Both Florida and Texas seem to have the SARS-CoV-2 virus under control. While many provinces in Canada are struggling through a serious third wave with significant restrictions still in place, that doesn’t seem to be the case in either the Lone Star or the Sunshine states. Have they got it right while we’ve made a huge mistake? Was the real answer to COVID-19 letting people do what they wanted rather than fencing them in?

You need to go beyond the headlines to understand what’s really happening. There are a number of reasons why things seem to be better controlled in those American states but it has little to do, in a positive way, with their laissez-faire attitude.

More than three times more people were infected in Florida and Texas than in Canada. More infected people does eventually result in more people with immunity — but at what cost? Over the course of the pandemic so far, Florida has lost 35,000 lives; Texas around 50,000. Each state on its own has lost more people to COVID-19 than all of Canada (which stands at about 25,000 deaths). And we’ve not counted all those with long term illness and disability, or the missed surgeries and diagnosis that all add to human suffering.

Furthermore, both states have done a much better job at vaccinating their populations. In Florida, approximately 42 per cent have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 31 per cent are fully vaccinated. In Texas, 50 per cent have one dose and 37 per cent are fully vaccinated. Compare that to any Canadian province: the numbers aren’t even close.

With more people having been sick and more people vaccinated, there are a lot less people who are still vulnerable to COVID-19 so it makes sense that restrictions can be eased. On top of that both Texas and Florida are hot, humid states. People are able to spend a lot more time outdoors, which lowers the rate of spread and the virus hates hot, humid weather.

So the real lesson to take from the experience of Texas and Florida isn’t that we don’t need our restrictions. Quite the opposite once you understand what happened. If you want to stop COVID-19 in its tracks without having many people get sick and possibly die then the key is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as you can and hope that between rising vaccination rates and the warmer weather we’ll finally be able to contain this nasty bug.

On the mixing of vaccines

Some preliminary information on the mixing of vaccines has been released in the medical journal, The Lancet. Mixing the AstraZeneca vaccine with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (rather than staying with the same vaccine for the booster) did result in more people with fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and pains, and malaise within seven days of getting their booster, but no one was seriously ill and all the symptoms resolved on their own in a few days.

This may even be a positive result as it could be a sign of a stronger immune response which is better able to protect us. That data isn’t out yet so we’ll have to wait and see. Furthermore, for people who had their first vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine without complications, they were even less likely to have clotting complications after their second dose. Further good news.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGill Medical School as well as an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of the McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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