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Health leaders warn more COVID variants and cases could continue to increase due to low vaccination rates

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc all throughout the country and state.

In fact, On Tuesday, the Mississippi Department of Health reported the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began with 3,488.

“The very sad thing is that they are almost all preventable,” said Dr. Steve Threkeld, medical Director for infectious disease at Baptist Memorial Healthcare. “Essentially, every patient that we see in the ICU now is an unvaccinated individual, and we see them in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.”

Right now, there are a number of COVID strains out there, such as the delta, gamma, and lambda variants.

Threkeld explains how the variants are continuing to form.

“Basically, variants are nothing more than mistakes,” Dr. Threkeld explained. “When this virus makes a copy of itself, and that’s what it does for a living, all viruses simply make copies of themselves; that’s what they are trying to do out there. We just happen to get in the way of it and are a way for them to do it more efficiently by infecting us and getting into our cells and making those copies.”

The health expert said more variants will likely continue to emerge with the virus steadily spreading and people not rolling up their sleeves taking the vaccine.

Threkeld said taking the vaccine is the common denominator for fighting back against the variants and reducing the number of cases.

“We have to watch for things like the gamma variant, the beta variant coming along replacing these other just contagious ones because they are able to slip past our immune system with a little bit more skill,” said Dr. Threkeld. “That may be what we see down the line; that’s what we don’t want to see because that puts us back in a situation where we have to develop more vaccines and have variant vaccines — if not, go back to the drawing board altogether. We haven’t seen that yet, thankfully, but there may be an omega variant out there that will have the capacity to do that; that’s what we all feared — we feared it from the beginning.”

In order to reach herd immunity, Dr. Threkeld believes it will take roughly 90% of the total U.S. population to become fully vaccinated.

However, he said getting to that mark could be challenging due to the low vaccination rates.

In Mississippi, MSDH is reporting roughly 35 percent of Mississippians are fully vaccinated.

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