The case of an open mind …

September 17, 2021
By Guest Columnist

BY THOMAS J ERVIN MD

BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC

A cardinal prerequisite for a successful career in science is the willingness to be willing to change one’s mind as to the answer to a hypothesis based on the scientific results of the experiment. For investigations and observations of the pandemic and the COVID-19 virus, continued scientific analysis has resulted in different medical recommendations and treatments. For more than 20 months we have heard a long parade of new data and resultant conclusions. This parade is not over, and we must keep an open mind going forward. But, for now, consider these six facts:

1. The risk of contracting COVID-19 for a fully vaccinated person is between 1 in 5,000, and 1 in 10,000 per day depending on where you live and the surrounding prevalence of the disease in your area. For example, the risk is higher in Florida than in Maine as there are more cases occurring daily now in Florida.

2. If you are unvaccinated, your risk of contracting COVID-19 is 10 times that of the vaccinated population. This fact is magnified in a state like Florida where the incidence of new COVID-19 cases is high. For those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, the unvaccinated person is approximately 17 times more likely to be hospitalized than a fully vaccinated person.

3. In a highly vaccinated community, the daily risk of a fully vaccinated person entering the hospital or dying of COVID-19 approaches 1 in a million. This risk is less than the risk of a day of commuting travel or a day boating in Florida waters. Full vaccination provides excellent protection from serious COVID-19.

4.The newest float in the COVID-19 parade is the question of waning immunity and the need and timing of booster vaccines. The current position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal administration regarding booster vaccination will become clearer by the end of September.

Despite the estimates of gradual waning of immunity, the data still supports a high level of protection at six to eight months for those fully vaccinated. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots will be available when authorized.

At present there is enough early data to support booster shots for the immunosuppressed, frontline healthcare workers and possibly those over the age of 65 with high-risk medical conditions.

Booster shots are being administered outside approved guidelines for those who feel that they do not want to wait for the official approval.

Given the anxiety over the potential seriousness of severe COVID-19, this reaction is understandable. The debate over this issue will continue until the breakthrough infection data and the antibody response and protection data is analyzed.

5. The effort to convince antivaxxers continues. Trying to convince the unvaccinated to get shots seems about as promising as teaching ospreys to eat iguanas in Boca Grande.

Yet, evidence supporting mass vaccination continues to mount. The benefits of expanding full vaccination to all adults is indisputable on strictly medical terms.

6. Vaccination, indoor mask wearing and social distancing still provide the best plan for ending the pandemic, maximizing safety for our children and the elderly, continuing the economic recovery for all, and protecting the healthcare system.

Please listen to the science, as well as the politics and cultural rhetoric. Maintain an open mind to new medical data as it is presented. We all want this pandemic behind us as soon as possible.