A digital highway sign promotes COVID-19 vaccination on May 14, 2021 in Vancouver, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard / Getty Images)
There is now a perfect storm with the return of near-normal behavior, the flattening of vaccinations and the new Delta variant.
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“The Delta variant should be the ‘hey, we don’t want it getting worse’ warning flag,” said Dr. Nathan Schlicher, a Tacoma ambulance and president of the Washington State Medical Association.
He says the COVID-19 vaccines are about 85% effective in preventing disease against the Delta variant and about 95% against hospitalizations.
“But 85% means that 15%, about one in seven, can still get the disease,” he said. “About one in 20 could still be hospitalized despite being vaccinated. So that’s the delta variant. “
“If we continue to allow it to develop in the community, if we continue to allow mutations because we are not vaccinated, we are not containing the disease, then we may have new varieties that could cause us more problems,” he added added.
The bottom line for Schlicher, as he said to Hanna Scott of KIRO Radio, is: “The vaccine is good.”
He explains that the vaccine does a number of things, one of which protects us from disease and in turn helps keep our communities open.
“Second, it prevents the virus from circulating in the community to create new mutations,” he said.
Unfortunately, while the state’s vaccination rate is close to 70%, vaccinations have declined.
“We’re making progress – about 30,000 doses a day in the state – but we could do more,” Schlicher said. “At the moment there is no problem with the vaccine supply as it was in the early days. This is the time when “if you want a shot, you can get a shot” really applies. So if that’s what’s on your list, say, ‘Hey, I’m getting on but I have to pay bills, pick up groceries, do 1,000 other things,’ take the time, make it a priority now because we have to do this to protect our communities and each other. “
Dr. Schlicher also points out that the 85% protection against the Delta variant through the vaccines only comes after the full series of vaccinations, that would be two shots at Pfizer and Moderna.
“Unlike the Alpha variant, which gave us decent protection after the first dose, the Delta variant doesn’t see that protection similar to the first dose,” he said. “So now it’s twice as important to get vaccinated and get started. And if you’re one of those people who got your first dose and didn’t get a second because again it wasn’t a priority, hop on and get that second dose. Bring your immunity from 40% to 90% against the Delta variant. “
For those concerned about the safety of the vaccine, Dr. Sneaked into the fact that mRNA technology is not new and has been in use for 20 years.
“Second, we now have one of the largest studies in human history on the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine,” he said. “If you think about it, we test many cancer drugs on 1,000 or fewer people and approve them. We have delivered hundreds of millions of doses of this vaccine. When it comes to the safety profile of this drug, it is one of the best-tested and best-rated drugs you will receive in your life. “
“I would bet a lot of your friends have been given drugs that they have taken without a second thought, your family members have been given a lot less safety research without a second thought, but it’s good science,” he added.
For those who say they never get a flu shot and are always fine, says Dr. Schlicher: “It’s not the flu.” As COVID-19 evolves and mutates, it adapts better to transmission and leads to more hospital admissions than the latter variants. Additionally, there are a number of long-term effects of COVID-19 that you could be exposed to – it’s not just about going through it or dying from it.
“Death is easy when it comes to COVID,” said Schlicher. “There are a lot of people out there with long-term complications from this disease. I have friends in their thirties who have heart failure, blood clots, and may never get back to the activities they love. “
“So if we talk about it and you say, ‘Well, I’m not going to die.’ It’s not the only outcome that can affect your life, ”he added. “There are many things – chronic fatigue, pulmonary embolism, heart disease, and lung damage – that could forever change what you enjoy in your healthy 20s and 30s and make your life very different, even if you survive. Quality of life, not just the quantity of life, is a real issue for people. “
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Fortunately, the United States was able to hold off some of the effects of the Alpha variant that devastated the UK over the winter and sent them back into lockdown. There was some protection from the vaccinations when they hit the US shores.
“We went back up – there was no argument that our cases rose again after February when we were on this slope, but we got through this storm because of the vaccination rate and the protection we had,” said Schlicher.
“But Delta, the Indian variant, is a lot higher, a lot more transmissible … and a lot more likely to get you to the hospital,” he added. “So again, yes, we are making more and more vaccines and more and more protection. But the disease is getting smarter and more aggressive and that means that we have to be vaccinated more and more to protect ourselves. “
If we let things go as they are now, Schlicher fears that we might see another relapse.
“We are at a crossroads, similar to the British variant. Everyone thought we were going back. Remember, the governor opened backup phases and then Pierce County, where I live, fell back into phase 1 because the UK variant took the lead and we blew up. Are we back to the point where we see the light at the end of the tunnel and our decisions decide whether we will get there or possibly fall back again? “
“And that’s a real risk with the Delta variant or whatever comes after,” he added. “So I just encourage people: take the time to get vaccinated to protect yourself. Continue to use common sense and precautions. Again, I may be vaccinated, but I don’t like the idea of a 5% risk of being hospitalized with the Delta variant. So when I’m at mass gatherings with people I don’t know, I still wear a mask. “
Hanna Scott from KIRO Radio contributed to this report. Listen to Seattle’s Morning News from 5am to 9am on weekdays on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.