SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 23, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Dr. Andrew Pavia, one of Utah’s top doctors and an expert in infectious diseases, has a dire warning for those who are still unvaccinated against COVID-19.
“I’m very worried about the next four to six weeks,” Pavia said on the latest edition of the Bill Gephardt Show Podcast. “I think we’re in for a world of hurt.”
Pavia, director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at University of Utah Health, made his blunt assessment after scrutinizing the emerging real-time data surrounding the explosive spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. While there’s hope the new strain may be less lethal than the Delta variant, its massive spread, especially among the unvaccinated, is already overwhelming hospitals across the United States.
Pavia says it’s only a matter of a couple of weeks, maybe sooner, before the same thing happens in Utah, when an already depleted corps of exhausted and demoralized medical workers are forced to treat another wave of largely unvaccinated patients.
Pavia said it is especially frustrating to see patients being preyed upon not only by an unrelenting virus, but also by a lack of political leadership, locally and nationally.
“It’s been just under four weeks that we’ve known about this variant and I think that all of us in healthcare are burned out,” Pavia said. “We’re frustrated, we’re incredibly tired and we’re facing what’s likely to be another huge surge with a lot of evidence that the population at large and our political leaders are not prepared to do very much. So it’s a very difficult time for many of us, and particularly for my colleagues in ICUs and emergency departments.
“Because we’re all tired and because this has become so politicized, we’re not adapting as the situation changes,” Pavia said. “You know, in May, we were looking at a decreasing epidemic with numbers that were looking good, and it was time to loosen up some of the restrictions and allow some more freedom of behaviors, but when August came and Delta was surging, what did we do? We continued to let kids go back to school without masks. We didn’t start to mask in public places. And that led to a huge surge in disease.
“Now I fear that we’re facing what’s going to be another very large surge when talking to colleagues in New York and Rhode Island, where their hospitals are literally buckling under an incredibly rapid uptake.”
Although Pavia feels a second surge is inevitable, there are things people in Utah can do to mitigate their risk of infection by using a “layered” approach in protecting themselves, their families and the community at large. The first layer of defense is to become fully vaccinated, including boosters. The second is to double down on mask wearing and social distancing, especially in enclosed public settings. The third layer, Pavia suggests, is the use of rapid COVID testing and contact tracing.
Other protocols in the public health toolshed include two newly announced drug treatments which are to be taken in pill form by patients in the earliest stages of their infections. While Pavia believes the new therapies show great promise, he says it will be months before there is a large enough supply to treat all those who’ll need it.
Vaccines are the best path forward in managing the pandemic, Pavia says, but those vaccines are wholly ineffective if a significant segment of the population refuses to get them or abide by any other prescribed public health measures, such as mask wearing or social distancing.
When anti-vaxers and election deniers rallied in Arizona last weekend, Sarah Palin told the crowd, she was unvaccinated, “and it’ll be over my dead body that I get a shot. I will not,” she said. “I won’t do it, and they better not touch my kids either.”
Palin explained she’d already contracted the disease and was therefore naturally immune.
“Well, certainly there are a number of prominent vaccine skeptics who’ve died in the last three months and I think we ought to look at that very carefully,” Pavia said. “What we know is that her past infection will not prevent her from getting infected with Omicron to any high degree. It may prevent her from getting seriously ill, but getting vaccinated would up that protection dramatically. It’s sort of a super protection to have a vaccine and a previous infection. And why anyone would choose not to avail themselves of being able to have that really high level of protection by getting the vaccine, even if you’re previously infected, at this point, I have to say, it’s starting to boggle my mind.
“We’ve given 400 plus million doses in the United States. We understand the safety. It’s really safe. There are no microchips in it. It’s not going to alter fertility. It’s not going to have any ill effects during pregnancy. We really have gotten past the point at which it’s a new vaccine, where there were a lot of unknowns. It’s now one of the best studied, best understood vaccines that we have in terms of safety.”
To hear of Pavia’s outlook on the ongoing COVID crisis, check out the podcast link above.