Kim Parlee asks Dr. Vipan Nikore, Chief Medical Director, TD Bank, to separate the facts from misperceptions about the Delta variant, whether it’s safe to fly this summer, and the latest on vaccine boosters and vaccinating children.
Here to give us some context on that and so much more is Dr. Vipan Nikore. He is Chief Medical Director for TD Bank. Dr. Nikore, always great to have you with us. And I want to start and maybe spend most of our time just talking a bit about the delta variant and maybe separate some facts from misperceptions. And how protected are we if we're vaxxed or double vaxxed? And what are the things we should be keeping in mind?
- Sure. Always a pleasure to be here. And thank you again for having me. Regarding the delta variant, of course, there's so much back and forth on this. Generally speaking, let's start with the base case of being unvaccinated. So we know the delta-- it spreads about 40% to 60% more than the general alpha, the UK variant. So you're more likely to get it than the UK variant. We know that.
The viral load-- about 1,200 times more than previous strains. This r0 number you may have heard-- it's 2 and 1/2. In the original, it's 5 to 8, meaning one person may infect five to eight people. So if you're not vaccinated and you're in a group of people with delta, compared to the original virus, you're much more likely to get the delta virus. So that's an important point.
Now, if you've had two doses, generally speaking, you are quite well protected against severe death and hospitalization, which is really the important point here. Around 94% effective against severe illness and death. Around 64% effective against infection in general. But again, many of those cases will be people who aren't very sick.
If you've had only one dose or 14 days after your first dose, we're still showing it's doing a decent job in preventing death and severe illness. But there's just so much more virus, as I previously had mentioned. You just need a higher number of antibodies. So you really want to get both doses to get full protection in those cases.
- It sounds as though Canada-- and thanks for that. That's really, I think, a great summary of what people should be paying attention to. But in terms of as we open up, what is your concern of seeing a wave? Or we've talked about little wavelets coming with the delta variant. But given the fact that our vaccination numbers have accelerated-- they're plateauing a bit now, but some good numbers.
- Yeah. I think there's a very good chance we are going to see some mini wavelets, as we talked about, in the fall. If we just look at what's happened in other countries, even in the US, we're starting to see little spikes primarily in places where there is minimal number of-- there's a minimal number of people who are vaccinated or fully vaccinated. Or there's pockets of unvaccinated people.
So the better we do with vaccination, the higher likelihood of avoiding some of those wavelets along the way and therefore having a little bit less attention along the way. So I think it's probably inevitable, to some extent, but we can minimize the number of them.
- What about for people who are getting excited about things opening up? It is it OK to hop on a plane to travel within Canada?
- So yeah, travel's an interesting one. Well, first off, it depends if you're vaccinated. If you're not vaccinated, especially with the delta variant circulating, it's really not the safest thing to do. If you are vaccinated, it really depends on the case counts in the region that you'll be flying to and other things, like layovers, who might be on your plane, even the policy of the airlines that you might be flying.
Generally speaking, it will be, with the numbers as they are right now, generally pretty safe if you're vaccinated. And in airplanes, they're generally quite good at ventilation and air circulation in planes as well.
- Last question for you. As parents start thinking about kids back to school, we know that kids over 12 can be vaccinated. But just what are some of the things maybe we should be thinking about on that front?
- Yeah. So there's trials going on right now as low as six months of age right now. We'll hopefully have some data in the fall regarding this, fall or even winter. And I think as the numbers stand right now we'll be quite safe. Obviously, there's risk. But we have to get children back in school, of course.
September's still a ways away. So we'll have to see the numbers and the data that we have at that time. But I do think we have to look at risk-benefit in getting people back to school. At this point, it would appear quite safe.
- OK. And actually, if I could, I'll squeeze in one last question. We do know that Pfizer is talking about a vaccine booster, a third shot coming in. Is that something, perhaps, we should be preparing ourselves for, that this will not be two and done? There'll be more to come on a more regular basis.
- At some point, there's a reasonable chance there will be a third shot, a booster to help us. It depends how long the current vaccines lasts in terms of immunity. Right now, do we need it? We probably don't have the data to say we actually need one right now. But to retool it for the variants that come up and future variants, I think there's a reasonable chance we will need a booster at some point in the future.
Always a pleasure. Thanks so much.
- Thank you for having me.