As eastern North Carolina continues to see rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the Omicron variant, the COVID-19 vaccine is the most simple and effective tool we have to help stop the spread, slow further mutations and save lives.
Since Dec. 1, Vidant Health has seen a 340% increase in the weekly average of COVID positivity rate (7.3% on Dec. 1, 32.1% on Jan. 3) in our region. We have also experienced a 183% increase in the total number of COVID-positive inpatients (Dec. 1: 52; Jan. 3: 147) across our hospitals during this time, with the vast majority of these individuals being unvaccinated. As of Jan. 4, the Omicron variant has contributed to almost all of our total variants detected a number that has increased exponentially each week.
The continued spread of the virus and the arrival of new variants is an urgent reminder that this pandemic is not over yet. Right now, the Omicron variant is quickly becoming the dominant virus variant across the nation, and we know that this variant is highly infectious. One of the fundamental principles of this pandemic is that unvaccinated individuals have higher risk of severe disease and infection.
Dr. T. Ryan Gallaher
As has been the case with any variant, vaccination is highly effective at preventing the spread and reducing the severity of symptoms of those with breakthrough cases. If you have not had your booster or third dose of the vaccine, recent analysis of blood samples comparing boosted and non-boosted samples shows the extra dose is important to ensure better protection against the Omicron variant.
Additionally, we can have more confidence than ever regarding the safety of mRNA vaccines, even in children 5 and older. Vaccines for school-aged children are not new, and the COVID-19 vaccine should be part of that routine.
Recent data from October has shown unvaccinated individuals have five times higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 14 times higher risk of death from COVID-19. Even more recent data from the Omicron surge in UK and South Africa has shown vaccine efficacy increases from 35% to 75% when a booster is given. After billions have been vaccinated around the world, it still holds true that the risks of COVID-19 far outweigh any risks of the vaccine. More studies have further shown mRNA vaccines do not affect fertility or be linked to any adverse pregnancy outcomes and, thus, continue to be safe and effective.
The longer you wait to vaccinate, the more likely you are to get the virus. Vaccination and boosters still largely protects from the Omicron variant, but we may not have that luxury if the virus continues to rapidly spread and mutate. Reports of adverse effects from the vaccines are rare, and you have a much higher chance of suffering critical outcomes from the virus as opposed to the vaccine.
Vidant Health offers vaccinations for anyone ages 5 and older. Additionally, Vidant Health is now administering boosters for those who are eligible. To receive your COVID-19 vaccine or booster, visit VidantHealth.com/Vaccine or call 252-847-8000.
As a pediatrician serving eastern North Carolina, as well as a father to school-aged children, I truly appreciate the important role that in-person education has on the health and well-being of students. Schools are where children make lasting friendships, learn important social skills and receive a high-quality education that prepares them for life.
As we learned from the last school year, the only way we can keep our students in the classroom is to keep COVID-19 out of schools. That responsibility ultimately lies with parents and adults. With the Delta variant continuing to spread, even among children, we must do all we can to protect students by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and practicing the common-sense safety measures that protect us all.
The Delta variant, which infects and presents serious symptoms in children at much higher rates than the original strain, is predominant in our community. In fact, it accounts for almost 100 percent of new COVID-19 cases detected through Vidant and ECU’s joint lab.
To protect our children and keep them in the classroom, it is crucial for everyone to wear a mask, especially if indoors and close together. Wearing a mask not only protects yourself, but also those around you. When all children are wearing masks in schools, only the person who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to go home and quarantine. If they are not wearing masks, the entire classroom, including the teacher, must be out to quarantine. Simply put, masks help keep kids in the learning environment.
In addition to masks, there are other measures we can take as parents to keep our kids safe. If your child is sick, keep them home. Do a quick symptom screener every morning to make sure they do not have a fever or any symptoms of COVID-19. Make sure your children routinely wash their hands and know how to properly wear masks.
If your child is eligible for the vaccine, get them vaccinated. If you are eligible, get vaccinated. Vaccines for school-aged children are nothing new, and the COVID-19 vaccine should be part of that routine if your child is eligible. Let’s do all we can to protect our community, keep our students in the classroom and give our children the best chance to succeed in their education.
The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines brought great hope in the battle against the deadly pandemic that has affected our way of life for nearly a year and a half. Now, more than 7 months into the largest vaccination effort in history, the data and science is clear: the vaccines are effective, but only if people get their “dose of hope”.
The continued spread of the virus and the arrival of new variants is an urgent reminder that this pandemic is not over yet, and that we still have to assure vaccination for everyone to protect our communities. Right now, the Delta variant is quickly becoming the dominant virus variant. We know that this variant is easily spread and has many of the same devastating health impacts as previous variants. We also know that the vaccines are highly effective at both preventing the spread of the virus and drastically reducing the impact on those it infects.
It was not long ago that some hospitals around the country celebrated having zero COVID-19 patients in their Intensive Care Units. Doctors, nurses and other staff rejoiced at this welcomed respite. Here at Vidant, we never quite got to zero, but our numbers hit a new low in the spring. Now, hospitalizations are back on the rise and nearly all hospitalized COVID-19 patients – many of whom are battling for their lives – are unvaccinated.
As we have continued to learn more and more about this virus over the past year and a half, we can confidently say that ending up hospitalized with serious complications from COVID-19 is mostly avoidable now. The vaccines are safe, effective and widely available at local hospitals, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and more.
We can still see the light at the end of the tunnel but the Delta variant is dimming our view. Help us end this pandemic by receiving your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible by visiting VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate or by calling 252-847-8000.
Mark Dunn, Vice President of Talent & Organization Development for Vidant Health
Improving the health and well-being of a 29-county rural region goes beyond the advanced technology and cutting-edge treatment options housed in our hospitals and clinics. To meet our mission in the East, we at Vidant Health understand the importance of investing in and nurturing team members.
Vidant’s workplace environment is built around the concept of the “Big E,” which stands for everyone’s experience, versus a focus on only patient experiences or only team engagement. In short, we believe the way our team members experience each other, is how our patients experience their care. As the leader of Vidant’s Talent and Organization Development teams, our primary goal is to foster an environment in which inclusion, collaboration, development and accountability can thrive. Doing this well directly impacts the care patients receive.
Our work to attract and develop high quality, high touch team members is the first step in building a “Big E” workforce. I am convinced that the continued investment in personal and professional growth truly brings us closer to our mission. We want team members to take pride in where they work and the impact they have on each other and those we serve.
Vidant takes its civic responsibility to support and grow the region seriously. That’s why we have focused on creating growth opportunities from within and taken steps to ensure we are building a strong foundation, including raising the starting wage to $13 per hour. Out of this continued focus on our communities, Vidant is building stronger connections to regional universities, community colleges and county resources to advance programs such as our Health Science Academy, NA II advancement program, GED lab and Vidant Community Employment Pipeline, to name a few.
The “Big E” culture is built from the ground up.
Programs like the innovative “The Learning Pathway”, which was recently launched at Vidant Medical Center in partnership with Sodexo, a nationally known health care partner providing leadership and services in environmental services, food services and hospitality, prepares Vidant team members by positioning them to lead from their current role, and preparing them to take on leadership roles within the organization. The 12-week offering is designed for team members to learn leadership skills that can be applied both personally and professionally. This includes courses focused on content such as accounting, diversity and inclusion and more. The Learning Pathway is one of many programs led by Sodexo in partnership with Vidant Talent and Organization Development and we are constantly striving to be a positive example of workplace culture for businesses in the region.
We understand the importance of local hospitals, clinics and wellness centers in the region we proudly serve. These places of caring stimulate local economies, provide charity care and are often the largest employers. An economically vibrant community is a healthy community. At Vidant, this starts with an investment in a talented and diverse workforce of more than 13,000 team members across eastern North Carolina.