COVID-19 continues to be a part of our lives. To say this has been a complex pandemic would be an understatement.
However, as time goes on, we continue to see evolution in approaches to providing care that are safe, effective, and saving lives, and on top of that, we have multiple options for viable, safe vaccinations to help prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, and the spread of the virus.
As we continue to learn more about the virus, it’s important to understand how vaccines help protect our communities as well as when, if you feel sick, you should seek care.
Our Best Tool: Vaccines
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2), a variant that is more contagious than previous strains, has become the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 spreading in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Delta made up more than 93% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in the final two weeks of July and continues to grow. With Delta spreading, it’s as important as ever to protect yourself against COVID-19 and our best means of protection is vaccination.
According to data from clinical trials and since distribution began, all authorized vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – are highly effective in preventing COVID-19. They are especially effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Researchers and physicians have extensively studied the safety of the vaccines and severe side effects are extremely rare.
Like any vaccine, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is your personal choice. You can choose to get it or not when it becomes available to you. However, getting the vaccine can protect both you and the people around you, including our most vulnerable individuals.
While the vaccines help reduce the risk of person-to-person transmission, that’s not what they do best. Masking and physical distancing provide an important layer of protection from being exposed to the virus. Wearing a mask can lower the risk of COVID-19 spread significantly. While vaccination and masking are not perfect, together they are really effective.
To schedule your COVID-19 vaccination, visit vaccine.UPMC.com.
When to Seek Care for COVID-19
The symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe and are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and common cold.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can appear anywhere from two days to two weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you suspect you have COVID-19 and aren’t having high fever or breathing problems, please call your primary care physician. Doing this from home is best for all and limits spread of any infection; if needed, your provider can guide you safely to the next care site. If you are having trouble breathing, call 911 or go to your local emergency department.
Testing is the only method to confirm whether a person has COVID-19. Tests are being coordinated by primary care providers and infectious disease specialists so that patients exhibiting symptoms and who are at the highest risk due to exposure will be tested.
For more information on COVID-19, visit UPMC.com/Coronavirus.
Dr. Rutul Dalal is medical director of infectious diseases and chairman of Infection Prevention and Control at UPMC in North Central Pa.