EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT)– Deaconess staff members gave a COVID-19 update on Tuesday. They talked about vaccine hesitancy and shared data about COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and cases as the Tri-State sees a surge of coronavirus cases. Dr. April Abbott says about 80-90% of COVID-19 tests are the contagious Delta variant.
Dr. James Porter, president of Deaconess, moderated the online update. Dr. Porter was joined by Microbiologist Dr. April Abbott, Deaconess Clinic Medical Officer Dr. Brad Scheu, and Pharmacy Service Line Manager Brian Spencer.
Dr. Porter started the update saying we have a long way to go before reaching heard immunity. Between 40-54% of Tri-State residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Testing for COVID-19 is on the rise, a stark difference to the trend Deaconess staff members noticed earlier this summer with daily testing averaging at 150. Dr. Abbott says on Monday, there were more than 600 requests for tests. Health officials were able to swab more than 500 patients. There is a 20% positivity rate, according to Dr. Abbott. She says if you’ve been exposed, go get tested to help fight the surge of cases the Tri-State is seeing.
Deaconess leaders are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Dr. Scheu was asked about this is now being referred to as the pandemic of the unvaccinated since you are more likely to end up on a ventilator if you have not been fully vaccinated. Over 97% of people being hospitalized have not been vaccinated according to Dr. Scheu.
There has been an uptick in other respiratory illnesses. Dr. Abbott says if you have cold like symptoms and test negative for COVID-19, but your symptoms worsen then you might have been tested too early. This could also mean you have another respiratory illness. It’s important to continue to stay home if you’re sick and wear a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Brian Spencer discussed the serious, but statistically rare side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Spencer says it’s statistically more likely to die of a dog bite or a tornado than to experience a rare side effect after getting a COVID-19 shot. So far, about 2,000 people have had blood clots out of the 190 million people in the U.S. who have received a COVID-19 shot. Spencer says this data doesn’t include pre-pandemic background incidents. He mentioned the majority of the side effects are comparable to other vaccines which have been on the market for years. Also, long-term side effects can last to about 6-8 weeks after receiving a COVID vaccine since the vaccine doesn’t stay in your body long term.
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines don’t interact with your DNA. This is something Spencer included to clear the air about how the vaccine works. He went on to explain how the mRNA makes a protein which will adhere to cells, but won’t penetrate into the nucleus. This triggers an immune response to fight off the proteins to train our immune system how to react if it comes in contact with COVID-19.
Even though less than 1% of those who are vaccinated contract a severe COVID-19 infection, breakthrough cases are being detected with the Delta variant being the dominate strain. Dr. Abbott says out of everyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 this week, 14% have been full vaccinated and half of them are symptomatic.
Dr. Abbott says wearing a face mask will help curb the spread of COVID-19 as more people get vaccinated. Even if you get vaccinated today, you won’t immediately be protected from the virus.
So far, the FDA is saying boosters are not needed even though Pfizer claims 1/3 of a dose will help boost immunity.