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UPMC: Get COVID Vaccine As Colder Weather Approaches

UPMC Chautauqua P-J photo by Eric Tichy

UPMC officials are urging the public to get vaccinated as the weather turns colder and the holidays approach.

Dr. Chris Cammarata and Brian Durniok, UPMC Chautauqua president, said it is important to remind the public to get vaccinated as many will soon be spending more time inside with others, which could allow COVID-19 to spread. Cammarata said there are very high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area at this time.

“What is clear to us in the emergency department and in the hospital is there’s a clear divide between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated — the vaccinated tend to be less ill,” Cammarata said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t get a breakthrough infection, but they do tend to be milder infections. Your chance of hospitalization is markedly decreased, and your chance of death is markedly decreased. When we see patients come in who are very ill, they’re nearly universally unvaccinated. It’s just very clear that the unvaccinated are at higher risk for serious disease and death.”

He said there is a lot of information on the vaccine available which was not previously available.

“It’s not uncharted territory anymore,” Cammarata said. “We know that COVID is still out there. It’s easy to say that we’re seeing breakthrough cases now and people may be starting to question the vaccine, as we’ve seen breakthrough cases, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. We don’t know how many times these vaccinated people were exposed.”

He said those who work in the emergency department are most likely exposed daily, but they have not gotten the virus. He did, however, suggest avoiding COVID by social distancing, wearing a mask and getting the vaccine.

Cammarata said those who have had COVID should also consider getting the vaccination. While some immunity comes with having the virus, he said it is difficult to “validate how immune you are.”

“There’s a lot of factors that go into that,” he said. “How sick were you? What was your viral load? I would say the indisputable fact is that COVID recovered plus vaccinated is better than COVID recovered alone. That added layer of protection of vaccination I think is important, whether you had COVID or did not have COVID.”

Cammarata said he did not have the current number of hospitalized people with COVID at this time but said it fluctuates “almost hourly.”

“It’s really difficult to give an accurate number as to the amount of people that would be hospitalized in a certain area,” he said.

ER WAIT TIMES

Cammarata said the influx of patients due to the pandemic is a “challenge, as it is everywhere,” but the emergency department has a “tried and true” triage system that gets patients to the appropriate area of the emergency department that allows them to be effectively treated.

When asked if patients had been turned away from the emergency department, Cammarata said patients had not been turned away.

“If you present to the emergency department, you’ll be triaged, and yes — there may be a wait, depending on the volume, but that’s again where the triage system comes into play,” he said. “I can promise you we would never turn you away from an emergency department.”

Cammarata could not give an estimated wait time for the emergency department, as that also fluctuates “by the minute,” he said.

Durniok said there are many venues in which people can get vaccinated, including through the County Health Department and local pharmacies.

“We’re coming into the time of year where people are moving inside more, they’re going to be around each other more and we have the holidays coming up,” Durniok said. “It’s just a good time to remind everybody that the virus is still in our community. We have seen the benefits of vaccines, social distancing and masking. Obviously, we want to keep our community safe, so we just think it’s a good time to put that reminder out.”

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