General Meeting

Program time:
What will life be like after the Corona Virus Pandemic?
Speaker: Yves Van Laethem
Location
Zoom Meeting On Line

In  keeping with the Covid guidelines our March General Meeting will take place as a Zoom meeting (details to follow separately). We are fortunate to  welcome Dr. Yves Van Laethem, the infectious disease specialist,  who will discuss how life might change as more of us become  vaccinated. He will also take questions from our members at the end of his presentation. 

Here is an article to introduce our speaker:

YVES VAN LAETHEM: "I'M NOT A STAR BUT A REAL ZINNEKE"

Once unknown to the general public, Yves Van Laethem has become with the Covid crisis, and whatever he says about it, a star. After slipping through the screen as a consultant for RTL TVi, the infectious disease specialist took on a new dimension by becoming, at the end of April, the interfederal spokesperson for the fight against the coronavirus. Comedians parody him, cartoonists bite him, journalists tear themselves away, spectators drink his words. Let's go see who is hiding behind these sunglasses that have become… legendary.

Doctor Yves Van Laethem, 67 and a half, lives in a splendid villa nestled in the middle of the woods in Grez-Doiceau, in Walloon Brabant. "I have 52 ares to maintain, there is work to do! I just bought myself a big blower to collect oak leaves. " The cat Lara precedes us by entering through the kitchen. "She's 15, and our other cat, Noah, is 20. And how old would you give my mate, Clara?" She is 69 years old! In fact, we are all old back home! "

Because he says so. But in any case, not the style of sleeping in an armchair. Retired since 2017, after 40 years in internal medicine at CHU Saint-Pierre, doctor/professor Van Laethem continues to give lectures, to provide expert opinions for the medical accident fund, to chair the vaccination unit of the Superior Council of Health and above all, to present the daily evolution of the Covid epidemic in Belgium, as an interfederal spokesperson. He doesn't get paid for this job. “Just the kilometres. I must have a few thousand… ”.

Reprinted from an article by Françoise De Halleux for Sudinfo.be from 5 December 2020 in SudInfo.be.

Note: Content and images not intended for copyright infringement.

A Review
COVID-19, NOW AND NEXT
A review by Larisa Doctorov
Number of cases and deaths, worldwide and Belgium, as of 12 March 2021

The General Meeting of the ISG took place on 15 March 2021 and – in keeping with Covid  guidelines – it was a Zoom meeting.  

Our lecturer was Dr. Yves Van Laethem, the infectious disease specialist. 

Retired since 2017 after 40 years of medical practice in internal medicine at CHU Saint-Pierre,  Dr. Van Laethem continues to give lectures and chairs the vaccination unit of Belgium’s Superior  Council of Health. At the end of last April, he became the inter-federal spokesperson for the  fight against the Covid infection, reporting on the daily evolution of the Covid epidemic in  Belgium.  

Our group was lucky to be able to get such an important specialist and to hear his opinion about  the present situation with the pandemic in the world at large and here in Belgium, in particularly.  

This was our first Zoom lecture, and it went surprisingly well. The lecture attracted 48 participants,  which attests to its timeliness and to the high level of our speaker. The group was disciplined.  People listened attentively. They were able to mute their microphones when asked by Angela  and to raise hands if they wanted to ask questions. The lecturer answered their questions  straightaway.  

Dr. Yves Van Laethem discussed the most important issues , stressing the main characteristics of  this new disease and the risk it poses for members of our group. Clearly, the most vulnerable  people whose lives are in jeopardy are seniors. For them the Van Laethem’s message is to get  vaccinated! Without delay! In spite of the negative information about some vaccines. The risk  from the injections is not comparable to the risks from catching the disease. This advice applies  to all our members.  

 

Overall mortality and mortality caused by Covid-19, as of 28 February 2021

He brought forward frightening statistics which are usually buried in the back of media articles if  they are given any publicity at all. For example, in Italy among people who died of Covid 90%  were above 70 years old. In plain English, the chance of our dying from Covid vastly outweighs  any possible side effects from the vaccination reported till now.  

Questions from the audience were a very important part of our Zoom event. Some of our  members who have health issues which for example require pacemakers wanted to know  whether they can get vaccinated. 

Others who caught Covid and recovered asked whether they needed to be vaccinated.  

However important Dr. Van Laethem’s answers to our personal questions may have been, his  time with us covered broader matters of interest as well. After all, the title of the lecture was  ‘What Life Will Be Like After the Corona Virus Pandemic?’  

This question worries everybody, regardless of age. Van Laethem had prepared graphic material  to illustrate his speech. On the screen, we could follow the spread of the infection starting in  March 2020. Month by month we saw the figures of infected and fatalities according to their  age. The alarming waves of the epidemic and their peaks spoke for themselves.  

A year has passed. Up to now the world has experienced three waves. In Belgium the first peak  occurred last March. The second one took place last November. From December 2020 to March  2021, we can see a plateau, meaning the absence of sharp rises or declines in figures of the  infected, those hospitalized and the fatalities. Now the specialists have started talking about a  third wave, though it is not as severe as the first one.  

Over the past year, the world has reported 118 million infections and 2,6 million deaths related  to Covid.  

Cumulative number of persons having received one dose and of those who are fully vaccinated

Belgium has reported almost 800,000 infections and 22,000 deaths for its population of 11  million. Now the number of people being admitted to the hospitals is rising again. The numbers  of asymptomatic cases are also rising. Van Laethem calls this phenomenon worrisome.  

Figures from the world at large show that from among those with confirmed Covid infections, 1- 1,5 % die. However, the risks become progressively more dire when we speak of hospitalized  patients. In the hospitals the rate of mortality is 10-20%, and if the hospitalized patients are put  in Intensive Care Units (ICU) on ventilators the risk of death rises to 30%.  

Now with the increasing number of people who have recovered from the disease a new problem  has arrived, which is called the ‘Long Covid’. These people experience weakness, shortness of  breath, loss of memory, abnormalities in the brain or in the heart. These problems can last for  weeks. 

The main tool to get rid of the infection is to build the natural ‘herd’ immunity in the population  which inhibits transmission. In Belgium, we could achieve it by taking no public health measures  at all, but at a terrific cost: with deaths rising from the present 22,000 to 80,000. Of course, that  is unacceptable. The only solution is to vaccinate as many people as possible and as fast as  possible. 

Belgium 687,000 people have been vaccinated. Among people of over 85 years old,  91,000 were vaccinated, mostly in the nursing homes. And one week later we already saw a  sharp drop in the number of deaths reported in Belgium daily. This again confirms that the  vaccination is the only solution. We don’t know whether we will be living with Covid for years.  There is no answer.

 

Evolution of hospital admissions and the proportions of rest home residents admitted in Belgium

VACCINES 

At present 200 vaccines are being developed in the world, among them 60 have undergone  clinical testing. 

In Belgium three vaccines are used: Astra Zeneca (7.7 million doses), Pfizer (7 million doses),  Moderna (8 million doses). There are talks about providing Belgium with the Johnson & Johnson  vaccine, which requires only one dose, while others need two doses.  

The progress is being watched daily. The number of those vaccinated is increasing, but it is not  correct to hope that the whole population will be vaccinated. So far, children cannot be  vaccinated, though Moderna is now studying this.  

THE IMPORTANCE OF AGE 

Age is the biggest risk factor, much more than anything else, including other health problems,  the co-morbidities.  

SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS 

Dr. Yves Van Laethem spoke about the progress that the scientists have achieved in the last few  years. It is incredible, but three days after the virus was discovered and identified, scientists  began working on the creation of the vaccine worldwide.  

Recent illnesses like SARS have similarities with Covid 19 , and thanks to that the new vaccines  were developed so quickly. Also having a lot of money helped to put so many vaccines on the  market. The first phase of vaccine development was done quickly. In the past, this could take  between 7 and 15 years. Phase two involving testing on volunteers also was fast; before it took  one or two years. 

For Pfizer there were very many participants, 435 538, and it showed a 95% effectiveness. It was  also demonstrated to be good for people over 65 years old. Moderna showed the same results. AstraZeneca showed 82% effectiveness. 

Another factor which influenced the fast development of the vaccine was the worldwide  cooperation between the scientists and companies, who shared information about their  progress.  

SIDE EFFECTS 

Side effects happen, most frequently after the second jab. These include loss of blood pressure  which happens in one out of 250.000 people. With Pfizer there appears to be one case for  150.000 vaccinations.  

This happens after the second jab in within 15 minutes after the injection. That is why people are  asked to stay at the vaccination clinic for 15 minutes after the jab.  

With Astra Zeneca there seems to be a problem with the blood coagulation. In the EU there  were 32 cases of clotting, 2 of them in Belgium. Now the investigation is going on. But we should  take the cases in perspective. For 5.5 million people there have been seven reported deaths,  which are under investigation. The protection from the disease should last for 8-12 months,  maybe for several years.  

As for the new variants of Covid, the vaccination should help here also. Moreover, from what we  now know about the mechanism of Covid, the companies can produce a vaccine in a few weeks.  Of course, there are still a lot of things to learn about Covid. 

ONGOING RESEARCH 

What is now under discussion among researchers: 

• If you had had Covid, is one shot enough? No answer yet – this is still under discussion. With  one shot you have a high protection for five weeks, but we don’t know for how much longer.  

We know that there is no danger for the body to have too many antibodies. 

In Belgium we have 10% of the African strain, and 35% of British. So better to have two shots  and more antibodies than fewer antibodies. 

• Another question was whether it is possible to interchange vaccines? This is an important  question. Some people are scheduled to have the first shot with AstraZeneca, but then it can be  removed from use. What do these people do? The answer was – it is under discussion.  

To protect yourselves – vaccinate. It gives 90% protection. Especially for older people.  

Hopefully by autumn society will resume a normal life. We need between 70% and 80% of people  to be vaccinated. Then the health system will be protected . 

• Another question: could Covid disappear like the Spanish flu? Van Laethem’s answer was: “I  don’t think so. It could be like Ebola. It will be less severe”.  

For our audience Dr. Van Laethem’s address was a scholarly message and at the same time a  wake-up call. 

The graphs in this article are taken from Dr. Van Laethem’s PowerPoint presentation. You can  receive the document by contacting Angela Oestmann at angela.oestmann@mac.com.

 

 

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