Update from leadership

Mark Scheurer, M.D., and Andrew Atz, M.D.
May 19, 2021
Teen gives a thumbs up after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

Dear friend,

The state health department recently reported that 1,447,185 people in South Carolina have been vaccinated against COVID-19. That is 35.2% of the state’s population. We applaud the community’s effort to reach herd immunity so that we can return to family and social traditions dearly missed the past year. Even though this is a good start, we need to continue and even accelerate the vaccination rate throughout the state. How can we do this together?  

First, remember the vaccines are safe. COVID-19 vaccines work by stimulating the body’s natural defenses (immune system) to build protection against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, without infecting you with the actual virus. The first two COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are both messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. They contain material from the virus that gives the cells in our body instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they quickly destroy the material from the vaccine. Since the protein is not supposed to be there, our immune system recognizes it as “foreign” and begins making antibodies against the virus that protect us if we are exposed to the real virus in the future. mRNA vaccines cannot cause COVID-19; they do not affect a person’s DNA and cannot be transmitted in any way to another person.

Second, please help your elderly family members and neighbors get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 94% of vaccinated adults, 65+ are less likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19. In addition to the elderly populations, those with underlying conditions who can receive the vaccine should seek the opportunity to get vaccinated.  

The best COVID-19 vaccine is the first one that is available to you. Do not wait for a specific brand. The CDC does not recommend one vaccine over another.

Third, protect our children who can’t get vaccinated. On May 12, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention granted emergency authorization for use of the Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in children between the ages of 12 and 15. This broadens the population eligible for the Pfizer vaccine to those ages 12 and older. And, is good news as the below data indicates that COVID-19 cases are increasing among children.

  • Updated peds data as of April 22, 2021 (submitted by each state and compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association) show an absolute increase in the numbers of children getting COVID:
    • 9,886 new child COVID-19 cases were reported from 4/15/21 – 4/22/21 (3,631,189 to 3,711,075) and children represented 20.9% (79,886/383,194) of new weekly cases.
    • Over two weeks, 4/8/21 – 4/22/21, there was a 5% increase in the cumulated number of child COVID-19 cases (168,383 new cases, from 3,542,692 to 3,711,075).

The best way to protect our children (and each other!) is to vaccinate everyone eligible. It is as simple as that. If all adults and children who are eligible get vaccinated, South Carolina will reach herd immunity. That, in turn, will help protect our youngest citizens who do not have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. We hope you will do your part and encourage others to do the same.

Mark Scheurer, M.D., and Andrew Atz, M.D.
MUSC Children’s Health