- Virus– a type of germ that consists solely of a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a protein coat. The coat gets the genes into the target cell where the genes force the cell to make zillions of new viruses, and on it goes.
- Variant- also known as a mutation, a variant strain of a virus is the same species of virus but with a change in the genetic code. The change is minor if it has no impact on contagious
- Coronavirus– a species name of a number of different viruses. Called corona because its protein coat is studded with spike shapes that form a crown, halo, or corona of spikes
- SARS-CoV-2– the specific name of the new coronavirus
- COVID-19-the name of the illness that the new coronavirus is causing
- Endemic– an illness always present in a region. One could say strep throat is endemic in the US
- Epidemic– a sudden burst of an illness that comes and goes over a limited time
- Pandemic– an epidemic that bursts across the world not just one region
- Spreadability– how contagious is the disease, how many people will end up infected
- Symptoms- the experience of being ill, for example- fever, cough, headaches, loss of smell etc.
- Asymptomatic– literally means “without symptoms”. For COVID-19 it refers a person infected with the virus but has no and will have not symptoms
- Presymptomatic– This is a person who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will feel sick, but hasn’t yet
- Severity– what harm does the disease cause, in terms of how sick you get and how many it will kill
- Mask- a mask is a loose-fitting cloth or textile that covers the mouth and nose loosely. A surgical mask is a mask used in surgery
- Respirator- for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, a respirator is a mask that fits very snugly or tightly to the user’s face. An N95 mask is a respirator.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)- PPE are any item that covers any part of the body with the design and intent of keeping viruses in the environment from infecting the wearer of the PPE. PPE’s include all masks (which includes respirators), face shields, eye shields, gloves, gowns.
- Ventilator- a ventilator is a machine that can force a person unable to breathe to inhale and exhale and control both effectively. They are sometimes called respirators, but during this pandemic the word respirator is now reserved for reference to a tightly fit mask.
- Live Virus Swab– this is the swab which attempts to swipe live virus from one’s nose or throat to see if you are currently infected.
- Antibody Test- (aka serology test) this is the blood test which looks for antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see if you have been infected in the past.
- Vaccine Terms
- Vaccine or Immunization– a dose of a substance that activates your immune system, as if you have the actual infection you are hoping to prevent, leaving you in fact protected from having that infection.
- Efficacy– the percentage of people immunized with a particular vaccine who will not get infected if exposed to the target infection. For example, a COVID-19 vaccine will be said to be 95% effective if 95% of people immunized with that particular COVID-19 vaccine will not get COVID-19 if exposed to COVID-19
- mRNA– DNA works by dictating exactly which proteins your cell will make. The message on how to construct each protein is delivered to the cell machinery that makes proteins by a piece of genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA
- mRNA vaccine– an mRNA vaccine places a small bit of mRNA code that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected
- Viral vector vaccine– a viral vector vaccine takes a harmless virus that is known to infect people reliably and places that weakened virus in a person where that virus will in fact infect the person. The virus is not only weakened, but also attached to a set of genes that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected.
COVID the First Variant Alarm in the Us: And It’s for Our Kids
We have all known the one development that could ruin all our progress ending this tragic Pandemic has been the emergence of a deadly new mutation or variant of the COVID virus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
There have been many variants since this virus first appeared. Many are already well known, the UK variant, the Brazil variant, the S Africa variant. Many have proven they are more contagious, even more deadly. So far, none have neutralized the power of our COVID vaccines to stop this Pandemic, or protect those immunized.
If this had stayed the same, then our current progress of immunizations would continue to give us much hope. As of today, our nation has fully immunized 44% of the total population. The impact continues to be stunning. Yesterday, close to only 100 Americans died of COVID, far, far below the catastrophic 4,000 deaths a day we suffered, and not so long ago. We are reporting about 5,000 cases a day, far far below the 400,000 cases a day we experienced not so long ago.
The experiences of Israel, and now the UK have confirmed that given current types of COVID, hitting 55% could be expected to essentially end real risk of harm and transmission.
But now comes the Delta Variant from India- Putting our Kids at Risk
But now, from the massive outburst of COVID in India comes a new variant, called the Delta variant. The Delta variant is like the others, in that it is far more contagious and more deadly than the original versions of the COVID virus.
But the Delta variant brings with it several new very dangerous, unwelcome, new features:
- It is even more contagious than the very contagious UK and other variants.
- It will spread amongst the unvaccinated, even if most in a nation are vaccinated
- It can spread amongst those with one dose of a two dose COVID vaccine
- It spreads and causes hospitalizations even in adolescents.
The only good news about this Delta variant is that if you are fully immunized, which only occurs 2 or more weeks after your second COVID vaccine if you received Moderna or Pfizer brand, you remain safe.
That means a far larger percentage of older Americans are safer than younger Americans, because they are far more likely to be fully vaccinated. The least immunized area of America is our South, and right now, only 10% of kids ages 12-20 are immunized in our South, so they are at the highest risk.
The Situation Today
The Delta variant from India, is here in the US right now, responsible for about 10% of all US COVID infections.
Since it can make people quite ill even 13 days after their final dose of a two dose COVID vaccine series, we have a real problem for our young adults and adolescents who are not now vaccinated. It takes a full 5 weeks from dose one for a two dose series to be protected against the Delta variant.
Five weeks from today is July 20. That means if your 12, 13, 14, or older adolescent or young adult runs to get immunized today, they will not be fully protected until July 20, and will happen only if they get their second dose no later than July 6.
The issue is urgent for our young adolescents and all adults who are today not immunized.
The current rate of American full immunization, currently at about 44%, has looked amazingly effective to stop the spread of our old COVID viruses, and even the UK variant and others spreading in the US. But the Delta variant has taken over in the UK, and led them against all urgings, to extend their partial lockdown rules another 4 weeks.
And the UK is 44% immunized like us. They are seeing adolescents and young adults who are not fully immunized, spreading this virus and getting very, very sick.
The message is clear: the Delta variant of COVID makes it critical that everyone 12 and up get immunized. We need to get everyone unimmunized to get protected, or a new deadly wave of COVID will hit this summer, but this time it will hit our kids, and younger adults.
- The current and old variants of COVID were coming under fine control with current vaccination efforts. Numbers are way down.
- But the nightmare of new versions of COVID, the variants, emerging that could end our emerging from this suffering, seems to be starting to happen, we are very sorry to say.
- Today’s threat is from the Delta variant, first seen in India. It is more contagious and more deadly than past versions.
- The Delta variant does not harm those fully immunized to any worrisome extent.
- But the Delta variant does harm all the unimmunized, and is causing, for the first time, widespread severe illness, requiring hospitalization, in adolescents.
- One dose of the COVID vaccine is not very protective for the Delta variant, we need two doses and two weeks after the second dose, to be safe.
- As kids gather for camp and other summer programs, we must be triply sure everyone 12 and up is FULLY immunized, before participating, at all.
- We fear the excitement of life returning to normal will not fool anyone into thinking this new variant will not cause harm to your adolescents who are not immunized, it has and it can, and as it spreads across the US, it likely will.
- There have not been many reports of harm from the Delta variant to children less than 12 years old.
My Takeaway- In One Sentence:
Get Vaccinated, Get Vaccinated, Get Vaccinated: The arrival of the Delta virus puts all the unimmunized 12 and up at real risk of deadly disease, get all of these ages fully vaccinated now, before any gathering or camp or sports commence!
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin