Knoxville doctors tracking delta variant, warn parents to catch up on immunizations before school year

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)  — The Tennessee State Health Department reported there were 125 cases of the COVID-19 delta variant across the state. That report was dated Thursday, July 8.

Dr. Eric Penniman with Summit Medical Group talked with WATE 6 On Your Side about COVID-19 case numbers going up in Knoxville. “We’re seeing our COVID numbers go up somewhat and we’re seeing more cases of the delta variant,” said Penniman.

He also said there’s been an increase in testing statewide. “The percent of people that we test with the PCR test in the nose, we had been at an all-time low right around 1-2% and now we’re back up to around 5% across the state,” he said.

Penniman was hopeful though that in terms of the delta variant Tennessee would fair better than others nearby.

“Hopefully we can continue to vaccinate folks and hopefully this will not turn into a major problem like they have in Missouri,” he said.

Penniman said the symptoms of the delta variant are different than that of the COVID-19 strain at the start of the pandemic.

“The delta variant mirrors a typical a respiratory virus or just a bad cold,” he said. “They’re not typically losing their sense of smell, they’re not typically losing their sense of taste, and yet it supposedly has an increased level of being transmitted as well as potentially has an increased risk of hospitalization.”

He went on to warn that the more variants there are of COVID-19, the less immunity there is for those who’ve already been infected.

“The more variants we have the less effective the antibodies for someone who already had COVID will be against it.”

Penniman feels whoever is eligible for a COVID vaccine should get one, including kids. Dr. Nicole Lopez with the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s North Knoxville Pediatrics agreed.

“You need to have a conversation with your pediatrician,” Lopez said. “Is your child old enough or eligible for the vaccine? What are the safety concerns? Is it recommended? What does the schedule look like? What side effects do you expect? etc.”

She says your child’s annual wellness check before the school year is a great time to ask questions about the COVID vaccine.

She also notes it’s important to make sure kids are caught up on immunizations before the start of another school year.

“Families may have opted to just skip their well-check last year, so we may not have seen them for two years,” she said. “If that visit happened to coincide with a short visit then they’re behind on vaccines.”

Lopez feels a lot of people hyper-focus on the need for vaccines for schools, but she said people need to get their vaccines to protect kids and adults against illness.

Lopez lastly encouraged people to make a list and ask their doctors questions about any of their concerns, rather than solely relying on the internet.

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