Two-thirds of COVID patients on life support, such as ventilators, do not survive.
That was one of several messages Dr. Thomas Dobbs delivered to Starkville Rotary on Monday. Mississippi’s Health Officer addressed the civic group via a virtual video connection.
Dobbs encouraged Rotarians to take all preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus and described the resource shortage which has resulted from a strained healthcare system.
“These folks, once they get into the hospital, unless they pass away, they’re going to be there for many weeks,” Dobbs said. “It’s going to continue to sort of make it difficult to have access to health care resources.”
Hospitals are seeing higher COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit rates than ever before, he said. One-third of people who enter an ICU from the virus will not come out.
Dobbs said the vast majority of hospital cases are unvaccinated individuals.
“If all of the unvaccinated folks in the hospital had been vaccinated, we really would be looking at a 10th or less in the number of cases that we’re seeing that are currently in our health care system,” he said.
While the initial COVID-19 strain impacted more older individuals, the Delta variant is becoming prominent in younger people, especially children who are ineligible to receive the vaccine at this time — only ages 12 and older can take the vaccine. Six children in Mississippi have died from COVID-19, including two teenagers, just this month.
Dobbs said the vaccine is the best way to prevent someone from contracting the virus. Anti-vaccinators have “poisoned the conversation,” he said, and fed the public misinformation about the vaccine, such as it alters DNA or places a microchip in bodies, both of which are not true.
People who have had COVID-19 once before have a moderate amount of immunity, Dobbs said, but people who receive the vaccine after already having the virus have the most immunity.
“We do know that if you had COVID before, and then you get the vaccine, that’s the best protection to have,” Dobbs said.
Mississippi has begun administering booster shots, an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, to people with weakened immune systems. Dobbs recommended anyone with an autoimmune disorder or people undergoing treatment, such as chemotherapy, take a booster shot.
Primary physicians can sign off on a booster shot if they believe an individual would benefit from one, Dobbs said. A total of 24,146 Mississippians have received a third dose of the vaccine, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health website as of 8 a.m. Monday.
“If you have a weakened immune system, you need to get a third dose of whatever you had,” Dobbs said. “If you had Pfizer, you need to get a third dose. If you had Moderna, you need to get a third dose. … If you got Johnson and Johnson, there is currently no guidance, but we do think (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is going to say get a second Johnson & Johnson dose, although we have had some people get a Pfizer dose for a second dose.”
Dobbs discussed a new form of the vaccine on the horizon — Novavax. This protein-based vaccine uses traditional technology by injecting virus proteins into an individual to build immunity. Other vaccines, mRNAs, insert antibodies into the body’s cell to create immunity from the virus, which attack the virus on a genetic level.
“They actually give you spiked protein, and it gives you immunity,” Dobbs said. “It looks like it works pretty well.”
Dobbs said he does not see the Novavax getting approval in the near future, especially in time to control the Delta variant.
Dobbs also encouraged people to receive monoclonal antibody treatment if they contract the virus. This treatment gives individuals antibodies that will help fight off the infection and reduce symptoms.
Anyone is eligible for the treatment for free after testing positive for COVID-19. Dobbs said individuals can make an appointment at one of the 180 locations administered across the state by calling the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 877-978-6453 or visiting the MSDH website.
“If you have COVID, you need to get antibodies, even if you’ve been vaccinated because we know you’ll do better,” Dobbs said.