LVHN emphasizes vaccine importance as it tests need for booster

As many businesses return to normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials are warning that while cases are down dramatically since the peak of the pandemic, cases have been increasing in recent days.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said that as of Tuesday there were 569 additional positive cases of COVID-19. The state had been reporting numbers mostly around 200 cases or lower in recent weeks.

Lehigh Valley Health Network is reporting that it is seeing a surge in cases.

The number of COVID-19 patients in LVHN hospitals is slowly beginning to rise, it said blaming complacency among unvaccinated people. It noted in a press release that the hospitalized COVID patients in LVHN hospitals are primarily unvaccinated.

“Each person who is fully vaccinated is one less person who might get sick and end up in the hospital,” said Alex Benjamin, MD, LVHN chief infection control and prevention officer. “The emergence of the more contagious delta variant in the U.S., including here in Pennsylvania, is also a concern and another reason to get immunized.”

Meanwhile, the CDC reports that 61.9% of Pennsylvanian’s over the age of 18 are now fully vaccinated, ranking the state fifth among U.S. states for total number of doses administered.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports several counties are in the top 10 when measured on the percentage of residents with at least one dose. They include Lehigh, Lackawanna, Northampton and Montgomery counties.

Lehigh County ranked third with 67.1% of all residents having at least one shot

However, one big concern now is also how long those vaccines will last.

LVHN said it is involved in a research project as part of Pfizer’s clinical trial to determine the need for a COVID-19 booster shot. It is working with people who received the vaccine in its first trial. The health network emphasized, however, that vaccines have been helping.

“Right now, 99% of COVID cases are occurring in those that are unvaccinated,” said Joseph Yozviak, DO, LVHN principal investigator for the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

“The most important thing you can do right now is make sure you are fully vaccinated with both doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”