[COLUMN] News capsules

THE average life expectancy in the United States “dropped for a second straight year from 2020 to 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic once again playing an outsize role in the decline,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has been the lowest since 1996, dropping from 77.0 years to 76.1. The U.S. had the largest drop since World War II, with a fall from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77 in 2020, and now down to 76.1. That’s a 2.7-year drop from 3 years ago!  On the other hand, the life expectancy in The Philippines is 71.41 years in 2021, a surprising increase of 0.18 percent from 2020.

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Chinese authorities have locked down Chengdu, a southwestern city with 21 million people, because of a surge in COVID-19, according to the Associated Press. Around 70 percent of the flights to and from that city have been suspended. Those with special needs (negative test) are allowed to leave the city.

If China had locked down Wuhan City when the novel coronavirus was first detected there on December 8, 2019, this catastrophic pandemic that devastated the economies of 230 nations and areas around the globe (more than 610 million COVID-19 cases and greater than 6.5 million deaths worldwide; almost 97 million cases in the U.S., with higher than 1 million deaths; and, more than 3.9 million cases in the Philippines and greater than 62,000 deaths) could have been avoided. It could have been contained and kept within Wuhan, preventing COVID-19 from spreading to other parts of China and to various nations around the globe.

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The U.S. FDA has cleared the first redesigned COVID vaccines since they came out in late 2020. This reformulated bivalent vaccine booster targets Omicron (BA.4, BA.5) subvariants, the current predominant viruses. The Pfizer-made version is for persons as young as 12, and the Moderna vaccine for 18 and older. These improved vaccines may be given also to those who had booster shots as long as the last shot was at least 2 months ago.

Remember, refusing the vaccines and waiting for COVID-19 infection to acquire immunity is dangerous. A significant number of people doing this have died, like the five talk show hosts in the U.S. who at the last minute changed their no-vax advocacy to “hurry-and-get-your-shots,” and sincerely apologized before they died. Their misinformation had, obviously, led to countless (possibly in the millions) infections and deaths. Also, natural immunity from infection is less stable, less reliable, and not as effective as immunity conferred by the vaccines.

Worldwide, 12.6 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered safely, 610 million of those in the United States. Almost 8.5 million doses a day are being given globally and it would take another 9 months to achieve around 75 percent vaccination rate, to usher in “normalcy.”  If the more than 50 million unvaccinated people in the United States get their shots now, the COVID-19 pandemic would be contained sooner. This is actually in their hands. That’s why I said in a previous column that our best weapons to defeat COVID-19 are wisdom, love of our fellowmen and compassion, besides the vaccines, hygiene, masking, distancing, and avoiding crowds.

The newly-announced reformulated shots are most welcome since COVID-19 infections still averages around 90,000 infections and 475 deaths every day. The government is warning the people who think COVID-19 is gone that the country could see 100 million cases in the coming fall and winter. If we are having nearly 500 deaths a day now, you can imagine how many lives could be lost with 100 million cases. Life is precious. Let us protect it, since we have no spare.

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Dementia affected about 35.6 million people worldwide in 2010, and is expected to double every 20 years. Around 6.2 million among age 65 and older have had Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021, and seventy-five percent among age 75 or older. While a severely impaired memory renders the person unaware of his/her environment, the pain and hardship are graver for those family members and caregivers. Taking care of these unfortunate persons is much more complex and difficult than taking care of babies and infants.

Personally, if I develop severe Alzheimer’s, I would rather go fast to save my family and friends from long-term suffering and heartaches. But I am optimistic science will discover effective preventive measures and a miracle cure for this debilitating and devastating illness.

A new study showed that music therapy may improve social interactions between individuals with dementia and their caregivers, family included. It also reduces strain and distress on the part of the caregivers, whose job is tough, sometimes abused by their patients who are no longer mentally alert. Some patients with dementia/Alzheimer’s may be belligerent, confrontational, or physically abusive, not conscious of what they are doing. Hopefully, more progress in conquering dementia peeks on the horizon.

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California legislators are considering a bill aimed at disciplining physicians who disseminate false information or misinform people about COVID-19 infection, vaccines, etc. While other nations have criminalized misinformation/disinformation about the vaccines, the U.S. has been weak in fighting this with scientific data, leading to vaccine hesitancy that promotes infection, the spread of the virus, and more than a million deaths.

But why zero in on physicians only? Isn’t this discriminatory against a certain profession? Anyone spreading fake news, misinformation, doctors or lawyers, or engineers, or politicians, or lay people, about the vaccines, masking, distancing, and treatment of COVID-19 (or other illnesses) on social media or on any medium could equally kill people, and the victims not less dead than those misinformed by physicians.

The law should include everyone guilty of this potentially deadly crime. If they want to mete a harsher sentence to guilty physicians, that’s fine with me, because we, physicians, took an oath to protect the health and safety of our patients. Any physician who commits a crime is a disgrace to the medical profession. But a law must be just and fair for all. All others committing the same crime should also be commensurately punished and not be exempt from justice, and go free, simply because they are not physicians.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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