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Local Health Authority stresses vaccinations as COVID-19 cases rise

Young County Local Health Authority Dr. Pat Martin spoke with the Graham Chamber of Commerce Friday and gave an update regarding COVID-19 cases in Young County. In the last few months there has been a rise in cases, with 53 positive cases in the county as of Monday, according to Graham Regional Medical Center.

GRMC began their COVID-19 county updates again Monday, July 19, with the most recent update as of Wednesday reporting 71 total active cases with 50 active in the county. There were 66 currently in isolation at home with five patients at GRMC. There are a total of 2,815 which have recovered from COVID-19 and a total of 45 deaths. Dr. Martin updated the community Sunday, Aug. 8, stating the hospital had eight COVID-19 patients, with three patients being critically ill and requiring a ventilator.

“There are no hospitals in the state of Texas currently accepting ICU transfer patients,” he wrote Sunday. “During the past 3 weeks we have had no patients in the hospital for COVID19 that were vaccinated. Most of our patients are between 40 and 60 years old. Please get your vaccine. The vaccine you get may save your life or someone else’s life. Please also pray for these patients their families and for the nurses and hospital workers who are working ridiculous hours in an effort to provide care. The nurses, lab workers, technicians, pharmacy staff, respiratory therapist, and aides are working around the clock skipping days off and missing vacations and time with their family. The community is lucky to have these unbelievable people.”

Dr. Martin said Friday that almost all of the patients at GRMC are between the ages of 45 and 60 and that the Delta variant seems to be impacting this age group primarily rather than older groups.

“What we are seeing right now is 85% of the cases in the state of Texas are Delta variant. We are definitely having that here in Young County,” he said. “You know, we’ve had a large increase in numbers over the past three weeks of both sick people as well as hospitalized patients. The Delta variant is affecting people who are not immunized. (There) are very few cases of people who have had vaccines that are getting Delta or any COVID at all, so that’s what we are seeing. We’ve had about 12 people in the hospital now in the last week. We’ve had one death in the emergency room, unfortunately, and we have currently five people in the hospital with COVID-related illness and so we’ve definitely seen a surge. That was after several months of not having any.”

The health authority said he does not think it is so much age related as it is a factor of who has taken the COVID-19 vaccine and who has not. He said a lot of those under the age of 60 have been reluctant to get the vaccine.

“The vaccine is extremely effective. I think the last numbers we checked, we had 90 new cases (as of Friday) and 87 of (...) the new cases of COVID had not been vaccinated. There are always going to be occasionally people that have a failure to the vaccine. They may be on chemotherapy or they may be taking steroids or they may have (...) something that is suppressing their immune response. And so, when those people get a vaccine it may not take on, but those are very few people and most people who have had the vaccine have not caught COVID,” Dr. Martin said. “The ones that have caught COVID, here in Young County, we haven’t had anyone who has been hospitalized with a COVID-related reason who has been vaccinated. Not a single one.”

He said the vaccine will make your arm sore for about 24 hours and some have also experienced a low-grade fever, chills and achiness. He said those are common with all vaccines, but also slightly more significant with the COVID-19 vaccine. The symptoms with the Delta variant mirror those seen in earlier forms of COVID-19.

“The symptoms of the Delta variant are exactly the same. The difference with the Delta variant is it spreads much easier. So the initial COVID, it was a little bit hard to catch. You had to be with somebody a significant amount of time and you had to be pretty close to someone. They are telling us that the Delta variant can spread a lot easier, similar to how chickenpox can spread. It can kind of spread across the room if you are just talking to someone or you are just in a room with someone so I think that is why it is spreading so quickly,” Dr. Martin said. “Demographic wise, it’s more young people that we are seeing right now. Like 45-60 are the average patients that are in the hospital. (...) Part of that is the Delta variant may be affecting younger people more, but also the older people have been more aggressive at getting vaccinated so we are seeing a little bit of both.” 

Dr. Martin said more serious side effects of the vaccine are extremely rare and said those types of effects have not been present in the county.

“In Young County we have had zero serious reactions,” Dr. Martin said. “We have had nobody in the hospital with a vaccine-related, you know, problem. (...) And you flip that around and your chances of having a serious reaction having COVID are about 30-40%. That’s not death. People like to say ‘Oh, only 1% of people are dying from COVID,’ but what we have been seeing in the last few months when we weren’t seeing acute COVID patients, we were seeing the after effects that it has on people, and a lot of people have some serious problems after COVID. (Such as) trouble breathing, just getting winded doing basic things. Some of them have cardiomyopathy, which is just their heart is kind of floppy after having that virus. Others have neurologic problems afterwards (such as) neuropathy pain, tingling in their feet. Depression has been really common after COVID. Breathing problems, of course, the people that have the really serious pneumonia, some of them develop fibrosis of their lungs, which makes their lungs really tight and hard for them to get a breath and those are things that may not go away. Early on, we didn’t have a way to prevent that, but now we do and a vaccine would prevent this in more than 99% of the people.”

Dr. Martin said there was no improper research or testing done on the vaccine which resulted in it being produced quicker. He said there were two reasons the vaccine came out faster than normal.

“People are afraid of how fast the vaccine came out and what people need to know is, first of all, they were working on this vaccine from 2005 on because it’s the same virus that caused SARS and MERS. And so they began working on this type of a vaccine, so that is part of why they were able to make a vaccine quickly and the way they tested it quickly were because of two reasons. One, because President (Donald) Trump funded it, so they didn’t have to wait between phase one trials and phase two trials to gather money, which usually takes years on vaccines. And then they didn’t have to wait between phase two and phase three. They could just go straight forward because the government guaranteed they would fund these vaccines whether they worked or not. And so, that let them go through those phases quickly, but they went through every phase that every vaccine has ever gone through and more people have received this vaccine now than almost any other vaccine and so we really have a lot of data now that shows that it’s safe,” Dr. Martin said. “The other thing that helped this vaccine get approved quickly is, normally, let’s say you are doing a test for a meningitis vaccine, it takes years to have enough cases to prove that it works. So if you give 1,000 people a meningitis shot and 1,000 people you don’t get a meningitis shot, and you watch them for several years, you only have a few cases of meningitis even in the ones that didn’t get the shot. But, with this vaccine, because COVID was so rampant, you know, (...) they gave 40-something thousand people the shot and the test and it was very easy to compare the group that had the shot to the group that didn’t have the shot and see a huge difference.”

The health authority wanted to address other concerns with the vaccine brought up and said COVID-19 during pregnancy is extremely dangerous and that those who think the COVID-19 vaccine impacts pregnancy should discount rumors.

“There is absolutely no evidence that it causes any fertility problems. Lots of people have become pregnant already after having the vaccine. In the United States alone, 177 million have this vaccine and we haven’t seen any decrease in fertility rates, no drop off in the number of people getting pregnant, so that’s another one of those things that’s just a (...) completely baseless rumor,” Dr. Martin said. “American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology strongly recommends that all women get the vaccine. They actually recommend that even when you are pregnant you get the vaccine. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists is probably the most conservative group I have ever seen as far as when they come out with a recommendation, they are very certain the benefit of that outweighs any possible harm.”

Dr. Martin clarified that the vaccines are not live vaccines and are unable to give you COVID-19 or allow you to spread it. He said the vaccine makes your body produce a protein and that is all it does when administered. He stressed vaccination efforts to help eradicate COVID-19 for good.

“Take smallpox (for example), it is basically off the face of the earth except in laboratories at this point. Just imagine if people had been reluctant to get that vaccine. If only half the people had got the vaccine, we would still be dealing with that throughout the world right now and so with COVID, right now, the COVID strains, and there’s multiple new strains of COVID. There’s Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, that I know about. There may be more than that, and it’s just a matter of time before that mutates to a point that may be more resistant. But, if you could magically get the whole world to get the vaccine right now, we would end that. It would just be gone. We would not be bothered by COVID again because right now, all the strains, including the delta strain, the vaccine’s effective at preventing those,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Krisa De La Cruz encouraged the community to turn to the health professionals for advice regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine as they do with other health-related issues. Dr. Martin said he is not in favor of forcing the vaccine, but wants people to make the choice for themselves.

“Not to say that I’m in favor of forcing anyone to get the vaccine, I want people to choose to get the vaccine, but getting the vaccine protects you, it also protects your friends and your family and the community at large,” he said.

The Graham Leader

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