Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care CEO Ray Hanley continues to plug vaccinations as the best solution to containing COVID-19, but as new variants mutate, he expects strains of the coronavirus to remain indefinitely.
“It’s never going to go away, I think. It’s going to become a part of the environment just as the flu does, and I fully anticipate that at least annual vaccinations for COVID, and hopefully a combination flu and COVID vaccine is going to be in the future,” Hanley said.
Arkansas currently has a vaccination rate slightly above 50%, but Hanley predicts that number will go down dramatically once the definition of “fully vaccinated” changes to include booster shots. Only 14% of Arkansans have had boosters to their original shots, according to state government officials.
“What’s going to happen shortly though, I think, is the definition of fully vaccinated is going to change to include only those that have had the booster. When that happens, the existing Arkansas fully-vaxxed numbers are going to drop until we can catch up with the boosters. So we have a lot of work to do there,” said Hanley, whose organization conducts vaccine clinics.
The Omicron variant is quickly spreading around the globe and Arkansas is seeing a rise in cases, although the Delta variant is also still present and prevalent. Hanley says much is still unknown about Omicron, but hopefully its effects won’t be as deadly as Delta.
Despite those who contend that vaccines aren’t working against these mutated variants, Hanley explained that the unvaccinated are actually the main source for the adapted virus strains.
“The incubator for the new variants are among the ranks of the unvaccinated, and that’s particularly true around the world where vaccination rates, particularly in the third world, lag much more behind the U.S. In South Africa, only about 25% were vaccinated where this started. The variants are going to continue, but the key to defeating the variants is to get more and more and more of the world vaccinated,” Hanley said.
Watch his full interview in the video below.