As more variants emerge, delta is still the main problem in W MI


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan infectious disease doctors continue to encourage people to get vaccinated as they monitor threats from emerging variants. 

Dr. Russ Lampen and Dr. Liam Sullivan with Spectrum Health say that while the new variants are concerning, delta variant cases are driving the current surge and filling up hospital beds.

“We had a very nice low level of transmission through the summer but over the past month, we’re continuing to see that rise in a near exponential fashion,” Lampen said.

The doctors say unvaccinated patients make up the vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

“We’ve had close to 2,700 admissions to our hospitals for COVID illnesses (since Feb. 1) and of those 93% have either been unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” Lampen said.

The doctors say that while it is possibly to be fully vaccinated and hospitalized, the few cases they see typically affect the most vulnerable patients.

“We are seeing some breakthrough infections with individuals that are being admitted but on average, those tend to be older individuals with high comorbidities, or medical complications,” Lampen said.

Mu and lambda are emerging variants of concern. Scientists are collecting additional data on the effectiveness of the vaccine against these variants.

“Mu still makes up less than 1% of infections globally. It has predominantly been seen in South America but there are cases in the United States,” Sullivan said.

The Spectrum doctors say the vaccines are still the best protection from becoming infected.

“There is some potential concerns about lambda’s ability to escape natural and vaccine-induced immunity, so it is being watched very closely for that as well. So far it seems that the vaccines do seem to protect people from severe disease,” Sullivan said.

In addition to having less severe symptoms, if a breakthrough infection occurs, doctors say the vaccinated recover more quickly.

“Vaccinated individuals very rapidly clear that virus, making them less contagious to people around them in their household and less contagious to people in their community,” Lampen said.

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