TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Local health leaders have a crucial plea for the Wabash Valley: get vaccinated!

While COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise nationwide, Union Health and Terre Haute Regional Hospital are echoing that unfortunate trend.

“The COVID cases we are admitting now are presumably the Delta variant, which is very contagious and spreads easily,” John Bolinger, DO, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Union Hospital said. “Currently about 90% of the COVID patients requiring admission at Union Hospital are unvaccinated.”

Bolinger said those being hospitalized are “very ill.”

“A lot of them are requiring intensive care or high flow oxygen,” he said.

On the other hand, those who are vaccinated have milder symptoms, according to Bolinger.

“Those that are vaccinated, that have a breakthrough infection, seem to be having less severe symptoms,” he said. “So mild, in fact, that many patients question whether they have just the common cold or seasonal allergies.”

Terre Haute Regional Hospital has seen a similar increase in COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks, putting a strain on hospital resources. According to Ajay Deshpande, MD, pulmonologist and medical director of respiratory therapy, “the large majority” of those patients are unvaccinated.

“This increase causes intensive care units to reach capacity at certain times,” Deshpande said. “On a regular basis, there is a continual flow of patients admitted and discharged from the ICU. When nearing capacity, we make every effort to expand additional step-down and medical bed areas. Our hospital leaders are continually monitoring the situation closely and continue to plan by assessing resources and support to help meet the needs of our community.”

Bolinger said vaccination is the key to prevention.

“The only thing, at this point, that’s going to reduce the number of COVID infections is having more people vaccinated,” Bolinger said. “Nothing else will work to the same extent.”

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty by Pfizer. Others remain available and approved under emergency use authorization. Anyone age 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

“We strongly encourage people in our area to get the vaccine and follow the CDC’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus,” Deshpande said.

To schedule a vaccine appointment, log onto ourshot.in.gov or call 211.