This is a weekly Q and A column written by Dr. Lydia S. Segal, M.D. in conjunction with Chaffee County Public Health. This column is focused on questions readers have about COVID-19 news and sciences. As Dr. 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: A reader asks, can you help me to get past my hesitancy to socialize, even if I am fully vaccinated?
ANSWER: Recently the reader attended an outdoor neighborhood gathering. He knew most of the people and knew they were fully vaccinated. However, he found himself seated next to a new neighbor. When asked, ‘are you fully vaccinated’, the neighbor said she had her first shot a few weeks ago and was scheduled to get the next. The reader promptly moved a few feet away. As the new neighbor couldn’t remember which shot she had gotten or why she had delayed waiting until July to begin vaccination, the reader wasn’t even sure the new neighbor was telling the truth about being partially vaccinated.
First, let’s consider the fact that the reader is fully vaccinated, and therefore his chances of getting a breakthrough case is low. Based on the initial clinical trials from last summer, current national CDC data, and local county data, his chances of catching Sars CoV2 and developing COVID-19 are less than 5 percent. In addition, chances are likely lower when going to an outdoor gathering. The virus is best spread when indoors and windows are closed and the ventilation is poor. The breakthrough cases when they happen tend to be milder and result in fewer hospitalizations and deaths. Current Chaffee County Public Health dashboard numbers show 24 breakthrough cases since February 2021.
Still, the simplest advice I can give is to socialize outside and stay at a distance from people whose vaccine status is unknown to you and from people you know who are not vaccinated.
The same applies to going to the store or anywhere else where there are people you do not know. If you feel hesitant, mask up and keep your distance. This is especially true if you take medications or have a medical condition that puts you at risk for a decreased immune response.
QUESTION: Boosters: what is the current thinking on booster shots?
ANSWER: The answer about the need for a booster is constantly changing. A month ago I would have said we are likely looking at the need for a booster in six to twelve months. Data recently released is showing sustained antibody levels from people who were vaccinated in the clinical trials last summer. This would mean it might be several years before a booster is necessary for the majority of people.
However, given the recent spread of the Delta variant, the need for a booster may be forthcoming. At this point in time, if you are fully vaccinated with either mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) you have about a 90 percent immunity against the Delta variant as well as the Alpha from the UK and the Beta from South Africa. If you had only one shot of either of these vaccines, then you are less than 30 percent covered. If you got the J & J vaccine your coverage is less than 70 percent.
At this point, we do not know if the Delta variant will further change and find a way to escape the vaccine. In that case a booster that specifically targets a new or modified variant will be in our future.
QUESTION: Miscarriages and infertility: several rumors are going around that the vaccines cause miscarriages and infertility in both men and women.
ANSWER: There is absolutely no clinical data to support miscarriages or infertility in people who have been fully vaccinated. Both the CDC and WHO and a recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, looking at 35,000 women, did NOT find any safety signals in those who were fully vaccinated. This means the vaccines do not cause any increases in miscarriages, or infertility.
QUESTION: A reader asks about comments he read on social media that the vaccine will result in decreased libido.
ANSWER: Immediately following the vaccine, many people experience flu-like symptoms for a few days. During that short period of time, people may feel like using the bedroom just for sleeping. But after that period of time passes, there is no clinical evidence that there is a change in libido for men or women.
For more information about COVID and vaccines, eligibility, and appointments, see the links below. Pharmacies are getting small shipments of vaccines. Information will be posted online here and on the county public health and hospital web pages.
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-19 Q and A column, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lydia S. Segal, M.D., MPH