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OU Chief COVID Officer announces 1 in 400 Oklahomans have died of COVID-19, recommends booster shots

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Dale Bratzler

OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler speaks during livestream, Sept. 15. 

OU Chief COVID-19 Officer Dale Bratzler announced updates on Pfizer booster shot eligibility, discussed Johnson & Johnson’s study on their COVID-19 booster shots and urged the need for higher COVID-19 vaccination rates in a Wednesday live stream

Bratzler said Oklahoma has hit a new milestone with over 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 22, with total deaths from COVID-19 rising to 8,715.  

Once Oklahoma reaches 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, “one in every 400 Oklahomans (will) have died from COVID-19,”  Bratzler said. “That would be a higher rate of death compared to the current national average of one in 500 Americans.”

“It’s a substantial death toll that I don’t think any of us ever expected to see,” Bratzler said. 

The FDA announced, Wednesday, that it would grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer booster shots to individuals who are 65 and older, at high risk of severe disease and whose jobs put them at risk of infection. This follows the FDA’s announcement Sept. 17, recommending COVID-19 booster shots be administered to people above 65 years old, healthcare workers, teachers and people who are immunocompromised or have high-risk conditions.  

Johnson & Johnson announced, in a Tuesday press release, their largest real-world study for a COVID-19 vaccine where protection against COVID-19 increases when a booster shot of its vaccine is administered. Bratzler said the results of the largest real-world study for a COVID-19 vaccine “remains effective at preventing the most important things, hospitalization, complications, and death.”

Bratzler said the J&J press release reported that tests in receiving the J&J booster shot two months after the first shot resulted in antibody levels that were four to six times higher than levels observed after the single shot. When receiving a booster of the vaccine six months after the single shot, antibody levels were 12 times higher. 

Bratzler said the medical community continues to debate over whether or not the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are being given too soon due to the results of the J&J real-world study.

“Oklahoma is definitely past the surge in case numbers”, Bratzler said, with the seven-day rolling average showing an average of 1,834 new cases in the last seven days — compared to 2,800 cases a few weeks ago — with CDC’s data reporting that Oklahoma is now ranking 22nd in the nation for new cases per week. 

Hospitalizations have also decreased. As of Sept. 10, Norman Regional Hospital reported 278 of 385 adult inpatient beds filled and 45 of 66 ICU beds filled. Stillwater Medical Center reported a seven day rolling average of 63.7 out of 68.6 adult inpatient beds filled and 12 of 12.4 ICU beds filled.

“That number is down a bit so, again, it’s the trend we want to see,” Bratzler said. “If we can see cases coming down, then we will start to see hospitalizations coming down.”

Bratzler said the COVID-19 vaccines are “some of the safest we’ve ever had in terms of vaccines,” compared to alternatives used against COVID-19 without FDA approval, such as Ivermectin.

“There are studies looking at all of (them) that simply show they don’t prevent you from getting (COVID-19), they don’t necessarily prevent you from spreading (it) and they certainly don’t treat it,” Bratzler said. “If you get vaccinated, your risk of being hospitalized and dying from the disease is dramatically reduced. It’s not zero but it’s dramatically reduced.”

A group of data analysts from the CDC suggested the next surge of cases may appear in early Spring 2022.

“The one huge unknown to watch out for is if we see a different (COVID-19) variant that pops up and becomes highly contagious particularly in the winter months, so that may be the wild card,” Bratzler said. “But I think we will continue to see (delta variant) cases trail off now.”

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