'We have the potential to have a pandemic within a pandemic': Doctor

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, Co-Founder & Medical Director GoodStock Consulting LLC; Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia, joined Yahoo FInance Live to break down her thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and what's next.

Video transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's keep this discussion going with Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, co-founder and medical director GoodStock Consulting, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia. It's good to have you here, Doctor. Thank you for joining us.

I heard others this morning talking about this news because there will be some, one can imagine, who will say, this is the reason why you shouldn't get the vaccine. And what would you-- you're the doctor, you're with the expert-- say to those people and say, there you go, you don't get the vaccine.

EBONY JADE HILTON: Right. It's one of those things. We know that there is risk-benefits for everything that we do. But when we're weighing the risk benefits of vaccination versus COVID-19, what we know is that persons with COVID-19 have also presented what myocarditis or pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the muscle or inflammation of the lining of the heart.

What we know is that, even outside of COVID-19 normally, myocarditis occurs about 10 in every 100,000 people a year. So if we're saying 10 in every 100,000 persons versus 12 cases in every million persons, we see where it's not necessary that's how we can't say this is a causation. We can say it's associated with. But how many of those persons would have developed myocarditis anyway?

Now, that being the case, what we do know is that these persons typically have mild symptoms as far as the myocarditis. And they respond to medications, like anti-inflammatories, steroids, for instance. So I would not, at this time, tell people to hesitate to get vaccinated. COVID-19 is still taking at least 400 people's lives a day. And the ages of those persons are getting younger and younger as we go along in our course.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor, do you think this is going to delay getting the vaccine approved for children under the age of 12?

EBONY JADE HILTON: I don't think it will delay. Honestly, it's one of those things. Again, I hope this boosts confidence in the American public in that, if there is something that is coming up, even though, like I said, it's less occurrence than what we see naturally in the course of a year as far as myocarditis is concerned, we are taking the steps to say, hey, public, if there is something that's on our radar, we will pause, we will reflect before we move forward.

And I hope that gives people the confidence to say they can trust the system, that the system is working to uncover every rock because every n of 1, every one person that has an adverse event, their lives matter. And we are taking it seriously.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I'm curious what you're seeing and what your colleagues are seeing inside medical centers because I did hear, along with that other discussion, a medical person saying that within their hospital, nobody who's been vaccinated has developed COVID or this delta variant. Are you seeing those kinds of drastic, you didn't get a vaccine, you're coming in ill, whereas if you had the vaccine, you're just not presenting?

EBONY JADE HILTON: Most certainly. We are seeing people who are not vaccinated with more severe cases. But I will say, I do know of someone who was vaccinated, the last dose of the Pfizer vaccine on February 12, and was diagnosed with COVID-19 two or three weeks ago. And it brings up this notion of this delta variant that people really have to get serious about how these mutants are developed, for one.

We know that mutants, or mutations of the virus, comes about because the virus is allowed to pass from person to person. And the way we stop that passing one person to person is through vaccination, right?

But we do know that the delta variant, it is here. It's now 30% of our cases in the United States of America. We know that it has the potential to evade our immune system and make our vaccines a little less efficacious, which means we have to remain hyper-vigilant. You have to wear your mask. You have to avoid those large crowds until we get ahead of this virus. And I do not feel like we are there yet.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor what's your biggest worry right now? When you mention the delta variant, are you worried that this could potentially cause another pretty significant wave here in the US?

EBONY JADE HILTON: I think we have the potential to have a pandemic within a pandemic. And why is that? Because we know that the vaccine uptake-- yes, we've crossed over nationally 70% of all adults over 30 being vaccinated. But we know that's not consistent across our country. We know the Northeast is doing a fantastic job. But down South, we are having vaccine hesitancy show up. And at the same time as there's vaccine hesitancy, we're having an increase in our delta variant.

And what does that translate to? Well, overall, the United States, our cases are down 21%. But if you look at Oklahoma, it's up 68% in the last two weeks. If you look at Missouri, it's up 45% of cases in the last two weeks. Arkansas, 42%.

We cannot let our guards down, thinking that if, within the nation, if we're seeing 70%, that's herd immunity. COVID-19 cares about what's happening on your street level. It cares about what's happening as far away as India with the delta variant. It all is tied into one.

So you have to think, in this pandemic, what's happening globally but then also what's happening within my zip code. And how can I protect myself and my family?

ADAM SHAPIRO: Doctor, I just wanted to follow-up quickly with what you said about that breakthrough case, which we've been told are rare. A person had both shots of the Moderna vaccine and then tested positive for COVID-19. Their symptoms, again, did that presentation though, rise to the severe level that we'd seen in the past, or did they have protection because of the vaccine against it becoming a much more serious illness?

EBONY JADE HILTON: Right. And I certainly-- this is my friend. And she actually wants me to share her story because she says she hopes people realize just not that she didn't take this seriously. She was very precautious. But she went to on a business trip and contracted COVID-19. And her symptoms were loss of taste and smell and also having chest pain.

So she, months after being vaccinated, was exposed to this variant. And here we are. So the risk is still there. We know. We're seeing it in the UK, where fully vaccinated persons are not only getting sick, but they are also, unfortunately, passing away. This delta variant is a game-changer. And it does have the potential, again, for us to see a pandemic within a pandemic.

So we can't let our guards down. If you can get vaccinated, for sure, get vaccinated. You can test your zip code to getvax, which is G-E-T-V-A-X. And I do not know, if she was not vaccinated, with the symptoms that she presented with, if she didn't have that head start, if her immune system didn't have at least some form of antibodies ready and available to protect her, I don't know what her course would have been. So yeah, it's time to protect yourself, like I said, and protect your family.

ADAM SHAPIRO: We appreciate that advice. Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, co-founder and medical director of GoodStock Consulting, also an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia. All the best.