HONOLULU (KHON2) — Full FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine is expected this week, and state officials hope it will encourage more people to get vaccinated.
The latest CDC studies show Pfizer and Moderna may not be as effective against the delta variant when it comes to infections.
One study found vaccine effectiveness dropped to about 80% when delta was dominating cases in New York this summer.
Another CDC study found Pfizer and Moderna were about 75% effective in preventing infections in nursing home residents in the spring but dropped to 53% in the summer as delta started spreading.
Doctors say breakthrough infections are possible but the studies also show the fully vaccinated are less likely to be severely ill.
“The vaccines still hold up very well in preventing severe hospitalization,” explained Dr. Michael Daignault, a Los Angeles Emergency Physician.
Dr. Daignault said vaccinated people who get infected could be asymptomatic or have mild upper respiratory symptoms.
“Because the viruses present such a large amount in the nose, you could develop a runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever, all symptoms of an upper respiratory infection,” he explains.
“Because the vaccine was given as an intramuscular injection in our arm, it takes a little bit of time for those neutralizing antibodies to get to the nasal pharynx. So that’s why you immediately have those upper respiratory symptoms, but then your vaccine kicks in, prevent the infection in your nose from traveling to your lungs and causing pneumonia and other systemic symptoms.”
At 11 a.m. Sunday, there were 392 hospitalized COVID patients in the state. According to Lt. Governor Josh Green, 49 were vaccinated, 343 patients were not.
Dr. Daignault said studies have found that about 40% of breakthrough infections that land someone in the hospital are people with immune-compromised conditions.
“After that, it was people with a history of high blood pressure, diabetes and congestive heart failure,” he said.
The delta variant also impacts all ages.
“Two days ago, half of our patients were under the age of 50 in the hospital,” Lt. Governor Green said.
“I’ve heard of a gentleman in his 40s who left behind seven children, he was unvaccinated and he passed away. I heard a story of a 42 or 43-year-old gentleman who just came back from Disney with his two kids, and he caught a severe case of COVID and passed away, we’re hearing and seeing these stories all the time,” he explained.
Green hopes full FDA approval will boost vaccination numbers.
“We’ve heard a lot of people tell us that once the FDA approval is fully completed, they will get vaccinated,” he said.
Dr. Daignault says people who had COVID could also benefit from the vaccine as it boosts their natural antibodies.
“If you take the population of people that had COVID before, so like an original strain last year, and those people who did not get vaccinated, they had twice the risk of getting reinfected with delta, then people who had COVID and subsequently also got vaccinated,” he explained. “That’s why we recommend that even if you had COVID, previously, you should still get vaccinated.”
“We have studies that show that if you had COVID, if you had natural immunity, and then you get even just one dose of an mRNA vaccine, your level of neutralizing antibodies is going to be so high, it’s actually higher than in people that never had COVID that got two doses,” he continued.
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