Pook: As a healthcare organization, we remain committed to meeting the needs of our community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of the care we provide — whether we’re treating patients in our hospitals or vaccinating people at our clinics — often exceeds any reimbursement we may receive. To put it simply, we do not profit from providing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Colón: While insurance companies and the government reimburse for vaccine administration, hospitals do not profit off of administering the COVID-19 vaccine. In many cases, the opposite is true. Hospitals may spend more on staffing and setting up the vaccination clinics than what is paid by insurance. The main benefit comes in helping protect patients and staff from illness.
Q: I’m currently pregnant. Is it safe for my baby if I get the coronavirus vaccine? What about if I’m breastfeeding?
Pook: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all eligible persons greater than age 12 years, including pregnant and lactating individuals, receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series.
Colón: Yes it is! There have been no problems for babies whose mothers have received the vaccine while pregnant. In fact, some of the protective antibodies can be passed on to the baby, allowing the newborns to be protected against COVID-19 without being vaccinated directly.
Q: I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Why should I wear a mask anywhere? I feel protected. I understand I have a miniscule chance of getting COVID. What good does me wearing a mask do for anyone?
Colón: While it is true that vaccines do reduce the chance of picking up or being severely ill from COVID-19, it is not a 100% protection. People who are vaccinated, especially older individuals or those with pre-existing medical conditions, may still become sick enough to be hospitalized, although at a lower rate than unvaccinated individuals. Additionally, it is possible for a vaccinated individual who becomes infected to pass the infection to others. For these reasons, particularly while the amount of infected people in the community remans high, it is recommended everyone wear a mask while indoors around others.
Pook: Those who have chosen not to be vaccinated have made a mistake. They are the ones who need to wear a mask, not me. As the pandemic continues, there is potential for viral mutation and immune escape with resistance to vaccination and monoclonal antibody treatment. For example, there was transmission of COVID-19 in Italy amongst a close cohort of individuals, all vaccinated, and with different vaccines. To end the pandemic, we need to use all the tools available. A reasonable compromise may be to wear a mask at times in congested indoor public spaces.
Q: According to the Ohio Department of Health dashboard, the majority of inpatient beds, ICU beds and ventilators are being used by non-COVID patients with about a quarter of beds available in our region. So why are hospital leaders saying they are stressed and emphasizing that COVID patients are the strain? That doesn’t seem true?
Pook: Up to 50% of ventilators in use are for patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. These patients require complex and prolonged care, and the coordination of their care requires dedicated and focused teams. The regional hospital systems have done well to rapidly increase staffing and patient support wherever possible.
Colón: While most of the patients in the hospital are indeed non-COVID hospitalizations, one in three patients in many hospitals are there for COVID-19. This means that some hospitals are seeing large numbers of extra patients because of COVID-19. These patients typically require more direct medical care and remain hospitalized longer than most other patients. This current wave has additionally been accompanied by a larger number of younger patients being hospitalized with severe disease, with many not surviving the illness. It is the combination of these factors that has stressed capacity because of the additional burden associated with COVID-19 related patients.
Have questions about COVID-19, face masks, vaccines, testing, quarantining or anything else pandemic-related? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers will be published regularly in print and online.