Editor’s note: Dr. William Miller, chief of staff at the Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital, is writing weekly reports concerning the COVID-19 situation on the Mendocino Coast. We are pleased to be running his health column, with details on the medical fight against the pandemic. The views shared in this weekly column are those of the author, Dr. William Miller, and do not necessarily represent those of The Mendocino Voice or of Adventist Health.
Over the past two weeks we have seen an uptick in cases of COVID here in Mendocino County with about 50 new cases and seven persons hospitalized (6 inland and 1 on the Coast). There are a few observations that we can make of the situation.
First, we know that the pandemic is not over and that it will likely continue as a global pandemic for a while yet, at least for another year. During that time, we should expect the cases to ebb and flow. Eventually the global pandemic will fade, but the virus that causes COVID will remain indefinitely. This is just like H1N1 influenza that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic. That pandemic is over, but the virus is still here and occasionally pops up again causing smaller outbreaks.
Second, this current uptick is unlikely to lead to a significant rise in cases like we experienced this time last year. By the end of May, 2020, California was recording almost 4,000 new cases per day and the case rate was rising with a peak in mid-summer. This week, we are seeing only about 850 new cases per day and the case rate is already starting to slow. The difference is that today almost 60% of Californians have been vaccinated either fully (~45%) or partially (~15%).
So, while a little over half of the population is protected from COVID, the other half is not. What we are seeing now is a surge in the unvaccinated 40% of the residence in the county.
I spoke with Dr. Andy Coren, our county health officer, to get his perspective. “For those who remain unvaccinated, they are at the same risk of severe COVID, hospitalization and death as in the past. Plus, now we have to worry about faster-spreading variants. They can pass it along to co-workers, friends, relatives and visitors,” Coren said. “For those who can get vaccinated, they should do so as soon as possible, and enjoy more security and stability in their lives, less need for testing or for quarantine, easier travel and easier admission to large events such as sports and conventions. Those who are not vaccinated should be regularly testing to protect those around themselves.”
I appreciate the comments and feedback of all the readers of the Miller Report from both sides of the vaccination discussion. One reader recently sent me a link to an article that criticized public health officials for using fear of COVID as a means of encouraging people to get vaccinated. The article then went on make claims about the dangers of vaccination and encouraged people to not risk vaccination. What I found really interesting was the apparent hypocrisy of the article. On the one hand the author of the article accused health officials of fear mongering by providing facts about a very real pandemic that has killed millions worldwide, while in the next breath she extolled unproven, fear based claims about vaccinations to dissuade people from taking steps to protect themselves.
With this kind of banter going on, it may still be confusing for folks who are undecided about getting vaccinated. So, here is a summary of the facts. The vaccines do not carry a microchip that allows the government to track you like your cell phone already does. The vaccines are not capable of altering your own personal genetic makeup. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not associated with a risk of blood clots. The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, which use a completely different technology from Pfizer and Moderna, have been associated with an extremely small risk of blood clots in young women. For example, over 82 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been given worldwide with less than 20 people getting blood clots from it. Lastly, the emergency use approval process by the FDA is a means of expediting the bureaucracy involved in approving a new drug, but it does not cut corners on the required testing of the drug. So, deciding to wait until the FDA “gives full approval” makes no sense.
In the final analysis, we each need to weigh the risks and benefits. On the one hand, there is a pandemic which is still active and has killed over 3.7 million people, left untold thousands with long-COVID disabilities, and seriously damaged the economy; versus extremely small risks associated with getting a shot. I do hope that if you remain reluctant to get vaccinated, that you will think twice and reconsider the decision. For more information about the vaccines, please refer back to my articles of March 29th and April 5th . All previous Miller Reports are now available on my website at www.WMillerMD.com.