This is a weekly Q and A column written by Dr. Lydia S. Segal, M.D. in conjunction with Chaffee County Public Health. This column is focused on questions readers have about COVID-19 news and sciences. As Segal points out, ‘Everything I write today is valid for today. COVID-19 news and science are rapidly evolving, assume updates will be made”
QUESTION: Can you provide updated information about the Delta variant? The reader asks about transmission, infectivity and hospitalization and death rates.
ANSWER: The Delta variant, originally found in India, is now the most prevalent variant in the USA, and accounts for more than 90 percent of cases in Colorado. Newer data shows that this variant is more easily transmitted and it becomes infective to others several days sooner than previous variants. The speed of infectivity is the case even if someone who is infected has no symptoms. The newer data shows that hospitalization and death rates due to Delta are no different than earlier variants.
Importantly, those who are fully vaccinated with either mRNA vaccine are 90 percent immune from getting the Delta variant. And those who do get COVID-19 with the Delta variant have only a very rare chance of developing a case severe enough to be hospitalized and an even rarer chance of dying.
QUESTION: Will I need a booster?
ANSWER: This question seems to be on many people’s minds, as they are now reaching six months after their vaccinations. As reported previously in this column, the level of immunization induced by the vaccines seems to be holding at around 90 percent, even against the Delta variant.
The answer to the booster question is based on the level of immunity one has, and the ability of the current vaccine to protect against the current most prevalent variant. So right now we are in good shape, assuming we have been fully vaccinated.
Can the decision to get a booster change going forward? Likely it will, but when that will change is not clear. It is likely that in the next three to nine months a booster will be strongly recommended by the CDC and FDA and may be adapted to the newest variant that is widely circulating.
QUESTION: Will I need a booster if I am immunocompromised?
ANSWER: The answer to this question has just changed. Starting in April 2021, several studies were published looking at people who are immunocompromised either due to a medical condition or medications they are taking for a medical condition. There is a particularly interesting and telling newly released study in J the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that looked at kidney transplant patients on anti-rejection medications.
The results showed that there were varying levels of immune responses to vaccinations, which meant people with the same medical condition and on the same medications had different immune responses to the vaccine. This means it is a very individual decision, best reached with a conversation with your doctor and may come after specialized blood testing is done.
QUESTION: A reader asks, ‘If I am healthy, young, and fit, I can’t see a reason to get vaccinated. Can you give me a few reasons? I think of myself as vaccine-hesitant rather than vaccine-resistant.”
ANSWER: It does not matter if the reader is healthy, young and fit, they are still at risk for getting COVID-19. Currently of those getting COVID-19, more than 97 percent are non-vaccinated. To avoid getting COVID-19, to avoid being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19, the way to do this is to get fully vaccinated
QUESTION: The same person asks, ‘I hear you can get sick from getting the vaccine. Why would I want to get it?”
ANSWER: About 50 percent of people who get vaccinated get mild symptoms of a cold, such as fevers, headaches and body aches. These tend to pass in a few hours to days. This seems like a small price to pay to avoid serious illness or death.
For more information about COVID, the vaccines, eligibility and appointments, see the links below. Pharmacies are getting small shipments of vaccines. Information will be posted online here and on the county public health and hospital web pages.
Pharmacies with vaccine clinics:
Salida: Safeway, Walmart and Salida Pharmacy
Buena Vista: Mt Shavano (LaGree’s), City Market, BV Drug and Valley-Wide Health
If you have questions you would like Dr. Segal to address in a future COVID Q and A column, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lydia S, Segal, M.D., MPH