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Utah doctor urges getting COVID-19 vaccine heading into cold months

MURRAY, Utah — An infectious disease doctor at Intermountain Healthcare said we could soon see COVID-19 cases level off, but he expected hospitalizations to continue to stretch hospital staff thin through October.

In Friday’s report from the Utah Department of Health, 587 people were fighting the virus in hospitals across the state.

At Intermountain, healthcare workers are in “contingency care,” meaning they’re pulling staff in from other specialties to cover shifts in the hospital in order to keep up with demand.

Patients without the virus are also up compared to this time last year.

Fresh off an eight-day, 100-hour work week in the hospital, Dr. Brandon Webb warned, “This could be a viral winter — the likes of which we haven’t seen before — because of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and RSV and influenza. And at this point, it’s really very difficult to predict to what degree we’ll be affected by the other circulating viruses this winter.”

With that in mind, Webb stressed the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine as “the most effective tool at getting us where we want to be, which is to prevent severe infection, prevent hospitalization and save lives.”

Webb warned more than 90% of COVID patients who are in the ICU, who have a ventilator or who are dying of the virus are not vaccinated. He also said more than 80% of positive tests are in unvaccinated people.

“In the patients who have been vaccinated fully and do have a breakthrough and are younger and healthier, their disease course tends to be much less severe,” he said.

For those who are vaccinated and have underlying conditions, Webb said the vaccine has proven to offer them a “tremendous protective benefit.”

“We don’t share those numbers to vaccine shame in any way,” said Webb. “We recognize that this is a very personal decision, that there are a lot of things that go into the decision to be vaccinated, but at the same time, we want the people to have the right information.”

Webb acknowledged there can be side-effects to getting the shot, but he says fatigue, fever, chills and headaches are temporary.

In very rare cases, Webb said 10 to 20 people per one million may get clots and 20 to 50 people per million may see temporary inflammation to the heart. But overall, he said, for most people, “the risks are outweighed by the benefits of vaccinations.”

Webb said we are seeing COVID-19 cases level off in other parts of the country and we may begin seeing that in Utah soon. But he said it will take weeks before we see a difference in our hospitals.

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