A Letter To My Patients About Delta Variant of COVID & Vaccination

by Erin Reese, M.D.

Dear Patients,
As I know you are all aware, the Delta variant of COVID is surging at over 80% in our community. Hospitals are becoming saturated. Per the San Antonio COVID dashboard on 7/30/2021 the STRAC hospital availability was only 7.8% and the STRAC hospital stress score was high.

Another key indicator of the activity of the virus in our community is the percentage of COVID tests that are positive. The goal is for it to be under 5% and during the week of 7/17-7/23 the positivity rate was almost 18% according to the San Antonio COVID Dashboard.

The COVID vaccine is our best defense against this virus.

For those of you who have chosen to not be vaccinated, I beg you to reconsider. We know that the currently available vaccines are extremely effective against the Delta variant of COVID. It is currently estimated that 97% of COVID hospitalizations are occurring in unvaccinated patients. Those patients who have chosen to be vaccinated may still become mildly ill if exposed to COVID but their chances of death or hospitalization are extremely low.

Over the last weeks, I have seen with my own eyes the benefit of vaccination. I have had vaccinated patients with heavy exposures to COVID not develop a single symptom even though their unvaccinated family member ended up hospitalized. I have seen 80-year-old vaccinated patients be exposed and not develop the disease.

This disease is no longer limited to the elderly, sick and frail. According to the City of San Antonio COVID dashboard, almost 54% of cases are occurring in patients aged 20-50 years of age. Only 15% of cases have occurred in patients over the age of 60. In conversations with my hospital-based colleagues who are in the thick of the COVID fight, they are seeing perfectly healthy 40- and 50-year-old patients being admitted with severe complications of COVID such as respiratory failure, devastating blood clots, strokes, etc.

As a reminder, the choice to vaccinate is not just about the individual. We know that vaccines decrease an individual’s ability to transmit a disease if exposed to it. We also know that the antibodies conferred to an individual after vaccination prevent viruses from reproducing themselves. This decreases the mutation rates of viruses and can help prevent more virulent strains from developing.

Please keep in mind that COVID is most transmissible before symptoms develop. So, while you may not end up hospitalized or on a ventilator from severe COVID, the person you passed the virus to before you knew you were sick might suffer that fate. The child who could not be vaccinated and was around you before you knew you were sick could end up severely ill.

I can tell you from personal experience that I have seen only one moderately significant complication that could be attributed to the vaccine in my patients. This complication resolved with treatment after about 3 weeks.

At this point it is estimated that in the US 344 million vaccine doses have been given. Worldwide over 4 billion doses have been given. The vast majority of side effects reported from the vaccine are mild, short-lived and not fatal. The more significant side effects that have been reported such as Guillian-Barre, Bell’s Palsy or Myocarditis are extraordinarily rare and are not unique to the COVID vaccine.

Regarding the “booster shot” for COVID, there is no clear guidance as yet regarding the timing, dose or efficacy of a booster. Once that data is made available, I will update everyone.

In the interest of your own safety, the safety of your family and your community, I urge you to get vaccinated if you have not yet done so. In the interest of preserving our hospitals’ capacity for COVID and Non-COVID patients, I urge you to get vaccinated. In the interest of protecting local businesses and those who work there from another economic shut down, I urge you to get vaccinated.

If you have questions or other concerns, please reach out to me. I am happy to provide you with more specific data about the development of the vaccine, the safety data, etc. If you need help finding a vaccine, please reach out. I will help you find one. If you have friends or family members who have not yet been vaccinated, urge them to do so.

Stay healthy out there,
Dr. Reese