Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Followed by the endorsement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ability to vaccinate young children marks a huge step forward in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evelyn Balogun, MD is Inspira's Medical Director of Employee Health, Occupational Medicine and Urgent Care. In this video, Dr. Balogun explains how viruses mutate, the impact of the delta variant on our communities and how getting vaccinated can mitigate severe illness and hospitalization.
Talk to us about viruses. How do variants form?
Viruses are smart. Viruses get their energy and they replicate by infecting other living organisms. In this case, as we have person to person spread viruses mutate. That's their mechanism of survival. As viruses mutate, they can become either more pathogenic, which means that they more likely to cause disease or less pathogenic. With respect to the pandemic, particularly at this time there are four variants of concern. Those four variants include the alpha variant, the beta variant, the gamma variant and the delta variant. And up until recently, the alpha variant was the dominant strain that was being monitored. Delta was first identified in India in December of 2020 and since then spread to some European countries. It was first was identified in United States in March of this year. And really between March to this month, we have seen such a rapid rate of increase. So it's extremely transmissible, which is partly why it's of concern.
How are people who remain unvaccinated disproportionately affected by this variant?
It's been said recently that this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated, which honestly that doesn't sit well with me. It doesn't sit well with me that we would ever come to a place where we accept that being unvaccinated and the risks of that is at all acceptable. But that's not to imply that there aren't breakthrough cases. A breakthrough case is defined as infections that occur in persons who've been vaccinated, previously vaccinated. However, what we know is that even if you're vaccinated and you do have a COVID illness, it's milder, as opposed to if you were unvaccinated.
How effective are the current COVID-19 vaccines in market against the delta variant?
I love this analogy which is that the vaccine is not a forcefield. There is no vaccine that's 100%, but the vaccine is not a forcefield. The vaccine is an armor or the vaccine would be comparable to putting your seatbelt on. And so the more likely that we arm ourselves, the better we would be. So even if you do have that rare breakthrough, you'll have a milder episode. The chances of having a severe enough case that would cause hospitalization is extremely, extremely rare.