By Anna Jones
It’s like jumping out of a plane without a parachute.
This is what an expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says about not choosing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As the Delta variant continues to spread in the United States, Alabama is now home to the highest COVID positivity rate in the country. The state’s low vaccination rates, combined with the viral load and high transmissibility rates of the Delta variant, are a deadly combination that experts say can only be stopped by social distancing, wearing masks. and vaccination.
“Something we need to remember as we move towards this wave is that we have a way to prevent it,” said Sarah Nafziger, MD, vice president of clinical support services at the hospital. UAB. “We have the end of the pandemic in our hands. We have the tools to turn this killer virus into a cold. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of people who choose not to get vaccinated. “
Alabama hospitals have seen an increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with 97% of COVID patients hospitalized in Alabama not being vaccinated. UAB Hospital is currently caring for 80 patients with active COVID infection and 17 recovering COVID patients and 60 percent of COVID patients in the ventilated intensive care unit. This is the highest number of coronavirus patients UAB has treated since the winter wave of February 2021.
The highly contagious Delta variant has led UAB and other companies to reinstate mask warrants. With the Delta variant, masking is more important now than it was in the past.
“At the end of the day, we’re back to square one with this pandemic,” Nafziger said. “The Delta variant is more transmissible and vaccination rates in Alabama are very low. When you put those two things together, it’s like pouring oil on a fire, and that’s why we have widespread transmission again. If we were to vaccinate 80 percent of people, it would be a different situation; but the reality is that the key to getting out of this pandemic is to start social distancing again, wear your mask and get vaccinated. “
Studies show that vaccines provide protection against most variants of SARS-CoV-2 currently circulating in the United States; but experts warn that if low vaccination rates continue, a new variant may develop that can bypass the vaccine-induced immune response.
Although doctors are seeing breakthrough cases, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 99.99% of fully vaccinated people do not have breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death. Because of the fluidity of this situation, those with symptoms of COVID-19, whether vaccinated or not, should get tested to avoid the risk of passing the virus on to others. Based on the test results, everyone should follow the CDC’s quarantine and isolation guidelines.
“If you look at people hospitalized with COVID-19, almost all of them haven’t received their vaccine,” Nafziger said. “People who get vaccinated don’t usually end up in the hospital. Unfortunately, a key unknown right now is how low vaccination rates and these new numbers of cases will translate into hospitalizations. The past two weeks have been very alarming and many health care providers are concerned that we are headed to a place that is not good. “
As the wave continues, UAB Hospital is seeing an increase in the number of critically ill patients, resulting in overcrowded emergency departments.
“When the pandemic started, all we could do was hope and pray that a miracle would get us out of this mess,” Nafziger said. “The miracle happened, and it came in the form of the vaccine. These vaccines have been studied more than any other vaccine in human history. They are very safe and there is no data to suggest otherwise. We have the vaccine. We have the end of this pandemic in our hands, so let’s get vaccinated and put this pandemic behind us once and for all. “
For those still unsure of the vaccine, Nafziger suggests turning to trusted sources for more information, including primary care physicians, CDCs, and state healthcare leaders.
“Social media makes it very easy for everyone to present themselves as experts, so be very careful who you go to for your information,” Nafziger said. “Look at the information they share and ask yourself why you should trust this source. Your local health care providers are always a good source to turn to because they have your best interests at heart and will always be there to take care of you whether or not you are vaccinated.
For more information on COVID-19 and vaccinations, visit uabmedicinevaccine.org.