WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Doctors say low vaccination rates are the reason we’re dealing with a new surge of COVID-19 cases, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still unsure how many people need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center has over 100 people admitted with the virus right now. Officials say every one of those patients has the delta variant.
Dr. West Paul, the senior vice president and chief clinical officer for Novant Health Coastal market, says as the pandemic has gone on longer and longer, it became inevitable that COVID-19 would mutate and create variants. It’s spread has been made much easier with such low vaccination numbers.
The delta variant is more contagious than anything the hospital has dealt with before and has led to more critical hospitalizations among a younger demographic.
“They’re younger, they’re healthier,” said ICU nurse Sarah Silvers. “The hardest thing is that many of the ICU admissions, the patients that we’re seeing, it could have been prevented.”
Children, teenagers, and those in their 30s and 40s are all more likely to end up hospitalized than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, especially if they’re unvaccinated.
“We’re admitting them faster than our prior surge. We’re having to open alternate care areas just to care for them,” said Keisha Coleman, another ICU nurse at NHRMC.
Surprisingly, one demographic with a low vaccination rate is nurses. Many studies report the nation’s nurses are only about 50 percent vaccinated. Last month NHRMC announced it will require its staff to be vaccinated. As a result, many staff members that were hesitant to get the vaccine are now sticking out their arms.
“There’s a lot of misinformation,” said Dr. Paul. “We’ve deliberately gone one-on-one, went to small groups and really answered all the questions that the groups did have. Strangely enough, when you get the actual facts out there, a lot of our staff members are going, ‘yep, we’ll get the vaccination’. We’ve seen a rather dramatic uptick in our staff’s vaccination rate.”
When it comes to getting admitted to the ICU, nurses say those patients are fighting for their life. In the days leading up to their hospitalization, just breathing was a struggle.
“It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to watch someone, sometimes for days, not be able to breathe,” said ICU nurse Ashley Gillespie. “Once it gets to that point, the simplest way to put it is a tube goes down your throat and you’re then put on life support.”
As the delta variant continues to spread, nurses beg the public to wear masks no matter what their vaccination status is. They also ask those that are unvaccinated to reconsider.
“Talk to your doctor, keep an open mind and consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t already,” said Silvers.
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