Special COVID Message from Alliance Quality Improvement Committee Members
It is hard to acknowledge that as far as we have come with the pandemic, we still find ourselves in rough and uncharted waters. When the CDC first announced that those who were vaccinated could unmask, I was among the many who breathed a sigh of relief, believing there was hope that it was just a matter of a short time before we could advance to a more normal existence. But now we understand that is not the case.
Yes, the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine (officially named Comirnaty) is a significant milestone. In issuing its approval, the FDA analyzed effectiveness data from approximately 20,000 vaccine and 20,000 placebo recipients and it was found to be 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 and reducing hospitalization and death. I hope the announcement of the FDA’s full approval will persuade those who believe the authorization for emergency use was too rushed to get vaccinated.
According to the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, as of August 30th, 73.3% of Washington state residents are fully vaccinated. Still, the rate of cases continues to climb. There have been more than 560,000 COVID-19 cases reported across the state and more than 6,500 deaths. Approximately 95% of current COVID hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.
To reduce the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, the Governor announced that by October 18, 2021, all state workers, employees and volunteers working in K-12, childcare, early learning, higher education, and health care providers must show documentation of vaccination. Last week, the Washington Federation of State Employees filed a lawsuit to stop the mandate from going into effect after the state and union failed to reach a bargaining agreement. Masks are now required statewide regardless of vaccination status in indoor public settings and the importance of getting vaccinated and masking cannot be overstated.
When the members of the Alliance’s Quality Improvement Committee met recently, the pandemic was a major focus of their discussion. This group of clinical leaders, the vast majority of whom are physicians from health plans, hospitals and medical groups across the state, spoke frankly about their fears, challenges, and frustrations. They encouraged us to share their powerful message with our Washington health care community. They want you to know that:
- The Delta variant poses significant risk as it is more transmissible and is impacting everyone. Children and otherwise healthy adults are experiencing significant illness that requires hospitalization. The unvaccinated are particularly vulnerable and experiencing the most serious illness and death.
- There is a strong likelihood of seeing other more serious and more contagious variants emerge if we do not adequately address the Delta variant.
- Health care organizations are stretched to their limit and are losing frontline workers to burnout, despair, quarantine, and sadly, COVID-19.
- The most important thing you can do is get vaccinated, but make sure you keep masking, hand-washing, and social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus.
- If you need non-COVID health care, you should be in touch with your provider. Many common acute and chronic conditions can be managed through virtual care.
- Hospitals are not only taxed by COVID patients with COVID, but by those who haven’t received needed care over the last 18 months. You should contact your health care provider if you have questions. Helpful COVID resources are available on the Alliance’s Own Your Health website.
We have received feedback from many who appreciated this strong message from physician leaders of the Alliance and I, too, commend them for their thoughtful and heartfelt communication. I have worked closely with physicians for most of my professional career. It is rare for them to so strongly advocate for such a forceful, unified message on an issue. Let’s heed their advice and spread this message broadly as we double down to work together for the community good.
All the best,
Published: September 1, 2021