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Breaking down the threat of the COVID-19 delta variant

Dr. Owais Durrani, Emergency Medicine Resident Physician, UT Health San Antoni, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the threat of the COVID-19 delta variant.

Video Transcript

- We want to continue the conversation with Dr. Owais Durrani, emergency medicine resident physician at UT Health San Antonio. And Dr. Durrani, good to have you back.

Let's just start with what we heard out of the UK-- the effectiveness of vaccines against the Delta variant, something that we've been worried about, just in terms of what this could mean for future cases here in the US. How are you looking at this development and what this means for the potential for another wave?

OWAIS DURRANI: --having me today. It's really pleasant news. We were all kind of on pins and needles, kind of waiting to see if the vaccines would be effective. Thankfully, we did get this news. As you all were just discussing about the Delta variant, is about 40% to 60% more transmissible. And we're also getting some initial data that shows that people who are unvaccinated who get infected with it have a higher probability of needing hospitalization.

And so, the fact that we know that these vaccines work. They essentially eliminate severe cases and hospitalizations, and they still offer a good amount of protection when it comes to eliminating symptomatic cases, about 80% to 85% effective. That's really good news.

The caveat is, if you're on one of those two-dose vaccines and you're getting that, after that initial dose, when it comes to previous variants, you had a pretty good amount of immunity about two weeks out. With this variant, you don't have that. We're starting to see numbers that, two weeks after that first dose, you may have 40% or 50% immunity. And so that's just more kind of encouragement to everyone listening-- get your second dose, if you haven't already. And if you're not vaccinated, get your complete vaccination schedule because that's what's going to protect you against this variant.

- Dr. Durrani, have you seen this variant in your facilities, or have you colleagues who have seen it?

OWAIS DURRANI: So, I know that it has been sequenced in Texas. I obviously still see patients that are COVID positive, and we get them admitted. I have not received word from-- personally from any of the inpatient teams that one of the patients that I personally saw was positive for this variant. But I know it does exist in Texas.

- So, doctor, as it stands right now in the US, we have just over 64% of US adults have received one shot. We need 14 million more Americans to get a shot within the next several days in order to reach the president's goal of 70% by July 4th. Do you think we're going to get there?

OWAIS DURRANI: It's going to take a lot of work. At the current pace that we're at, we probably won't get there. But we need to really kind of take a pause, really figure out what communities we're missing when it comes to vaccinations, and really ramp those numbers up.

I also think that if we were to miss that goal, it's not a lost battle. We are still-- we started with a strong vaccination campaign. It's slowed down. But we need to continue to encourage people to get vaccines.

And I think the best way to do that is that we all know someone who may not have gotten the vaccine for whatever reason. And figuring out what those reasons are, and getting them linked in with-- whether it's a health care provider or someone else in their life that can kind of share with them their experience to kind of make them feel safe and confident about getting that vaccine.

- What upsets you the most as a doctor, regarding the misinformation surrounding vaccines?

OWAIS DURRANI: Just the fact that they save lives, and they save lives for those around you. And that there's no positive benefit to spreading misinformation. A lot of the patients throughout the last year that I saw that ended up not doing so well didn't believe in vaccinations or, at certain points, in wearing a mask or other guidances. And then they got really, really sick, and a lot of them displayed regret and sadness for why they believed the things that they did.

And so, it's not their fault. It's essentially this online culture that's developed, where it's politicized this issue. And so, it's been frustrating where you have medical professionals and nurses and other individuals that have dedicated their lives to studying science and figuring out ways to make life better for everyone, and then, when this miracle the vaccine was developed over the past year and a half or so, that it's been kind of neglected in some communities because of misinformation.

- Doctor, there's been a lot of back and forth, just in terms of debate of whether or not companies should-- whether or not they can-- mandate that their employees get vaccinated. How important do you think it is for employees? Or do you think it's important for employees to mandate vaccinations before people return to work?

OWAIS DURRANI: Well, today, we are reaching another grim milestone, essentially-- 600,000 American lives lost to this pandemic. And I think as a country and as Americans, we truly haven't processed what we've gone through over the last year and a half or so.

And I think employers are responding to that. I think as more and more employers are opening up their offices going into late summer, early fall, employees want to feel safe. And they're responding to that sentiment by either encouraging people to get vaccines or providing some type of proof and whatnot.

I think I look at it through the lens of another incentive. And that being, you know, say you're a young 20-something-year-old who's been working from home for the better part of a year. You haven't felt the urge to get a vaccine. And then, your employer says, hey, if you're able to prove proof of vaccination, you can come to these social events at the office, or you can come to the office and not have to wear a mask, or whatever those incentives may be. And that may be the thing that urges them to get that vaccine.

In other scenarios, there's that situation in Houston where a hospital system required vaccinations, and there was a certain subset of the employees that didn't want it. I think in those cases, it does need to be mandatory because coming from the scientific perspective, we know for a fact that this disease does kill. And our oath as health care providers is to protect life and do what's in the best interest of the patient. And so when it comes to situations like those, I think mandates are justified and OK.

- Dr. Owais Durrani, always great to get your perspective. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us here today.