[COLUMN] Protecting against the Delta variant: Get vaccinated, wear masks to save our lives, vulnerable groups 

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

I FEEL YOU. I feel as exasperated as all of you are as we have been fighting this war against COVID-19 for more than a year now. We thought COVID-19 has retreated and that we are on our way to living life as we knew it before March 2020. But now we hear that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants us to mask up again, even us the fully vaccinated. What happened?

Didn’t the CDC relax certain public safety measures in May when nearly half of us have been fully vaccinated, and about 76% of us had at least one dose of the vaccine? Didn’t the infection, hospitalization and death rates go down?

Before we lose ourselves to knee jerk reactions because of our pandemic burn-out, let us pause for a while and get our bearings back, grounded not on how we feel at the moment but on what is our collective goal and that is – to defeat COVID-19 and go back to our normal life.

We were there near our much awaited victory but two factors got in the way — despite the push and all-out support of the Biden administration, the vaccination rate stalled at close to 50 percent, far from the target 70 percent minimum to attain herd immunity. This was exacerbated by a new FACT: the Delta variant of COVID-19 has released its full arsenal, driving the infection, hospitalization and death rate up again.

The Delta variant comprises well over 80% of cases in the United States. Data show that 90% of those who are hospitalized are the unvaccinated. Worse, 97% of those who die are unvaccinated.

Take note that the Delta variant is a NEW factor that scientists need have to confront head on, and health officials are duty bound need to recalibrate health guidelines according to new information as they come. This explains the changes in policy and guidelines which are all science and data-based.

According to the CDC, “the delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed,” the Washington Post reported.

The Delta variant has now found to be spreading faster and more aggressively than ebola and even the common cold, infecting BOTH the unvaccinated and the vaccinated, except that those who are vaccinated are mostly asymptomatic — meaning some do not exhibit any usual symptoms, while others just get the mild symptoms that do not require hospitalization that may lead to death.

“Vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant”, the Post report stated.

The problem here is that the vaccinated people are also found to spread/ be carrier of the delta variant to the unvaccinated, which leads to their hospitalization and death.

We have known previously that “there is a higher risk among older age groups for hospitalization and death relative to younger people, regardless of vaccination status. Another estimates that there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans.”

However, new data from the CDC now show that  that more and more young people are being hospitalized for COVID-19 as the Delta variant surges. Currently, as of July 24, people ages 18 to 49 make up the largest demographic of hospitalized people due to COVID-19. As reported by Healthline, this age group is currently affected more than those ages 50-64, and signifiucantly more affected than those 65 and older. This trend began March of this year.

And because a Covid vaccine has not yet been authorized for children under the age of 12, they are among the unvaccinated who are at risk of infection.

As of July 8, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that more than 4 million children had been diagnosed with COVID-19, representing 14.2% of all cases. More than 31,000 new cases were reported during the June 24 to July 8 timeframe.

CDC data further revealed that at least 335 children, ages 17 and younger, have died from COVID-19.

Therefore, “the new guidance reflects a strategic retreat in the face of the delta variant. Even people who are vaccinated should wear masks indoors in communities with substantial viral spread or when in the presence of people who are particularly vulnerable to infection and illness,” the CDC said.

I know how frustrating it is for us who are vaccinated to be affected in how we live our life because of those who choose to be unvaccinated — I feel the same way too. However, the reality of public health is that we are all in this together.

If we truly want to go back to our normal life, we have to have a collective effort in protecting and saving ALL LIVES from the virus – the vaccinated AND the unvaccinated; the patriotic ones who think of the greater good AND the self-centered stubborn ones who cannot think of causes bigger than their selves; those who believe in facts, science AND those who rely on conspiracy theories, chismis, myths, misinformation from those who do not know what they are talking about.

Bottom line: the risk factor  for hospitalization is now vaccine status. Be part of the solution and not the problem. Get vaccinated. Communicate facts with those who hardly know science-based information about the virus and urge them to get vaccinated.

And please, mask up even if we are vaccinated. Let us think of the unvaccinated, especially the children, the elderly and the sick.

We are all in this together!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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