Tags Posts tagged with "Between You and Me. Leah Dunaief"

Between You and Me. Leah Dunaief

Alexander Hamilton's statue in Central Park. Photo from Wikipedia

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“What if,” is always a tempting game to play with history. This week in July, thanks to what we learned from the play “Hamilton,” makes us wonder. 

What if Alexander Hamilton had not been fatally wounded on July 11, 1804? He died of his stomach wound the next day, yesterday, all those years ago.

He is reputed to have tossed away his shot, but Aaron Burr didn’t.

What if the two men, bitterly at odds over The Jefferson-Burr election for President in 1800, had never had a duel? Even though Hamilton was a member of the Federalist Party along with Burr, still Hamilton campaigned for Jefferson, a member of the Republican-Democratic Party, as having the better character.

What if Burr and Hamilton’s father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, had not opposed each other in the election for New York State Senate? Subsequently, would Hamilton still have said such derogatory things about Burr’s character that prompted Burr to challenge him to a duel?

Hamilton’s oldest son, Philip, was killed in a duel not long before, reportedly defending his father’s honor. Instead, he brought unimaginable grief to his parents. Hamilton is said to have thrown away his shot in turn because of the anguish caused by that killing. What if that great loss hadn’t happened? Would Hamilton have accepted Burr’s challenge, then deliberately missed? After all, Hamilton had been a highly decorated Major General, proficient in battle. He surely knew how to use a gun.

What if Hamilton had lived? After all, he was only in his 40s at the time of his death. Hamilton had been of enormous influence, first as an aide-to Camp for George Washington, then in writing most of the Federalist Papers and helping to get the Constitution passed, again as the United States first Secretary of the Treasury and setting up the national banking system that still exists today during Washington’s administration. (Perhaps less known, to get the Southern members of the Congress to vote “aye,” he agreed to their demand to move the Capital from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, a far easier destination for them.)

Hamilton is regarded today as a brilliant visionary and one of the most outstanding men of his century, at least according to the French diplomat Talleyrand in 1794. His life and thoughts have spanned three centuries. What more might he have given us had he lived?

What if?

His wife, Elizabeth, known as “Eliza,” lived to age 97 and is saluted for her remarkable contributions to the young nation.

Initially left with young children, a mortgage and bills, she was to additionally suffer the loss of her father, who had at the time of his death lost his fortune. 

With the help of friends, she was able to hold on to her home but eventually was forced to move her family to lower Manhattan from her 35-acre estate in Harlem. Her children were well-educated and went on to impressive careers.

Eliza became co-founder and director of New York City’s first private orphanage in the area now just south of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. She remained in that role for 27 years, during which time she oversaw 700 children. She also was a founder of the Orphan Asylum Society. Throughout her life, she remained sensitive to the plight and the needs of orphaned children, reflecting the world her husband had grown up in.

Eliza also was dedicated to preserving her husband’s writings and legacy, including the purchase of his work by Congress. This is how we know so much today about his life and thoughts. His writings are in the Library of Congress.

We might play, “What if,” at any turn in history, some of which could send shivers down our spines. This week, though, it seemed clearly Alexander Hamilton’s turn. He did much to create the world we live in today.

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Just as we are trying to decide whether to get the second COVID booster of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna that is now authorized by the FDA for those over 50, the color-coding system that tracks the rate of contagion has turned from green to yellow in New York City, indicating an increase in cases. We know that what happens in the city eventually spreads to Long Island, so that would encourage us to get that fourth shot, yes?

To further complicate the decision, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday suggests that “additional boosters are likely to provide fleeting protection against omicron infections in older recipients, and are consistent with evidence that vaccine effectiveness against infection wanes faster than against severe disease,” according to The New York Times.

I say, what?

Let’s consider this carefully. The results of the large new study from Israel are telling us that a second booster shot does provide protection against omicron infections and severe illness among older adults. It is also saying that such protection against infection is short-term and wanes after four weeks, then almost disappears after eight weeks. 

That doesn’t sound so good, right?

But hold on. Protection against severe illness-—again, severe illness— did not lessen in the six weeks after receiving the second booster, but the follow-up period has been too short to know if that second shot continues to offer better protection against severity. By the way, the study involved those ages 60 and older, with nothing on younger populations. So “vaccine effectiveness against infection wanes faster than against severe disease,” concludes The Times. And a previous study from Israel that has not yet been published in a scientific journal, according to The Times, “found that older adults who received a second booster were 78% less likely to die of COVID-19 than those who had received just one booster shot.” The methodology of that study has been criticized, however, with scientists pointing out that those who have received one booster are already likely to be protected from severe illness and death. 

In the new study of 1.2 million adults, “the rate of confirmed infections was twice as high in the three-dose group as in the four-dose group. By eight weeks after the fourth shot, the additional protection against infection had almost disappeared, the researchers found. However, “rates of severe illness were 3.5 times higher in the three-dose group than the four-dose group four weeks after the booster shot. That protection did not appear to wane and actually ticked up slightly by the sixth week after the shot, when rates of severe disease were 4.3 times higher in the three-dose group.”

Still don’t know what to do?

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said on Tuesday that her agency “really would encourage people who are over 50 who have underlying medical conditions and those over the age of 65” to get a second booster shot.

There is controversy among immunologists and vaccine experts over whether to recommend that fourth shot, at least for those under age 65. Twenty million people 65 or older are now eligible and 10 million between 50-64, according to the CDC.

So if you have decided to get the second booster, which would you get?

Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA suggested in a podcast that there was “a little bit of data” that switching vaccines may provide better protection, but “probably the more important thing is just to get boosted with whatever vaccine you can get.”

I will be getting the second booster this week. My thinking is that in the face of newly rising infection rates, even eight weeks could provide a substantial barrier against falling ill and then having the additional worry of incurring long-haul Covid. But reaction across the country is mixed.

With limited data, we are left on our own.