Kevin Kavanagh, M.D.
By Kevin Kavanagh
Our inability to abide by sound public-health advice has restricted urgent care for many with life-threatening illnesses and placed an overwhelming strain on our health-care system – a strain that may far outlast the end of the pandemic, perpetuated by the continued medical requirements and costs of those afflicted with long Covid.
I am not sure why our citizens continue to listen to those who have stated the pandemic was a hoax and medical personnel were diagnosing cases for money. Some of these same leaders also predicted the attainment of herd immunity after each Covid-19 surge.
Many in our society rely on social media for their health-care advice. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be as effective as reading emails in your spam folder. A grain of truth is taken and then distorted to reach dangerous conclusions. Regrettably, many of our leaders are also fanning this fire.
In response to new data, our scientific leaders changed guidance regarding the wearing of masks in July 2020, but over a year later far too many leaders on the fringe have not updated their advice. They still discourage the use of masks, even high-grade N95 masks.
The newest disinformation is the belief that vaccines do not slow the spread of Covid-19, which can be traced back to a study by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. This research did observe a marked decline in protection against transmission over a three-month period after full vaccination. However, several of the conclusions negate the dire misinterpretation: Those who were vaccinated were less likely to be infected in the first place; they transmitted the virus for a shorter period of time; and their contacts were less likely to contract the disease. Also, the Pfizer mRNA vaccine performed much better than the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine used in the U.K., and 66% of the transmissions were within the household where daily and prolonged contact often took place. The study concluded that “Vaccination reduces transmission of Delta.”
Anti-vaxxers have also been eager to point out the recent Covid-19 surge in Maine and Vermont. These are some of the most highly vaccinated states, with 72% of the entire population fully vaccinated as of Nov. 22. But even at this level of vaccination, the virus can still spread. The surge in these northern states is primarily due to the advancing cold weather promoting the congregation of unvaccinated individuals in poorly ventilated indoor settings.
Association or correlation does not mean causation. Almost all buildings need to upgrade their ventilation system. This should be one of our highest priorities to implement with Covid-19 relief funds.
The emergence of the Omicron variant has sent shockwaves throughout the world with fears of even a more transmissible and possible immune-escape variant. Most experts feel the current vaccines will offer a degree of protection, but having the highest possible immune response is of utmost importance.
The take-home message is obvious: Become vaccinated, and when indicated, obtain a booster (if you had a previous infection, view vaccination as the needed booster). A recent study found that vaccination increased immunity over 30-fold in those with a previous infection, and boosters increased immunity 25-fold in those who have been vaccinated.
Vaccinations reduce both the spread and severity of Covid-19. But even if you are vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask in public indoor settings.
Many around the world are envious of the Covid-19 resources available in the United States and perplexed why we do not fully utilize them. For the safety of our loved ones, let’s become vaccinated, wear masks and utilize home testing. All of these modalities are inexpensive and readily available.
Kevin Kavanagh is a retired physician from Somerset and chairman of Health Watch USA, which focuses on infection control. A longer version of this was published in the Louisville Courier Journal.