The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased markedly in numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in West Virginia and in the United States. This is good news.
However, when carefully looking at the data, it is evident that the impact of reduced COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are largely in our residents who are fully vaccinated. This is true in West Virginia and across the world.
In real world use, being fully vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (14 days after the second dose) reduces the risk of contracting COVID-19 by 91% and protects against severe disease, hospitalization and death by almost 100%.
Countries that have aggressively vaccinated their population with a single dose (primarily the United Kingdom) are now seeing a rash of new infections from the delta variant (first described in India as B.1.617.2) that is quickly becoming the predominant form of COVID-19 seen around the world.
In the U.K., new cases of COVID-19 caused by the delta variant are doubling every 8 days.
This variant is felt to be at least 40% more infectious than the alpha form (previously known as the UK variant, B.1.1.7), which is currently the predominant form of the virus in West Virginia and the U.S.
These infections are primarily occurring in U.K. residents that are unvaccinated or have only received one vaccination, instead of the full two-dose regimen. While the U.K. is pivoting to providing second vaccine doses to their citizens, they are considering another lockdown given the severity of the new surge in cases.
This is further evidence that we need West Virginia to choose vaccination, and it is critically important to finish the entire regimen.
The good news for U.K. residents is that even with a single dose of vaccine, the hospitalization rates are low and death rates have not elevated at this time.
The bottom line from this new data?
Unvaccinated citizens are the ones that are being infected most commonly, followed by citizens that have received only one dose of the vaccine, which appears to be only 33% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection by the delta/India variant, while being 50% effective against the alpha/U.K. variant.
Since the delta variant is now the most common form of COVID-19 in the world, it is on its way to the U.S. and West Virginia, too. Currently, we are not finding any new cases of the delta variant on our most recent genetic sequencing analyses of new COVID-19 cases in West Virginia (the alpha/U.K. variant is still dominant), but we can’t afford to be complacent.
Full vaccination is protective.
Choose vaccination West Virginia.
In countries with poor access to vaccines, COVID-19 will continue to mutate (remember, it can only mutate when it infects humans), and new variants will follow. The more completely our state’s residents become vaccinated, the stronger firewall we build against the virus infecting West Virginians, spreading in West Virginia and mutating in West Virginia.
75% of our population over age 65 is now fully vaccinated and protected, as is 65% of our population over age 50. That is very good and needs to continue to climb up, as 85% of our population over age 65 has one shot and 76% of our population over age 50 has one shot.
The remainder of our vaccine eligible population needs to continue to choose vaccination.
This morning, 49% of our vaccine eligible population is fully vaccinated and 60% has one shot.
Let’s go West Virginia. Shine the light. Choose vaccination.
It is the path to a healthy, safe and bright future for all.
Clay Marsh, MD
Vice President and Executive Dean
WVU Health Sciences