Even if you are vaccinated, the Delta variant may still affect you

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The delta variant is spread in the United States mainly among unvaccinated people. Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images
  • Fully vaccinated people have a low risk of severe COVID-19, but increases in coronavirus cases could still impact their health in other ways.
  • Experts say that throughout the pandemic, coronavirus outbreaks have disrupted routine testing and outpatient care.
  • Almost all COVID-19 deaths in the United States are now unvaccinated, Associated Press says Analysis.

With the rapid spread of the delta variant in the United States, coronavirus cases are increasing in parts of the country, especially in areas with low COVID-19 vaccination rates.

This has resulted in an increase in hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, mainly among people who are not fully vaccinated.

In fact, almost all deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are now among the unvaccinated, according to a Analysis by The Associated Press.

AT White House Briefing on June 22, director Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said most of these deaths were “completely preventable.”

Although fully vaccinated people have a much lower risk of serious illness, their health could still be affected as outbreaks of COVID-19 send ripples throughout the healthcare system, which we have seen throughout the pandemic. .

In addition, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, putting them at risk – albeit less than adults – of illness, hospitalization, and other complications from an HIV infection. coronavirus.

The increase in hospitalizations in some areas of the United States is due to the rapidly spreading delta variant and low vaccination rates in those areas.

Overall, 53.8 percent of all people in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.

But in some southern and western states, the rates of a dose are less than 40%. The situation is even more dramatic in some counties in these regions.

Missouri leads the way in hospitalizations, with intensive care beds refueling mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. Many of them are “surprisingly young”.

Arizona, also lagging behind in vaccinations, has seen a recent peak in coronavirus infections and deaths.

Other states with high numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients may follow in Missouri’s footsteps unless their vaccination efforts resume.

Vaccination remains the best protection against serious illnesses due to COVID-19 and peaks in hospitalization that can affect non-COVID care.

Dr Rishi K. Wadhera, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says coronavirus outbreaks have disrupted routine testing, outpatient care and prescribing services throughout the pandemic.

“In addition, elective procedures and surgeries were canceled at the height of the pandemic,” he said.

Some of these disruptions were due to limited resources.

Medical staff have been reassigned to take care of COVID-19 patients. The operating theaters have been converted into intensive care units. And shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other equipment have caused non-emergency procedures to be postponed.

Additionally, people have changed their behavior in response to the coronavirus.

“We know that some patients with urgent or emerging conditions – like a heart attack – have avoided coming to the hospital because they feared getting the virus,” Wadhera said, “which may have contributed to the high rates. higher mortality rates “.

Some cancer treatments and screenings have also been postponed during the pandemic, putting people’s lives at risk.

“The cancer didn’t stop just because COVID started,” said Dr Vivian Bea, assistant professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine in Brooklyn, New York. “Unfortunately, there have been disruptions in the management of patients with breast cancer. [during the pandemic]. “

This included changing the order of cancer treatments.

When cancer surgeries were postponed during the pandemic, some patients received chemotherapy or endocrine therapy instead, which before the pandemic may not have been the first-line treatment.

Additionally, Bea says many women were unable to get their annual breast cancer screenings or mammograms because breast imaging departments were closed during relapses.

Delayed screening increases the risk that cancer will be detected at a later stage, when it is more difficult to treat.

Other factors also contributed to the decline in screening during the pandemic, Bea says, such as women no longer having health insurance coverage because they lost their jobs or became focused on caring for them. their families and the simple exit from the pandemic.

Wadhera says disruptions in non-COVID care likely had a greater impact on black and Hispanic populations due to their higher burden of chronic disease.

In a recent study published in the journal Circulation, Wadhera and colleagues found that this factor and others contributed to a larger increase in cardiovascular deaths in black and Hispanic populations during the first months of the pandemic.

Among black and Hispanic populations, heart disease deaths increased by about 20% from March to August 2020, compared to the same time the year before. For stroke-related deaths, this was an increase of about 13%.

In contrast, heart disease deaths among whites rose only 2% and stroke-related deaths by only 4%.

“Black and Hispanic communities have not only borne the burden of COVID-19 due to long-standing structural and systemic inequities,” said Wadhera, “but these communities have also borne the indirect effects of the pandemic. “

“This has contributed to an increase in deaths [among these groups] due to other conditions – not related to COVID-19 – ”, he added.

Some health systems have tried to minimize disruption of care during the pandemic by using telemedicine to connect with patients.

However, not everyone has the right technology or stable internet access to be able to do telemedicine, or they may not have enough internet or telephone knowledge to connect with their doctor this way.

“For some patients, [telemedicine] really worked, ”Bea said. “But for others, there was a digital divide, which meant a decrease [medical] access for them during the COVID outbreak. “

With the decline in coronavirus cases since the peaks of the pandemic, health service delivery has essentially returned to normal, says Wadhera.

However, some health experts expect low vaccination rates and the delta variant – or other faster spreading variants – continue to power surges in parts of the country.

“It is possible that, despite our vaccination efforts, we will go through another wave, carried by this new variant,” said Dr Federico Laham, medical director of the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children Infectious Diseases in Florida.

This could again impact non-COVID care.

“It is possible that disruptions in healthcare will recur if we see a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, especially as new variants emerge,” Wadhera said. “Areas of the United States with low immunization rates will be the most vulnerable. “

Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are only approved in the United States for people 12 years of age and older.

Like vaccinated adults, fully vaccinated children and adolescents are well protected against the coronavirus, including the delta variant.

However, their medical care could be disrupted if there were spikes in hospitalizations in their area. This is more likely to occur in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lower and levels of the delta variant higher.

Unvaccinated children – children under 12 and older and adolescents who have not yet been vaccinated – can still get sick from COVID-19.

Although children and adolescents are less likely than adults to contract serious illness from COVID-19, they can still get sick or need to be hospitalized.

They are also at risk for a serious complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

Some children and adolescents also experience long COVID – persistent symptoms such as fatigue, muscle and joint pain or problems sleeping – even after a mild infection.

Although the delta variant appears to spread more easily in unvaccinated children and adolescents, it does not appear to cause them more serious illness than previous strains of the virus.

Laham says the UK – where the delta variant now accounts for almost all of the new cases of coronavirus – has not seen an increase in the number of children admitted to hospital or with serious illness.

“It’s very encouraging,” he says. “So it’s pretty safe to say that [the U.S.] should not prepare for an increasing number of sick children, ”he said.

However, spikes in coronavirus cases in children could still disrupt schools, camps, sports and other activities, which would impact their mental health.

The more children and adults who are fully immunized, the easier it will be for the country to fully reopen, including health systems.

“I always strongly recommend that you vaccinate your child as soon as you can,” Laham said, “because you need two doses of the mRNA-approved vaccine to provide the level of protection you want.”

Some parents may be concerned about the possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccines in their children.

Most of the side effects are mild, such as pain at the injection site or short-term fever or fatigue.

This week, however, the CDC found a “likely association” between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna-NIAID COVID-19 vaccines and a higher risk of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults.

Laham notes that these side effects are extremely rare and have been mild in almost all cases.

“The benefits of vaccination still completely outweigh the risk of one of these very rare side effects,” he said.

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