NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Immunizing just 30 percent of Americans for whom COVID-19 poses the greatest risk of serious illness could significantly reduce the lethality of the virus while treatment with already-approved antibody infusions could reduce hospitalizations by 70% by yearend, according to Dr. David Levy, an epidemiologist and CEO of EHE Health. On a presentation and livestream discussion with employers across the country, Dr. Levy said that turning the corner on the coronavirus will depend on efficient and effective rollout of the vaccines and the American public’s confidence in them. He called on business leaders to lead by example and to start preparing now for the implications on their operations and workforce.
“At its current rate, the exponential spread of coronavirus is causing untold fear and suffering across the country and threatening to overwhelm the health system,” said Dr. Levy. “We can see light at the end of the tunnel with imminent approval of vaccines and the availability of monoclonal antibody therapies. The potential to make an immediate epidemic impact is very big and very much within reach, yet one of the biggest challenges in getting coronavirus under control will be getting everyone to participate.”
Dr. Levy was joined by Dr. Bernard Camins, Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Mount Sinai Health System, and Dr. Cara Pensabene, Medical Director for EHE Health, for a discussion intended to help U.S. businesses understand what to expect from the coming vaccines and treatments and their role in an efficient and effective rollout.
Among the key points presented were:
- The overall case fatality rate of COVID-19 is likely between 0.5 percent and 1 percent. Optimal coverage of vulnerable populations by vaccines could reduce that rate to between 0.05 percent and 0.1 percent, about the fatality rate for seasonal influenza.
- Antibody treatments can help those with mild to moderate symptoms: Every 1,000 doses of the recently approved antibody therapy Bamlanivimab potentially could reduce 700 hospital admissions, significantly helping with hospital and ICU bed shortages.
- The promise of vaccines and treatments comes with significant logistical challenges, and employers who play an important role in public health will need to be prepared to address the implications for their operations and the health and safety of their workforces.
There have been more than 11.5 million cases of COVID-19 and 250,000 deaths to date in the U.S. Most (95 percent) of these fatalities have been among high-risk people, comprising about a third of the population, including the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions. This group will be prioritized for vaccine distribution.
“The greatest potential for near-term impact on the COVID-19 pandemic is by immediately targeting vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Camins, who is involved in logistics for Mount Sinai’s vaccine distribution. “Vaccines that have advanced furthest in clinical trials, developed by Pfizer and Moderna, have around 95 percent efficacy, so it theoretically should be possible to reduce the lethality of the pandemic by 90 percent simply by immunizing the most vulnerable Americans.”
Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody therapy, Bamlanivimab, already has been approved by the FDA for Emergency Authorization Use with high-risk individuals who have tested positive and whose symptoms are still mild. Monoclonal antibodies developed in laboratories imitate the antibodies that the body’s immune system produces naturally to fight viruses. Over the past 30 years, use of monoclonal antibodies in the treatment of other diseases has earned wide acceptance: Seven of the top 10 biologics sold last year were monoclonal antibodies.
“While vaccines will help protect individual patients and those around them, a large proportion of the population must be immunized and protected before transmission of the virus will be substantially reduced,” said Dr. Pensabene, who assists large companies on coronavirus planning, testing, health monitoring and workforce safe-at-work protocols. “For these reasons, even after vaccines become available, spread of the coronavirus will be a continuing concern, and antibody treatments will serve as a crucial stopgap for those at risk of severe illness. In addition, continued public health measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks, will be needed for at least several more months, and possibly longer.”
Employers have a vital role to play
With 183 million Americans, or 55 percent of the population, receiving health insurance through their workplace,1 employers potentially can play a critical part not only in keeping the economy afloat but also in maintaining employee health and wellness.
“COVID-19 has made workforce health management a business imperative and central concern for the C-suite and board leaders,” said Dr. Levy. “Companies need to start planning now for the wide range of logistical and legal issues they must consider including whether or not to mandate vaccinations, workplace testing and contact tracing, identifying at-risk and vulnerable employee segments and providing education and communication to increase engagement in preventive and primary healthcare services.”
A replay of “The Coming Coronavirus Vaccine and Antiviral Therapies: What to Expect and How to Prepare” can be accessed here along with the entire series of EHE Health Covid-related webinars.
About EHE Health
EHE Health is a national healthcare provider organization and center of excellence in preventive health and primary care. EHE's evidenced-based preventive care is offered to mid- and large-sized employers to give their employees and beneficiaries an entry point to organized healthcare, beginning with prevention. EHE Health is the only national healthcare provider dedicated to preventive care, with no health status selection, among large, diverse workforce populations. For over one hundred years it has been dedicated to health, productivity and longevity for patients, and improving the value of the healthcare benefit offered by large employers. For more information, visit us at https://www.ehe.health/.
1 Katherine Keisler-Starkey, Lisa N. Bunch, “Health insurance coverage in the United States: 2019,” United States Census Bureau Current Population Reports, Washington, DC: issued September, 2020