AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Marie Bruske, is a physician assistant at Doctors Hospital Clinic Care Infectious Diseases. And she was kind enough to give us a little time today to talk about some of the questions that so many of us have about COVID and what we’re seeing with the different variants. And of course, the variant that we’re talking about right now is the Omicron variant. And one of the things that you know, in your study of infectious diseases is is that COVID is doing what a virus does.

“So a virus’s job, what a virus wants to do is it wants to get in a host, replicate, and then leave that host. So among that replication process, mutations happen randomly. And then because of those mutations, variants come and you have new variants of these viruses that pop up. Yeah, it was kinda like once we got the vaccine and I think maybe a lot of people thought, okay, this is it. We’re going to stop it. But it’s like, no, no, no, it got sneaky. And it changed a little bit. It figured out how to kind of get around people who were vaccinated. So in one aspect, the virus is getting better at its job. It’s getting better at being more transmissible and that’s just sort of it wants to keep living.”

Bruske says if you get vaccinated, you are five times less likely to get infected with the virus and then have that virus replicate and then transmit to other people.

“So right now, as it stands, the vaccine is about 80% effective against all of the variants of COVID-19 that we are seeing right now, which is still fantastic. The number was a little higher when the vaccine launched, but as it’s been given to more people and the data has been collected and of course as more variants have come out, that efficacy is dropped, but it’s still, it’s still fantastic.

As we know, Operation Warp Speed led to the development of a vaccine very fast- especially when it typically can take many years to get a vaccine. Bruske says one thing made this discovery really significant, and that is multiple labs and scientists around the world working on it.

“Generally with vaccines and clinical trials, you need the technology to be able to produce and administer the vaccine. What’s cool about these mRNA vaccines is that that technology had been already used and kind of invented years ago. And then you also need two groups of people to study that vaccine. You need a group of people that you vaccinate and then a group of people that you don’t vaccinate. And then you send them out into the world and wait for them to get said virus. Well, we were amongst a global pandemic where everybody… we had the virus. It was everywhere. It wasn’t hard to get those numbers and to get that data for those clinical trials. And then you also need money and then to get through all that red tape. So the global urgency of this vaccine and just the sheer number of people that were A, working on it and B, unfortunately, were able to be infected is sort of what drove these clinical trials to go so quickly. But it wasn’t haphazardly.”

How do she advise patients about whether or not to get the vaccine?

“The benefits of getting the vaccine much outweigh the risks of getting COVID. And also what’s important about COVID is that the disease course itself doesn’t run the same for everybody. The patients that I see in the hospital, I can’t sit down and say, ‘Hey, you have COVID and this is what’s going to happen for the next 10 days.’ I can’t say that because it runs a different disease course in everybody. Some people get pneumonias, some people get pulmonary embolisms. Some people have strokes. It’s different, some people come in and hang out on oxygen for a few days and then they get up and walk out of there. But it’s not the same for everybody.”