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Physician: The 'best tool' to prevent lingering COVID-19 symptoms is vaccination

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Global Outreach Doctors Board of Directors and Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Natasha Kathuria joined Yahoo Finance on July 23 to discuss COVID-19 and the spread of the Delta variant.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: We want to continue the conversation with Dr. Natasha Kathuria, emergency medicine physician, also on the board of directors for Global Outreach Doctors. And Dr. Kathuria, it's great to have you back. I guess, just what's your assessment of the current situation over in Tokyo? More and more Olympians are testing positive, of course. Not only are there questions just about the threat that this is to athletes there, but then also what this means, the potential for the delta variant to spread. So how are you reading the current situation there?

NATASHA KATHURIA: Right. So we are very concerned about what was going on in Tokyo right now, as we were from the get-go. They only have about 29% of their population vaccinated. Now, that's not a great number to be holding an Olympic games in their country. So we are very concerned.

We've got so many infections that have happened. A lot of athletes who are already vaccinated now are having breakthrough infections. So we are concerned. Obviously, we're worried about the games and protecting the athletes. But just as you mentioned, also about this variant and spreading it.

And this is people coming together from all over the world, athletes, their coaches from all over the world. And then they're going to go back to their home countries. And so we're concerned. We're hopeful that those who do test positive while they're there will quarantine there before they go back so they're no longer contagious. But there is a chance that some people just will not test positive until they return back to their home countries.

And a lot of the countries that are being represented in the Olympics do not have even 5% of their country vaccinated. So we're very cautious that this may be a fire that sparks around the world with more outbreaks.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I want to back up, Doctor, to what Anjalee was just telling us about this study about the Pfizer vaccine. And in a broader context, there's this concept of the paradox of choice. Everyone likes to have a choice. But when you inundate people with too much, it becomes difficult to make a choice. So there's this magic thing, magic number.

Is it the same, the paradox of too much data? We're getting so many different studies, that doesn't it ultimately undermine, perhaps, people's willingness to say, I got to go get this vaccine?

NATASHA KATHURIA: I think from a medical and public health standpoint, the more data, the better, the more information that we can gather. I do think that we've never had this much transparency with a vaccine, with a virus before. We've never had this much transparency with the public with our data. And the goal of that was to be very transparent with the public and to keep them up to date, keep them reassured that we were doing the right things and that this was a safe vaccine.

But of course, the ability to interpret that data is difficult for the average person who is not trained in how to look at a study and determine, was this an appropriate study. Is it a high-powered study? What do these statistics actually mean? Is it really what I'm just reading at face value?

And going back to that data that did come out of Israel, so even if we take that data and even if that is perfectly accurate data-- and yes, it's concerning that there's only 39% to 40% efficacy for those vaccinated against contracting COVID-19. But if you look at the numbers that we really care about, it's hospitalizations and deaths. And they're 88% effective against hospitalizations and 91% effective against death. And that's remarkable.

So even though that data may seem disheartening if we only look at the efficacy of contracting COVID-19, what we care about is the damage it does to the body. Is it killing people? Is it causing people to be hospitalized and have long-term consequences? What we're seeing in America, it's a pandemic of the unvaccinated right now. Our hospitals are overwhelmingly full with unvaccinated people, not vaccinated people.

So that, I think, is what we really need to highlight with this information, that the vaccine is working for the things we want it to work for. But the one takeaway is, if you are vaccinated, now is the time.

I live in Austin. Today, we just went to stage four. And our protocol is really encouraging vaccinated people to go back to wearing masks. And so we will have to go backwards a little bit in our regulations here.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor, you mentioned the fact that more and more people are vaccinated, which is a good thing. So the delta variant may not lead to as many hospitalizations or deaths as otherwise would have been the case. But I want to ask you about a story that was in the "Journal" today and was talking about, even though that is the case, of course, there's the concern of something that's called long COVID, when patients who contracted COVID-19, that they continue to have symptoms for a couple of months, sometimes even a year, possibly more. What can you tell us about this and the threat that that potentially has here to society?

NATASHA KATHURIA: Right, exactly. So the best tool that we have against long COVID syndrome, against the blood clots, the heart failure, the myocarditis, all of the consequences that we know about this virus-- it's not just a respiratory disease. It doesn't only affect the lungs. It affects multiple organs in the body. And so the best tool that we have against all of those things, including long COVID syndrome, is getting vaccinated.

And getting that vaccine does significantly decrease the likelihood of any of those adverse events happening. So we are concerned that the delta variant is more contagious. Absolutely, it's affecting younger people than we've ever seen before. And it's making younger people sicker than we've ever seen before with this virus.

And so we're very concerned. We don't know what direction this will go in. And as the next weeks and months come around and we get more information, we'll really see that. But I can tell you from my perspective and my hospitals, I've never seen this many young people critically ill with COVID-19 before. So that's a big red flag, especially as we go into school about to open up in a lot of our cities.

SEANA SMITH: Certainly is extremely concerning. Dr. Natasha Kathuria, always great to have you on Yahoo Finance. We look forward to speaking with you again soon.