With COVID 19’s Delta variant spread on the rise and mask mandates a thing of the past, one local doctor said the key to teenagers – and everyone else – staying healthy and having life resume as normal as possible is to be vaccinated – even despite the risks associated with the vaccine.
Dr. MarkAlain Dery, an Access Health Louisiana infectious disease physician, is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Master of Public Health and Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internists. He is also the Chief Innovation Officer with Access Health Louisiana, which operates two community clinics, as well as school-based clinics, in St. Charles Parish.
“As a society it’s our job to be vaccinated if we want to bring life back to normal,” he said. “We have frontline workers who have risked their lives, we’ve seen an incredible uptick in overdoses and there’s been a global economy that’s crashed. We all need to work together to get vaccinated to get this all behind us. Think about this privilege we have in this country that we were the first to be vaccinated with the world’s best vaccines. There are other people dying quite literally to be vaccinated and we have people here who just don’t want it.”
Dery said he thinks many people’s hesitancy about receiving the vaccine comes from misinformation that circulated throughout the pandemic, but insists current vaccines are not just safe, but necessary.
“It’s the main tool to get us out of the pandemic,” he said of vaccines. “Everyone just needs to be vaccinated. I’ve been surprised about the number of adults unwilling to get vaccines. Unfortunately, the rates of vaccinations have just been shockingly low … much lower than we expected quite frankly. A lot of it is tied up into a lot of social issues combined with the amount of misinformation and disinformation that circulated … and that misinformation and disinformation is much stickier than the truth.”
Dery said the thinks on a national level there were a lot of conflicting messages about the coronavirus’ spreading nature and effective measures necessary to combat it.
“Unfortunately, physicians and public health practitioners need to be better communicators,” Dery said. “Unfortunately, there’s been such a lack of confident messaging. Quite frankly I just feel bad for people who are refusing to listen … they want to believe there’s a conspiracy to harm people, and it’s a failing on our part as doctors. Me personally, I will spend a large portion of the rest of my career advocating for doctors being trained in communication … that’s really the only thing I can do is to help.”
Dery said another error in messaging was to not push back on opinions that the vaccine was rushed.
“It wasn’t rushed at all,” he said. “We had the appropriate resources, like money, to make the vaccine in the middle of the public pandemic. Unfortunately, we’re at a point because of the politics that happened with the pandemic that people are just not going to get vaccinated. I think we lost the trust of the community, and really the country … we lost the trust of people.”
Current COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children 12 years old and older. Dery said studies being done now on the efficacy of the shot in children 5-11 years old.
Cases of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall, has been reported with some teenagers who have received the vaccine.
“If there’s a concern of myocarditis, the concern should be that the risk of myocarditis from the actual virus is far worse,” Dery said. “A small percentage of teens develop myocarditis after they receive the COVID vaccine, but the treatment is very benign and includes over the counter medication. The good news is that what the illness could cause is serious myocarditis.”
Dery said symptoms of myocarditis include chest pain, palpitations, nausea and fatigue.
Despite the slight risk, Dery said, he believes in the necessity and importance of COVID vaccinations.
Dery has developed a series of animated videos – available on www.noisefiltersshow.com – that explain health lessons such as mRNA vaccines and COVID-19 variants. He said he hopes the videos, designed for pre-teens and teenagers, can help parents and children learn about COVID-19 related topics together.