Dr. Erkeda DeRouen welcomes back Dr. Carolee Estelle, an infectious disease specialist and part of the large Infection Prevention team at Parkland Health & Hospital Systems, Dallas. They continue their conversation on infectious diseases, primarily focusing on COVID-19 vaccines, variants, and skepticism among Americans.
- [01:05] Getting to know Dr. Carolee Estelle
- [02:02] Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Medicine
- [04:20] Advantages and Challenges of Approved Vaccines
- [09:50] Easing Vaccine Concerns and Skepticism
- [11:50] Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines
- [18:40] New Virus Variants and Unvaccinated People
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Medicine
The pandemic has obviously affected every aspect of our lives, yet most people don’t realize that the healthcare system has also been impacted. People assume that healthcare practitioners were somehow prepared to handle such large-scale outbreaks. However, Dr. Estelle reveals that our healthcare systems were not designed to deal with unpredictable, large-scale health challenges. Further, the pandemic has dramatically changed how medics deliver care. Telemedicine was adopted and will likely continue, even as the number of infections plateaus.
Advantages and Challenges of COVID-19 Vaccines
Vaccines work by preparing the body’s immune system to recognize and fight off specific viruses and bacteria. As of June 2021, about 45% of the US population had been fully vaccinated. It’s also important to note that the numbers are variable since some states boast 80% vaccinations while others are in the 40s. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but it’s an accomplishment we should all be proud of.
Unfortunately, millions of people are still skeptical about getting their shots, while others don’t want the vaccine at all. Despite overwhelming campaigns and available data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, many Americans have delayed getting their shots, citing different reasons. Dr. Estelle explains that vaccine hesitancy is a problem that makes it harder to contain the disease. However, these concerns are not invalid. For example, there’s a long history of mistrust between marginalized communities and health institutions. For others, the COVID-19 vaccine is new and was created quickly. It’s a well-known fact that vaccine development and approval take years, yet for the COVID-19 vaccine, the process took less than a year.
Dr. Estelle believes that physicians and medical students should spread the message that vaccines are safe and effective. However, she maintains that the best strategy is to approach people in a supportive and respectful manner and try as much as possible to understand their concerns.
New COVID-19 Variants and Unvaccinated People
The delta COVID-19 variant is a more contagious and deadly variant bringing a wave of hospitalizations and deaths across the country. According to Dr. Estelle, unvaccinated people are most at risk. She explains that the vaccines in use appear to offer good protection against the deadly variant for fully vaccinated individuals. Moreover, the vaccines reduce the risk of symptomatic infections and minimize the odds that infected people will spread the virus onward. Further, in the rare cases that vaccinated people have been infected, infections are generally milder and lower in viral load.