Just as life is returning to normal this summer and many are thinking that COVID-19 is over and it’s behind us, we are reminded by news stories from Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee that this may not be the case.
Rural areas in these states are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 infections from the Delta variant and are seeing dramatic increases in hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated people.
Unfortunately, the vaccination rates in those states are similar to that of Klamath County and the Delta variant has now been found locally. Data-based computer models predict a similar surge here in September – unless more people are vaccinated.
The COVID-19 Delta variant is 40-60% more infectious and results in double the number of hospitalizations. It is rapidly becoming the predominant variant in the U.S., as it has done in India and Great Britain.
The COVID-19 global pandemic is becoming the story of those who are vaccinated and those who are going to get infected.
Vaccinations are the key to keeping this infection under control here and throughout the nation. Across the U.S., more than 97% of the people hospitalized for COVID-19 were not vaccinated. At Sky Lakes Medical Center, we have had no serious COVID-related illnesses or deaths among fully vaccinated individuals.
The vaccines are not perfect and there are side effects. But these need to be weighed against the risks associated with infection. Here’s the math: With the vaccines, the risk of a blood clot is 1 person out of 250,000. With the COVID-19 infection, if hospitalized, the risk is 1 person out of 5. Parents are naturally concerned about the risk of heart inflammation seen in younger people. That risk with the vaccines is 1 person out 337,000. A study of college athletes that had COVID-19 found that 15%, or slightly more than 1 athlete out of 6, had heart inflammation.
It is true that young people rarely have significant illness with COVID-19, but we are seeing more “long COVID” cases. These are people who may not have been hospitalized who now have chronic shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches that persist for months after their illness.
It is important to note that young people can also serve as a reservoir for infection and infect those who are at much greater risk for severe illness. Most people are asymptomatic for 4-6 days but are contagious and spreading the virus during this time. The vaccine cuts this rate of asymptomatic spread by 75%.
With roughly six weeks before our next predicted surge, we all need to get vaccinated as soon as possible to help prevent further illness and death. These vaccines are offered for free at Sky Lakes and throughout the community. Please consider doing your part.
Grant Niskanen, M.D.