I Would Like to Introduce you to a Virus
October 20th, 2021 | Author: Dr. Nerine Ras
I would like to introduce you to a Virus
I would like to introduce you to a virus; it is highly contagious, spreads through droplets in the air as well as through direct contact. Infection with this virus can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis and even death... It is a reportable condition in Canada and requires isolation once infected.
Yes, you've guessed it, it's Chickenpox of course!
Chickenpox, or Varicella, is a well-known generalized viral disease found worldwide and is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 3.5 million cases, 9000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths have been prevented each year since the vaccine became available in the United States in 1995. Though very rare, some individuals still contract mild chickenpox even when they are fully vaccinated. These cases are then called vaccine breakthrough cases.
This is not any different from the COVID-19 Vaccine
This is not any different from the COVID-19 vaccine. A COVID infection is called a vaccine breakthrough infection when the virus is detected in a specimen of someone who has been fully vaccinated for 14 or more days. As more and more people become fully vaccinated across the globe, more and more breakthrough cases are detected. This is scientifically expected and does not mean the vaccines are not effective. In fact, as more research becomes available, it is clear that these vaccines are highly effective and the pandemic would be even more deadly than it already is if we had no vaccine.
Active research and case tracking are currently being conducted worldwide to identify vaccine breakthrough cases and to attempt to identify who is likely to develop these infections and why. An enhanced epidemiological summary regarding breakthrough COVID infections that occurred between December 14th, 2020 to October 3rd, 2021 was recently published by Public Health Ontario (https://www.publichealthontario.ca). This report found that vaccine effectiveness increases to 85% following a second dose of the approved vaccines and the vaccine effectiveness ranges between 70-90% for the prevention of serious outcomes. This effectiveness is believed to be impacted by variants of concern (such as the B.1.617.2 or Delta) and possibly also the time that has lapsed since an individual has been fully vaccinated.
The latest data from Alberta (https://www.alberta.ca) shows that 0.7% (or 19,063 people out of 2,876,419) of fully vaccinated individuals were diagnosed with COVID-19 since the 1st of January 2021. 85.1% of hospitalized cases and 77.1% of deaths were unvaccinated or had received only one dose within the two weeks of being diagnosed. Again, this demonstrates just how effective the vaccine is but it should also emphasize that a small number of people still contract and potentially transmit this virus, even though they are fully vaccinated.
So what do we do now?
So what do we do now? Especially when, almost two years into a pandemic that has changed our lives in so many ways, we are exhausted. We want the virus to just be gone! We want to forget about this dystopian futuristic horror movie in which we have become unwilling participants. We are tired of uncomfortable nasal swabs, masks that hide our smiles, restrictions keeping us from our friends and family and QR codes that allow (or prevent) us from dining in a restaurant. We need to stand strong, stay vigilant and face the reality that COVID-19 is still in our midst and even though we are now so much closer to "normal" than we were a year ago, we are not quite there yet. How we act now will have an impact on how quickly we can put this pandemic behind us. We need to make sure that we don't win the battle now only to lose the war in the long run.