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Vaccinations still required to curb COVID spread

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Pennsylvania lifted the national mask-wearing mandate yesterday, but that does not mean we are in the clear from the coronavirus pandemic, according to Barbara Hemmendinger, member of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition.

Hemmendinger said that the lifting of the mandate is good for those who are vaccinated; however, there is still great risk to those who have not yet received any one of the COVID-19 vaccinations.

“When you go indoors and congregate with people who are unvaccinated, there are risks of coronavirus transmissions,” Hemmendinger said. “If it is through the Delta variant, it is more contagious.”

Hemmendinger said the Delta variant is more contagious than earlier strains, and that there is some research that suggests monochrome antibodies are less effective at curbing the Delta variant’s infection once it is present.

“For everyone who is waiting to see about getting their vaccine, the time to do it is now,” Hemmendinger said. “The vaccinations are working, and they still work against the Delta variant.”

According to Hemendinger, there are three types of variants with regard to viruses: variants of interest, variants of concern, and variance of high consequence.

Variants of interest demonstrate minor mutations in COVID more akin to distant cousins of the virus, while variants of concern are more transmissible or dangerous, like the Delta variant.

The final variant is a variant of high consequence–which, if the coronavirus is permitted to transmit from person to person, the virus may be able to evade vaccines and treatment and entirely.

“We don’t want to get to that point!” Hemmendinger said. “The more the virus ends up circulating, here or abroad, one of these days we could end up with a variant of high consequence. This is another reason to get vaccinated.”

Hemmendinger explained vaccines are safe and effective, and that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk of transmitting the coronavirus and worsening the pandemic by far outweighs the risk of experiencing adverse effects.

Those adverse effects take the form of myocarditis and certain blood clot syndromes in people younger than 45. Most of those conditions are reversible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 27, the percent of fully vaccinated people in the United States is 46 percent. Pennsylvania is ahead of national averages with 49 percent, while Lycoming lags behind both at 39 percent. Union County leads Lycoming County at 43 percent, while Clinton County is behind at 33 percent.

The Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition has announced a number of upcoming vaccination clinics.

The Williamsport YMCA will host River Valley Health and Dental, who will provide vaccinations from 1 to 4 p.m. every subsequent Wednesday in July, starting July 7. The YMCA will offer a day pass to all who receive a vaccination at the site.

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