We know everyone is weary of COVID, but the news of full FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine for age 16 and up has given us renewed hope in fighting this COVID-19 virus. We appreciate the sacrifices community members have made to keep each other safe. It is difficult for everyone, especially now that the Delta variant of COVID has entered our community. A brief Q&A here helps summarize some of our thoughts.
Q: Why is the Delta variant so concerning? A: Delta is at least three times as contagious as the previous COVID variants, spreading even more easily than smallpox. Infected individuals have much higher numbers of viral particles in their nose, they shed the virus longer, and the incubation period is shorter, which all lead to greater spread of the disease. Right now our country, including the state of Kansas, is experiencing a significant increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions to the point that our large hospitals and tertiary care centers in Kansas and Missouri are maxed out with patients and are having to turn away all kinds of patients who need to be admitted. This puts all of us in danger. In addition to COVID patients, patients with heart attacks, stroke, broken bones, and other traumatic injuries are delayed in receiving the rapid care they may need. In addition, it appears that this Delta variant may cause more serious problems in young people than the other strains did. Even children’s hospitals in our area are reporting that they are nearing capacity in their ability to admit new patients. Hospitals are begging Kansas residents to utilize measures of vaccination and masking to preserve the health system’s ability to operate properly.
Q: Do we recommend COVID vaccinations for those eligible? A: Yes, absolutely! We are all vaccinated and encourage our families to vaccinate. We recommend these vaccinations for everyone age 12 and above. The FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine for people age 16 and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals ages 12-15. COVID-19 vaccines are the most studied, most effective, and safest vaccines ever developed. Five billion doses have been given worldwide. They are not experimental. We have more data on these vaccines than we have had on any vaccine in history. COVID vaccines protect you from hospitalization and death. Even people who previously had COVID receive increased protection when given the vaccine.
Q: Do we recommend masks in indoor public spaces? A: Yes, definitely! Masks slow the spread of this terrible disease by reducing airborne transmission of virus-laden respiratory droplets from the infected person’s nose and mouth. Masks are very effective in reducing the spread of the disease. The CDC, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, American Academy of Pediatrics, and thousands and thousands of physicians have recommended facemasks for K-12 schools and in indoor public spaces. There is no credible evidence that masks cause any significant problems, and there is overwhelming evidence that masks are effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19.
Q: Should I allow my child to be tested for COVID? A: Yes, cooperation with the school nurse and the health department in testing and contact tracing are key pieces in enabling our schools to reduce the spread of COVID so that they can remain open for academic and extracurricular activities. Following instructions for isolation and quarantine are also extremely important in reducing spread of the virus.
Q: Are treatments available for those who become COVID positive? A: Yes, some treatments are available, but prevention through vaccination and masking are far more effective. Much misinformation has circulated regarding “treatments” such as Ivermectin (primarily a dewormer for livestock and other animals) that are not recommended for COVID patients by any credible source. We do encourage those infected with COVID to contact your primary care provider to see what treatment may be appropriate for you.
Thank you for all you and your families are doing to curb the spread of this dangerous virus.
Lora Siegle, M.D.
Daniel Frese, M.D .
Brett Siegle, M.D.
Melanie Byram, M.D.
Deborah Benning, PA
Lisa Meyer, APRN
Haley Morgan, APRN