Local doctor still urges COVID vaccination, says shot is best protection against variants


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Dr. Stephen Thacker, a pediatric infectious disease physician who serves as Memorial Health’s associate chief medical officer, told reporters Monday that up to 140 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

He said 41 of them have been hospitalized for over three weeks, and while no longer infectious, are not yet well enough to leave the hospital.

Dr. Thacker says the delta variant is affecting younger people and that the average age of hospitalized patients is now 30 to 50 years old. He also says more children are getting sick and are being hospitalized.

“Ninety-five plus percent of these children are of the age that they couldn’t receive the vaccine (it’s 12 years old),” said Thacker, “and so, again, the only way the community protects them and prevents them from being harmed by this virus is choosing vaccination for themselves.”

Thacker says Georgia continues to have lower vaccination rates than some other states.

“And so that’s why we are seeing this in our communities,” he said. “It’s why we’re seeing folks lose their lives to COVID-19, it’s why we’re seeing children be admitted at rates that we’ve never seen before and it’s because of our challenge with our unvaccinated population.”

He says that new treatments for COVID have been developed in the past year but that “the COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective and safe tool we have to prevent infection and harm.”

Thacker also said those hospitalized longer than three weeks still need a great deal of care.

“When you really think about hospital resources, it’s important to think about all the ongoing hospital care that happens for individuals that, thankfully, survivedCOVID-19 but that have ongoing needs for continued hospitalization that sometimes can last many weeks beyond that point,” said Thacker.

He estimates that up to 90 percent of Memorial Health’s doctors and nurses are vaccinated but says overall, about 60 percent of employees have taken the shot.

HCA, which owns Memorial, says it is evaluating President Joe Biden’s executive order on vaccines.

Thacker urges more people, wherever they work, to get the COVID vaccine.

“The idea is to get as many as we can vaccinated,” he said, “because it creates an environment where it is much less likely that a new variant of COVID-19 takes hold and spreads throughout our community as, unfortunately, this last one has.”

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