Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This is a bi- weekly Q and A column written by Dr. Lydia S. Segal in conjunction with Chaffee County Public Health. This column is focused on questions readers have about COVID-19 news and sciences.  As Segal points out, ‘Everything I write today is valid for today. COVID-19 news and science are rapidly evolving, assume updates will be made

QUESTION: Given that the Omicron variant is looking like it is milder than previous variants, why get vaccinated?

ANSWER: The vast majority of those ending up in the hospital are NOT vaccinated. Keep in mind that vaccines are made to reduce severe disease, not just to eliminate getting infected.

QUESTION: What is the current vaccine status in the county? 

Lydia S, Segal, MD, MPHANSWER: Currently, according to the CDC vaccine-by-county page within Chaffee County the percentage of those fully vaccinated by age follows:  (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view?list_select_state=Colorado&data-type=Risk&list_select_county=8015)

AGE        Fully Vaccinated

5 – 11        65 percent
12 – 18      67 percent
18 – 64     70 percent
65 +         88 percent

QUESTION: What is the difference between an endemic and pandemic?

ANSWER: The CDC defines endemic as, “the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.” This means there is an ongoing presence of an infectious agent like SarsCoV2 in the community that can cause diseases like COVID. A pandemic defined by the CDC,” refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area that has now spread to multiple countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.”

QUESTION:  Will we transition from a pandemic to an endemic? And if so when?

ANSWER: Health professionals hope that if there is nothing worse than the Omicron variant in the future, the disease will become endemic.  There will not be a specific point in time that this happens. We can still expect surges depending on evolving variants and the level of immunity within a community.

QUESTION: What will life look like going forward as we evolve from a pandemic to an endemic? Will we return to a pre-pandemic normal?

ANSWER: As the COVID pandemic transitions into an endemic we need a sense of how to live our lives. A number of experts are making the analogy of life with COVID as living with the seasonal influenza. Like the flu, we will get vaccinated against COVID and will be more diligent in our social mitigation steps. But we will also need to live with the expectation that a surge could occur. This could force us to be more vigilant in our behaviors for several months or more at a time.

Vaccines and masking will continue to help dampen surges. And surges, independent of the severity of the variant, will impact not only those who get sick, but will also burden and overwhelm the healthcare system too.  Each individual has to weigh their risks and benefits.

QUESTION:  What is the vaccine eligibility for those under 18 years of age?

ANSWER: The CDC now recommends those 5 and older get vaccinated. Children 12 and older should also get a booster. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children and teens.  All vaccines are free. Vaccines are available within the county at multiple locations. For more information see the Chaffee county dashboard: https://www.chaffeecounty.org/Public-Health-Coronavirus#vaccinations

More information regarding children and teens is available at the CDC link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/children-teens.html

QUESTION: What are the long term risks of vaccinating those under 12 years of age?

ANSWER: Because the under 12-year-old vaccines were only released several months ago, there is little long-term data available. However, because the vaccine is the same as that given to 12 to 18-year-olds, but at a  lower, age-appropriate dose, there is no reason to suspect there will be any long-term ill effects. The rare side effects that do occur appear to happen within days to weeks of vaccine administration.  And these are not long-term side effects.

QUESTION: Many parents have expressed concern that the health care system has forgotten about their young children. Will there be a vaccine for children under five? 

ANSWER:   As a matter of fact, as of Feb 1, the FDA is reviewing an application from Pfizer for vaccinations for the under-five age group. Along with the CDC and other health professionals, they think vaccinating children is so important that they have urged the development of a vaccine for this age group. From vaccine developers and governmental scientists who are reviewing the data, everyone is being careful as getting the dosing and spacing interval correct is a challenge with this young age group. It is a balance between the lowest dose that prompts an immune response while at the same time producing the fewest side effects.  It is hoped to be approved in the next several months and there is even talk that it may be approved by the end of February or mid-March. And there may be a booster suggested as well.

QUESTION: Why is it really necessary to vaccinate children under five?

ANSWER: Although there is little risk of disease requiring hospitalization to those under five, vaccines remain the most important way to protect those children, especially with other medical conditions such as diabetes and asthma, for example.  The larger the number of people vaccinated, the less likely serious variants will continue to occur. COVID has been found in children less than five months old.  The possibility of long COVID is too real to ignore.  Vaccination is a way to reduce the spread of COVID to those around the children, be it child care workers or family members.

For more information about COVID and the vaccines, eligibility, and appointments, see the links below. Pharmacies and doctors’ offices are getting small shipments of vaccines. Information will be posted online here and on the county public health and hospital web pages.

http://chaffeecounty.org/Public-Health-Coronavirus

https://www.hrrmc.com/covid-19-updates/covid-19-vaccine/

Pharmacies with vaccine clinics:

Salida:  Safeway, Walmart and Salida Pharmacy

Buena Vista: Mt Shavano (LaGree’s), City Market, BV Drug and Valley-Wide Health

If you have questions you would like Dr. Segal to address in a future COVID Q and A column, please write to arkvalleyvoice@gmail.com

By Lydia S. Segal, M.D., MPH