Infected Unvaccinated Threaten Health of All, FIU Doctor Warns

The argument that the unvaccinated are only affecting themselves and not others they come in contact with is false.

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The myths surrounding vaccinations against COVID continue to spread, much like the disease among the unvaccinated.

The result has been more sickness and death and it can impact the vaccinated as well, said FIU professor Dr. Aileen Marty, refuting those who claim the unvaccinated are only putting themselves at risk.

"There are many ways the unvaccinated are directly impacting you as a vaccinated person," Marty said, because while the vaccines are amazingly good, they are not perfect. So the infected unvaccinated can more efficiently spread disease to everyone, including relatively rarely the vaccinated.

"These people are going to be producing a lot of virus and if there’s a lot of virus in the community -- your vaccine is great but it can’t overcome an overwhelming force and that’s what happens when you have all these unvaccinated people around you shedding virus. They shed enormous amounts of virus and that's what overcomes your vaccine defenses" in a few cases.

But with six million eligible Floridians still not vaccinated, those who become infected and spew the virus more efficiently can spread it among themselves and, to a much lesser degree, to the 11 million who are fully vaccinated. If the vaccine is 90 percent effective, 10 percent of the vaccinated are put at risk when exposed to the virus-shedders.

And, Marty noted, there are indirect impacts, such as on "our entire healthcare system. They’re using resources that cannot be used if you have a heart attack or you get in a car accident."

Some promoters of vaccine hesitancy twist the existence of the rare so-called breakthrough infections into a reason not to get a vaccine.

"It’s absolutely not a good point," Marty said. "While of course a vaccine is not a magical shield that keeps the virus from getting into your body, it does help prevent the viral particles from entering your cells" which makes the vaccinated less susceptible to severe illness.

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The unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die, the CDC reported last week.

Some who give voice to false information about vaccines and mask-wearing have been arguing for over a year that herd immunity -- whether conferred by vaccine or prior infection -- will end the pandemic.

But, Marty said, the quickest and safest way to herd immunity is through vaccination. "It reflects use of vaccination, not spread of a wild virus."

She said it's not yet clear how much the public can rely on the natural immunity of those who already had COVID and did not die.

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But she knows how it works with other pathogens.

"How many times can you get strep?" she asked. "Many, many, many times. You never form good immunity against that and natural immunity to coronaviruses in general -- all the coronaviruses -- doesn’t tend to last that long."

How long it lasts with SARS-CoV-2 is still not fully understood, but the power of the vaccine is.

"You need the type of army ready and willing to fight that we can better give you with these very sophisticated, modern vaccines that we’re using," she said.

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