Stephen Parodi, MD, shares tale of 2 surges with the Commonwealth Club

During his recent appearance on a Commonwealth Club panel about the private sector’s role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen Parodi, MD, executive vice president of The Permanente Federation, said the recent so-called fourth wave of the novel coronavirus — driven by the highly contagious delta variant — looks different in various parts of the country.

Dr. Stephen Parodi
Stephen Parodi, MD

“It’s really a tale of two surges,” said Dr. Parodi, who also serves as national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente. “There are communities that are at vaccination rates of 85 to 90 percent of the eligible population. Those communities tended to double down on some of the basic sensible practices: not locking down the community, but wearing masks where appropriate, indoors or in schools. And guess what? We did not see significant surges in the hospitals. We didn’t see excess deaths.”

By contrast, he described communities in the Southeast and middle of the United States, as well as parts of California, where vaccination rates are less than 60% and people are not wearing masks. Those communities are seeing significant surges of COVID-19 cases. As a result, hospitals are running out of beds and physicians often cannot provide even basic levels of health care.

Regarding breakthrough infections, Dr. Parodi added, “If you’re vaccinated, you have less than a 1 percent chance of getting infected. And If you’re vaccinated, you have less than one-third percent chance of actually getting into a hospital.”

He also said being vaccinated is more efficacious and safer than being infected with the virus and its variants. “If you get natural immunity, meaning you’ve been infected with the virus, you’re not necessarily protected against other variants,” Dr. Parodi said. “And these vaccines appear to be pretty durable against all of the variants that are circulating right now.”

The challenge now is to boost vaccination rates to more than 60% in the United States and across the world, Dr. Parodi said.

“There are parts of the world where [vaccination rates] are still at 2 and 3 percent … Those are the areas where new variants are going to pop up, where vaccine escape variants are going to pop up.”

Note: To view the entire panel discussion, visit the Commonwealth Club website.