NAPLES — We’re hearing from a researcher who says it soon may be too late to get immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine.
That’s because the new "Delta Variant" is spreading so fast, most people who aren’t protected are likely to get it. Just this week, Lee Health hospitals reported a 300% increase in COVID-19 patients.
NCH Hospital in Naples is seeing the same thing, and experts tell us this may be the beginning of the fastest COVID-19 surge we’ve ever seen. Dr. David Lindner put it bluntly.
"The unvaccinated do not know what’s about to hit them," said Dr. Lindner.
Dr. Lindner has been working for the past year in the NCH COVID unit, and he said the numbers are spiking.
“In June, we got down to a low of 13 patients in the hospital. We’ve more than tripled that," said Lindner.
Southwest Florida isn’t the only place seeing that increase. According to the CDC, the entire state of Florida is now the seeing more cases than anywhere else in the country, with more than 8,000 new cases in the past week.
Dr. Lindner said almost all the patients he’s treating never got the shot.
“93% of all of our COVID patients within our hospital right now are unvaccinated," said Dr. Lindner.
For people who haven’t received the shot, time might be running out fast to get that immunity, based on how fast the virus is spreading.
“To really reach full immunity, if we got everybody vaccinated today would be five weeks from today," said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, the Head of Global Health at the University of South Florida. "We’re predicting this thing is going to peak out in the first week of September, so it may be kind of too late to run away from the hurricane."
Dr. Unnasch said, by that time, if you don’t have the shot you’ll probably have the disease.
“Those people who haven’t been vaccinated, a large portion of them are going to get infected and are going to get immune naturally that way," said Dr. Unnasch.
But Dr. Lindner said, that natural immunity doesn’t protect you as well as the vaccine if the virus mutates.
“I've had a number of people unfortunately who are now on their second go-around," said Dr. Lindner. "They were depending on natural immunity from their first COVID, and unfortunately the virus has shifted far enough that they’re actually getting it again."
To put it in perspective, Dr. Lindner said a person with original COVID-19 infected one to two people. If you have the Delta Variant, you will likely infect six people.
That’s why they’re recommending getting the vaccine before you get sick.