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Unvaccinated should not become complacent as COVID cases drop

Healthcare experts fear a possible “multi-demic” this fall due to other viruses
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Even as COVID-19 cases are falling, a local infectious disease expert says it would not be prudent for the unvaccinated to become complacent. Meanwhile, there are concerns about the possibility of a so-called “twin-demic” or a “multi-demic” this fall because of other viruses.

Dr. Julio Figueroa is LSU Health’s Chief of Infectious Diseases. He warned against the unvaccinated letting their guard down amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s very unwise because just because it’s going down now, we’ve seen this now, this is our fourth wave and it’s the same kind of cycle,” said Figueroa.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana’s fully vaccinated rate for COVID-19 is under 50% at 45.5 %.

“I think that this is the vulnerable time. We need to continue to push all the public health measures and continue to vaccinate individuals to try to drive this down to so low that we can then start considering letting go of these measures,” said Figueroa.

Recent headlines about Merck’s experimental COVID-19 bill being able to cut hospitalizations and deaths is prompting concern in the healthcare community that some people may see vaccination as unnecessary. Figueroa says not so.

“With the pill, there is a prescription, so it’s a little bit easier to access; thing number 1 is that it only, at least according to the press release, it reduces it by a certain amount, but it does not go to zero, so there is a substantial number of people who are going to get sick, to the hospital even with the pill,” Figueroa stated.

And he says there is a second concern.

“If we start using the pill a lot that resistance could happen and that certainly has been described with flu in using a similar anti-viral, similar strategy of anti-viral prophylaxis in that sort of scenario, so I think it is not nearly as good as vaccination,” said Figueroa.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says the goal is to keep people from getting the virus in the first place.

“It is much, much better to prevent ourselves from getting infected than having to treat an infection,” said Fauci.

And CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a press conference on Thursday that it is important that everyone get the flu vaccine this year. “The low level of flu activity last season could set us up for a severe season this year. Why? Well, because of so little disease last year population immunity is likely lower putting us all at increased risk for disease this year,” said Walensky.

She said the flu will put a lot of people at risk, including children.

“This is why it is doubly important this year that we build up community immunity with flu vaccination as we head into the fall and winter. CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine every season,” said Walensky.

Federal health officials say having more people vaccinated for the flu could help take some of the strain off hospitals that are already overwhelmed due to coronavirus cases.

“So that if we again go back to not doing the masking, doing the physical distancing during the respiratory season there could be a real convergence of different viruses all at once. And just recall again that if you have people coming who are coming into the hospital with all these respiratory viruses it clogs up the emergency department, it clogs up clinics, it clogs up the hospitals, and then we’re back to the situation where we were just a few weeks ago where the hospitals were overwhelmed,” said Figueroa.

He advises people to remain vigilant about COVID-19 as more large events are held locally and for the holidays.

“I just hope that as we enter into the festival season, into the holidays, I mean we’ve got Krewe de Boo coming, we have more Saints’ games, other things; we really need to keep focus on what we’re doing to mitigate transmission or else we’ll be back to having a bad winter like we did last year,” said Figueroa.

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