizer, or Moderna vaccine.
 
Since all the vaccines seem to work better in 2 doses, this is how virologist John Moore saw things going all along: “I have always thought, and often said, that the J.&J. vaccine is a two-dose vaccine.”

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