Open Mics With Dr. Stites: Vaccine Expert Dr. Gregory Poland From Mayo Clinic


The number of COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System is lower today. 55 patients with the active virus are being treated, down from 59 yesterday. Only eight are vaccinated. 16 of those patients are in the ICU, down from 17 yesterday. Nine are on ventilators, down from 11 yesterday. 45 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 47 yesterday. That’s a total of 100 patients, down from 106 yesterday. HaysMed has 14 patients today, up from 13 yesterday.

Today, another episode of Open Mics With Dr. Stites. Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, was joined by Dr. Gregory Poland, (POLE-LAND, like the country) director of Mayo Clinic’s vaccine research group.
Dr. Poland provided the stunning fact that since January of 2020, one of every 490 Americans has died of COVID, about one every 60 seconds. He says it’s resulted in about a year and a half to two years decrease in life expectancy in the U.S., and about three years for African Americans. The last time that happened was in World War II when we called it a war and treated it like a war. He says it’s very different today. With 250,000 new infections in children just last week, which is 27 percent of all new cases, and 1000 schools having to stop in person learning, he says, “We act as if there is no pandemic. And that is just absurd by any lens you want to look through.” He adds, “When you have as large a number of people unvaccinated as we do in the U.S., you now cannot control the pandemic. In my view, some would disagree with me, we have given up our opportunity to eliminate this from the U.S.” He believes without masking and vaccination it’s inevitable we’ll see an even bigger surge in November and December. “We seem as a nation to have lost our capacity for critical reasoning and thinking. This has been an amazing, and I think wrongheaded experiment. In the midst of the worst pandemic that any of us have seen in our lifetimes, in the face of the most contagious variant we’ve ever seen, let’s ban masks and bring children together and crowd them into schools and see what happens.” He feels a big problem has been in how people discover the truth. He says, “Let’s agree that COVID is a scientific and medical problem and therefore deserves to be solved with medical and scientific evidence. But once you reject science as a way of knowing, then the only thing you can do is appeal to some other man made economic or political structure or distortions in how man thinks about religion. And what has happened in our country is a conflation of politics, economics and distorted religion, as opposed to what scripture actually says. That has gotten people to think of a mask, which is a medical tool, as some sort of marker of authoritarianism or of political freedom or of economic bondage. That’s just wrong thinking and it has cost us tremendously.” He believes it may take 90 percent of the U.S. being vaccinated to reach herd immunity in the face of Delta, plus masking and travel restrictions, especially to and from other countries, to get it under control. He also says the Mu variant is a little worrisome, as all variants are. It’s not known if it will become worse than Delta, but he notes it started with a few infections and has now infected more than 2000 people in the U.S. in 41 states and is in 49 countries. He explained why and how a virus mutates, which is essentially making an error when copying itself, and says the vast majority of viruses will die out. He feels it’s too soon for boosters for most of us but says they will be needed. He also thinks the vaccine for kids under 12 will get emergency use authorization by the end of the month. He urges everyone to wear a mask indoors and get fully vaccinated as it’s safe and effective. “Perfectly safe? No. Perfectly effective? No. Nothing man made is perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Extraordinarily safe and effective? Yes.”

Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control, says there’s no black and white answer to the question of whether it’s safe to go to a Chiefs game as there are too many variables. He advises wearing a mask, even outdoors, given the size of the expected crowd. He told of a current COVID patient he’s treating who’s in his 50’s and otherwise healthy, who now needs a lot of oxygen. The man said he said he didn’t get the vaccine because it was too new. When Dr. Hawkinson told the patient this could have been prevented, all he got was a blank stare. He advises getting both doses of the vaccine which will significantly protect you from having to go to the hospital, the ICU or even dying.