As COVID-19 delta variant emerges, vaccine proves efficacy

Risk of virus is still higher than risk of vaccine side effects, Sanford doctors say

A Sanford Health nurse fills COVID-19 vaccination syringe.

The delta variant now accounts for more than half of all COVID-19 cases in the United States through mid-July.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 31 states including Minnesota and North Dakota have shown a 50% rise in cases over the previous week.

Sanford Health News hosted a Facebook Live Q&A July 14, with Sanford Health Sioux Falls Clinic Vice President Joshua Crabtree, M.D., to address these topics.

“The delta variant is easily transmissible, which is why we’re seeing an uptick in cases particularly in those who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Crabtree explained.

Watch video: Sanford Health Facebook Live Q&A with Dr. Joshua Crabtree

“We are seeing more protection from these vaccines relative to the variant and we can still feel safe the vaccine works,” Dr. Crabtree added.

Rising hospitalizations

However, a new rise in cases is leading to more people in the hospital.

People hospitalized with COVID-19 these days have one overwhelming thing in common: they’re not vaccinated.

More than 214,000 Sanford Health patients have received the full regimen of their vaccine as of early July. Of those patients, less than half a percent have been hospitalized from the coronavirus at an average age of 71.

For those hospitalized without their vaccine, the numbers are much higher and an average age is much lower.

Schedule today: Get your COVID-19 vaccine at Sanford Health

“The vaccine works,” Dr. Crabtree said. “The fact that those numbers are so different also tells us you’re much less likely to be hospitalized if you’ve received the vaccine and you’re 20 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID.”

‘Long-haulers’ syndrome concerning

Leading physicians at Sanford Children’s are still seeing more cases of young people affected with long-term symptoms stemming from the virus.

“The long haulers syndrome appears to affect children, teenagers and adolescents at about the same rate it does adults,” Sanford chief physician Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., tells Sanford Health News. “They are seeing kids who had very mild cases of COVID who now have troubles with exercise tolerance and heart palpitations.”

The CDC had reported cases of inflammation of the heart, known as myocarditis and pericarditis, in children following the COVID-19 vaccine which are still more common with the virus.

“We wouldn’t recommend the vaccine if it wasn’t tens, hundreds, thousands of times safer than getting the virus on its own,” Dr. Cauwels added.

Will we need a COVID-19 booster?

Dr. Crabtree and other leaders are still waiting to learn more about if and when we will need a booster shot for continued longevity in immunity.

“The longer we have experience with the vaccine, we’re learning the immunity has better longevity than we knew three months ago which is a positive sign,” Dr. Crabtree said. “We always have to be aware that immunity may wane at some point as our experience with the vaccine grows.”

That said, we may need a booster shot at some point in the future. However, early fall is unlikely.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Immunizations

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