THE COVID-19 cases in Traralgon and subsequent lockdown there illustrate again how difficult it is to contain the delta variant. It is only a matter of time before it is amongst us and could be already…(the difficulty in writing an article days before it is out!). Certainly the daily numbers seem large and yet the case numbers and deaths could have been so much worse. We do need to remind ourselves of that as we all struggle ‘with the longest lockdown anywhere in the world’.
Making vaccines mandatory by the Government for accredited workers was always going to be controversial and no doubt will put some people off-side. But then so did making seatbelts mandatory at the time, and there is a long history of children having to be vaccinated to attend school etc. Hopefully this will be a temporary measure (until mid-December) when the vaccination rate will be higher and where the risk can be better managed.
Don’t let us get side-tracked and forget what we are up against in this (hopefully final?) chapter of the pandemic.
You are all aware that Delta is quite a different beast than the alpha variant, which we prepared for last year and which killed so many in the Nursing Homes. Let’s refresh how it is different.
First off it is so much more infectious, 2-5 times more infectious. One infected person passes it onto 5-8 others on average, compared to the original strain which passed onto 1.5-3 people.
Another reason is a little more complicated. A quick virology reminder. We know the delta strain replicates more quickly than the original strain once it enters a person’s body (usually nose or mouth) and is detectable by tests on average two days earlier, about four days after ‘entry’, the latent period.
The virus then continues to replicate and, although there are no symptoms yet, the person has become infectious, being most infectious two days before to three days after symptoms start.
The incubation period is the time from exposure to the virus to the onset of symptoms.
The viral load a person is carrying increases as the virus replicates and here is a crunch fact with delta…the viral load is up to approximately 1200 times higher than with the original strain!
So it is easy to see how with both the faster replication and the massively higher viral loads why Delta is spreading so rapidly.
Is it more deadly? There is growing evidence from abroad to suggest that the Delta variant is making people sicker than the original variant, with a greater percentage requiring hospitalisation and a greater chance of death.
Then there is ‘long Covid’. Long Covid is an emerging but well recognised complication of COVID-19 where approximately 10-30% of infected people will experience a variety of symptoms lasting for months after the original infection and cause significant impairment. These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, chest pains and palpitations, depression, muscle aches, etc. Time will tell if this is a more common complication of Delta. Safe to say though, you don’t want it!
So that’s all the bad news. And this is the big difference between last year and now-we do have good news this year!
The good news is that all the COVID-19 vaccines currently in Australia are effective against Delta. Studies show that a full course of either AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna will reduce the risk of serious disease and death by more than 85%. This is what the vaccines are very good at. Data from America shows that people who are vaccinated are ten times less likely to die from Covid than those who weren’t. They are not as effective at stopping a person from catching COVID, and these breakthrough infections are more common with Delta. But the symptoms of these breakthrough infections are usually mild and do not last as long, and ‘long Covid’ seems to be reduced also.
This is why at the Medical Centre we make no apology for continuing to try and get as many people vaccinated as possible. The science, the international data and now the local data are all showing the benefits of vaccination. And cases world-wide are slowly dropping as vaccination rates increase.
No-one is saying that they are perfect-arguably there has not been a vaccine ever produced that could be said to be perfect-but they certainly are our best bet against what Covid is doing to people/businesses/economies/etc. Every day there are still 10,000 fatalities and over half a million new cases world-wide notified to WHO/John Hopkins (thanks Priscilla). And practices such as social distancing, masks and hand hygiene remain important.
We have now more than 4000 fully vaccinated people on our books and have given over 10,000 C-19 vaccines. Recently the eligibility criteria have changed: Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna (which is available through some pharmacies) is available to anyone over the age of 18 and the two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) to those between 12 and 18. At the time of writing over 27 million doses of vaccines have been given in Australia and over 77% of those over 16 have had at least one dose. If you haven’t yet, please book in by ringing the Medical Centre (56822088) or feel free to talk to your doctor. Vaccines are free and we have both a good supply and available appointments.
There is a quiet optimism growing that as our vaccination numbers increase, as the weather improves and daylight savings extend our usable daylight hours, that we will indeed get through to the other side of this pandemic and have all our freedoms back.
Dr Philip Worboys, Foster Medical Centre.