Tue | May 18, 2021

Orville Taylor | COVID-19 – Correlates, comorbidities and consequences

Published:Sunday | April 18, 2021 | 12:10 AM

A little prick can be a nuisance, and no one should be forced to take it against his or her own will. As regards the COVID-19 vaccine, if you don’t feel the need or desire to feel the needle, then that is your choice. Perhaps there is some secret that is known to you that will prevent you from getting the disease. However, weigh the negatives associated with it against the likelihood of getting it and the possible after-effects

Well truth be told, the great majority of persons who test positive for COVID-19 will not die. And if you look at the statistics, only 302 Jamaicans died in 2019. Compare that to the number of motor vehicle fatalities, and you have a right to feel confident. In 2020, more than 1,300 died from gunshot wounds, 1,000 more than COVID-19. But this year, we have only lived 108 days. Yet, more than 390 of us have already died from COVID-19, and as Miss Ivy used to say as she cynically read the weekly obituaries, “I am giving thanks that I am not one.”

Nevertheless, just more than 400 Jamaicans have been murdered so far in 2021, which, if you ask the pollsters who predict electile success or dysfunction for the respective parties, is a statistical dead heat with COVID-19. The prime minister, along with the minister of health and wellness, will report how well the lockdown and other measures are working. But let this set in: at this very point in Jamaica in 2021, you are just as likely to be killed by COVID-19 as you are by a gunshot. So perhaps you might want to evaluate which shot you really might want to avoid.

There is no such thing as a completely safe vaccine. True, some individuals become very sick afterwards and require days of absence from work. After all, a vaccine is a sort of milder version of a disease; a kin of dog that has been neutered. It is also true that a small percentage end up with blood clots. However, the numbers are really not statistically scary. Indeed, the data strongly suggest that the risk of getting severe outcomes is greatly reduced even after one dose, assuming of course that the patient is patient and takes extra precautions until the immunity kicks in during the two-week window. By the way, blood clots usually come along with the gunshots too, whether you survive or not.

What is weird about COVID is that despite the demographic data, trends, and patterns, not one single person can predict how this thing will affect him or her. It is like the non-smoker who gets lung cancer and the alcoholic whose liver is as healthy as Usain Bolt’s bank account. However, when you crunch the large numbers, there are some ‘comorbidities’ that are directly correlated with severe outcomes, including death. In any event, inasmuch as it doesn’t often kill young healthy men and women,, it sometimes does and you do not want to be my 54-year-old diabetic, hypertensive friend, who watched his 24-year-old athletic daughter die in his arms even as his own symptoms improved.

OBESITY

Nonetheless, here is the first statistical comorbidity: obesity. In a cross analysis of 34 scientific studies, it was found that 42 per cent of those tragically affected were clinically overweight. Here, the news is not particularly encouraging. A study conducted by the Istituti Fisioterapici Ospitalieri (IFO) in Rome, Italy, reveals that the relatively harmless prick may lose its efficacy among obese people. So, if Bigga wants, or does not wish, or cannot manage, or is afraid of the ‘juck’, then he must not only run from the needle, but keep going until he completes a few laps and loses some kilograms.

Next is hypertension – ‘pressure’. We already know that this is a silent killer that starts killing the less essential organs before the entire body is shut down. Add COVID-19 to this, and you are talking about 40 per cent of those having the worst outcomes. Behind pressure is ‘sugar’. More than 17 per cent of those who have fatal results were diabetic. Cardiac patients at 13 per cent and persons with previous respiratory conditions at eight per cent round out the hit list. All of these are lifestyle diseases. Less sugar, less fat, less meat, more exercise, and less alcohol.

Now, if you die, then the problems and consequences have to be faced by family, relatives, and friends, but your troubles will be over.

Interestingly, it is when you survive that the after effects can be scary. I almost forgot that I had said some of this last week because COVID-19 does cause ‘brain fuzz’ and short-term memory loss. However, COVID-19 makes the bad worse. All of the above-mentioned diseases and others are exacerbated.

Many remain very ill long after the virus is gone. In my case, perhaps the zinc had led to a squatter settlement in my lungs. This is first-hand experience.

And again, as a final reminder to the macho men. COVID 19 can cause impotence. Nevertheless, I can only go by the secondary data.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.