By Dr. Amanda Green
COMMUNITY & REGION UPDATE
COVID remains low at the hospital with just four COVID-infected people inpatient daily over the last week. In the community, our new active cases are around 5-10 a day, which still puts us at 45/50 weekly count (under 10 considered good control). The panhandle is experiencing a rise in cases, and Southeastern Oklahoma still has county cases greater than 200.
At least 17 percent of the population in the U.S. is thought to be vaccinated (84,000,000 have received one dose). The CDC recommended that COVID-vaccinated people may travel in the U.S. without getting tested or self-quarantining, but should still wear a mask in public areas, avoid crowds and practice hand hygiene. While having the vaccine protects the individual, we still wear masks at this point as there are still people in the community without immunity who can be infected. There have been no deaths and no signs of increased illness (other than brief appropriate immune response side effect symptoms) from the vaccination in these millions of people.
In terms of immunization, a few real-world studies are emerging. One CDC study of 3,950 participants indicated that one dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is 80 percent effective against contracting COVID, and two are 90 percent effective. The second dose is still thought to be important for protection from variants, durability and T cell response. In another study of 37,000 vaccinated healthcare workers, 379 became infected with COVID, and 71 percent of those were infected within the first 2 weeks after the first dose. Only seven tested positive 15 or more days after the second vaccination. In a UT Southwestern report of 8,000 fully vaccinated employees, only four were positive for COVID.
Younger women are among those who do not want the vaccine, due to concerns of infertility. This is thought to be based on a non-medical social media post “Big Pharma Whistleblower” that claimed “97 percent of corona vaccine recipients will become infertile.” The British Fertility Society has released a report stating, “there is absolutely no evidence and no theoretical reason that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men.” Pregnant women who receive a COVID-19 vaccine may be able to pass along protective antibodies against the novel coronavirus to their babies both before and after giving birth, according to several preliminary studies. One study looked at 130 vaccinated women, 84 of whom were pregnant and 31 of whom were lactating, and found their immune responses to the vaccine were similar to those of nonpregnant women. The 10 women who gave birth during the study all had detectable amounts of coronavirus antibodies in their cord blood, and almost all of the lactating women had antibodies present in their breastmilk, which passes on immunity to the baby.
It is estimated that the UK variant now makes up 50 percent of US COVID infections. It is thought to result in a higher infection rate and a slightly higher death rate, but vaccines work well on this variant. As of last week in Texas, 1,257 variant cases were tested and 93 percent were the UK variant.
The hospital still has processes in place to treat COVID patients and to prevent infections in others. We are feeling the slow transition to a chronic, low level of community COVID infection – a respite from the acute surges with daily uncertainty of how many resources will have to go to COVID that day. Vaccinations continue every Friday at Love Civic Center 8-12. Please continue to seek vaccination for both personal wellness and for group immunity. All people 18 and over are able to be vaccinated now with the Moderna and J&J vaccines; 16 and over with Pfizer. While we have mostly had the Moderna vaccine available in Lamar County, this week our distribution of first doses is all Johnson and Johnson, which is just a one-shot vaccination.