COVID lung X-rays of San Diego patients show 'remarkable' impact of vaccines

COVID lung X-rays show 'remarkable' impact of vaccines
Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 20:27:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Side-by-side X-rays of COVID-19 positive lungs released to ABC 10News illustrate the impact vaccines can make.

Across the county, local hospitals are seeing a surge in COVID cases, including UC San Diego hospitals. UCSD Radiologist Dr. Albert Hsiao has been interpreting X-rays of COVID patients since the pandemic began.

He sent us ABC 10News two images. In the first image are the lungs of a vaccinated COVID patient. In another image are the lungs of an unvaccinated patient.

“The difference between the two images is really dramatically different,” said Dr. Hsiao.

In the first image, the vaccinated person's lungs reveal a lot of black space, which means it's filled with air. The unvaccinated person's lung is much cloudier, which means the infection has taken over.

“Cloudy, white areas areas that you see, areas of the lung that are with filled with fluid or immune cells, or the virus itself,” said Dr. Hsiao.

In contrast, Dr. Hsiao says the clearer X-ray show the vaccine at work. It recognizes the virus as a foreign invader and then fights it.

“The vaccine prevents the virus from replicating as rapidly, as freely in a vaccinated person as in an unvaccinated person. It allows the immune system to have a head start before virus gets out of control,” said Dr. Hsiao.

Another set of side-by-side images sent to ABC 10News are from the same patients' lungs. An AI algorithm has identified and colored in the areas of infection. In these images, the unvaccinated person’s lungs are filled with color.

That patient remains hospitalized. The vaccinated patient was sent home.

“These X-rays are an illustration how remarkable and effective the vaccines are in protecting us from this virus,” said Dr. Hsiao.

It's not known if either patient's virus has been sequenced, but it's likely both are cases of the Delta variant. Across the country, the variant now makes up more than 90% of new cases.