There are so many mysteries connected with the novel coronavirus. Why are children not as susceptible as adults? Why do some people become desperately ill while others have only mild symptoms? Why do some experience the so-called “long-haul” aftereffects for months, while others recover quickly?
All people in the U.S. over the age of 16 are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. And now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter thought this would be a good time to bring you up to date on what we know about kids and the COVID-19 vaccines.
May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month because this month is the peak season for allergy and asthma sufferers. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two. And these days we have to add COVID-19 to the mix. The symptoms for asthma, allergies and COVID-19 can be quite similar. So how can you tell the difference?
In addition, it’s important to know the difference, because asthma and allergies aren’t contagious. The coronavirus is. If you’re coughing and sneezing when you’re out in public (even with a mask), people are going to look askance at you, and maybe even move away.
So our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter want to help you sort out the confusion that might arise if you begin experiencing any of these symptoms.
You don’t believe any of the misinformation you’ve been seeing online about the coronavirus vaccines. You really want protection from its deadly effects. But, as more vaccines become available, you’re dragging your feet in making an appointment due to a needle phobia.
Only about 10 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. But vaccine supplies and distribution have been ramping up. The government expects to have vaccine available for everyone who wants it by the end of May. So our concierge doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter want to share the guidelines recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spelling out what you can do after your COVID-19 vaccination.
With all the millions of words that have been written about the novel coronavirus over the past year, relatively few have covered the topic of COVID-19 and kids. That’s because, once it was discovered that most of the serious illnesses and deaths were concentrated in those who are older, kids seemed to have been forgotten, except for the impact on their schooling.
But our concierge doctors in Jupiter, Florida, have been seeing more studies and reports that have begun to focus on children. We want to pass along the newest information in this area.
Our concierge doctors are receiving many questions from our patients about the numerous COVID-19 variants. They want to know what they mean for the vaccine and how worried we should be about them. The U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7, is spreading more rapidly in Florida at the moment than in any other state. We felt this would be a good time to summarize what we know about all of these questions.
We’ve been living with the coronavirus pandemic for a year now. Our concierge doctors are seeing more and more claims regarding special types of face masks that will supposedly offer more protection from the virus.
We’re also getting more questions from our patients on this subject. Especially now that at least three variants (mutations) of the coronavirus have been identified as circulating in this country.
So we thought we’d tell you what we know to date on how to find the best face mask.
Manufacturers have been producing so-called “anti-microbial” facemasks for months now. They claim to offer greater protection against the coronavirus. In Europe, brands such as Under Armour, Burberry, and Diesel have been marketing masks said to reduce viral activity that comes in contact with their masks.
Experts are dubious about these assertions. In the U.S., firms are prohibited from making claims like this without providing evidence. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so-far approved anti-microbial masks to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Amy Price, a senior research scientists at Stanford Anesthesia Infomatics and Media (AIM) lab, advised the World Health Organization (WHO) on its face mask guidelines.
“The challenge is that sometimes claims are made, but they aren’t tested on the actual masks with the actual virus,” she told CNN on a video conference call. “So they’re like gimmicks.”
Dr. Charlaynn Harris, Ph.D., MPH, senior epidemiologist at Unity Band, makers of a wearable COVID-19 tracker, told POPSUGAR she wouldn’t recommend any mask not fully vetted by the FDA.
“I do feel as though these products could lead to false security for the wearer,” she added. “Claims of being antimicrobial lead the wearer to believe they have an added barrier against this highly infectious pathogen.”
What about copper-infused masks, which are also selling briskly?
It turns out that it is true that copper kills viruses and other pathogens. When both bacteria and viruses come into contact with copper, they are killed “very quickly and without mercy,” Dr. Michael Schmidt told The Washington Post recently. Schmidt, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, studies the use of copper in health-care settings.
Comparing the reaction to “an exploding grenade,” he said viruses are no match for copper.
“The oxygen shrapnel first destroys the envelope,” of the viruses, he told The Post. “Then, additional oxygen radicals come in to destroy the viral RNA, and if the instruction set is not intact, you have no virus.”
There is a catch with copper-infused masks, however. The particles of the virus must actually come in contact with the copper strands within the mask. If it doesn’t touch the copper, it remains intact, and active. So copper-infused masks are still no guarantee of safety.
One side note on copper supplements, which are also being touted to protect from the coronavirus: Don’t take them. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ingesting high amounts of copper can lead to liver damage. And such unfortunate gastrointestinal side effects as abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Remember that the coronavirus is transmitted primarily through the air, by both infected droplets and aerosols. This is why it so easily and stealthily passes from person to person.
And we now have three confirmed variant strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. All of which are far more transmissible than the strain we’ve been fighting for the last year.
Therefore, some experts have begun recommending that everyone wear not just one but two masks.
“The reason for that is you do wind up getting more filtration of viral particles,” Dr. Dave Hnida told CBS Denver. “It becomes more of an obstacle course for the viral particle to make its way from the air into your nose and throat and then into your lungs.”
We still have a shortage of medical-grade N95 masks, which filter out 95 percent of pathogens. So wearing two masks at the same time can offer better protection. In fact, wearing two can offer nearly the same protection as the vaccines, according to Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of public Heath.
“A surgical mask with a cloth mask on top of it can get you over 91 percent removal efficiency for particles,” he told CNN.
Fit is key
Whichever type of mask you choose, if it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t work to protect you or others.
The CDC offers the following guidelines to find the best face mask for you:
- Choose masks that have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric.
- Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face and doesn’t have gaps.
- Do not choose masks that have exhalation valves or vents. These allow virus particles to escape.
- Completely cover your nose and mouth. Note: If you have a beard, the mask cannot completely cover your nose and mouth. You might want to consider shaving it off until masks are no longer necessary.
- If you wear a gaiter, use one with two layers, or fold it to make two layers.
- If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose. Or find one with a nose wire to limit fogging.
- Face shields are not recommended.
- Scarves, ski masks, and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks. Wear a mask under each of these items.
Remember, the only mask that works—not only to protect yourself but also to help stop the spread of the virus—is the one that is worn consistently.
Our concierge doctors are receiving questions as the two approved coronavirus vaccines become more widely available. So we decided to answer many of those questions on the effects of the vaccine here.
The vaccine rollout has gone more slowly than anticipated. First, there aren’t as many doses available of either vaccine as had been promised originally. There are approximately 200 million Americans in need of the vaccine, which means 400 million total doses for two shots. But there are currently only about 100 million doses available, and approximately three percent of the population has been vaccinated.
Second, there has been confusion and controversy regarding who should be first in line to receive a shot, who should be next, and so on.
Finally, until the end of December, the federal government did not allocate enough money for states to pay for training additional vaccinators, adequately storing and distributing the vaccine, etc. The economic stimulus package passed in December allocated $8 billion for states. But health officials say it will take time to receive the money and implement necessary protocols.
In the coming weeks, however, these problems should begin to be resolved. Experts expect the vaccines to be more available to those who need it: front-line health care and essential workers, seniors in long-term care facilities, and those at high risk of contracting COVID-19. It will likely take longer than that for the general public to begin receiving vaccines.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses for maximum effectiveness. Both vaccines show in early trials to deliver immunity rates around 95 percent. The flu shot generally has an effectiveness rate of between 30-50 percent.
While it is still too early to be certain, it appears the vaccines could take as long as 28 days to create the promised level of immunity. Although, one recent study found immunity can begin within 12 days. (The flu shot takes between 10-14 days for full effectiveness.)
There has also been controversy regarding whether to make sure everyone receives both doses. Some argue one will be enough for now, given the nationwide shortage. Experts still haven’t settled the question. But more are now leaning toward the concept of giving as many people as possible at least some protection– meaning, just a single dose initially until the supply shortage eases. Early research seems to show a single dose may confer between 80-90 percent protection, thereby strengthening that argument.
Health officials say at least 70 percent of the population must be inoculated in order to receive so-called “herd immunity.”
By the way, there is zero chance of contracting the virus from the shot. Unlike traditional vaccines that introduce a weakened or dead virus into the body, both COVID-19 vaccines use messengerRNA (mRNA) to trigger immunity.
And no, the mRNA won’t change your DNA. It never enters the nucleus of the cells where the DNA resides.
When we talk about side effects, we mean both the allergic reactions noted in relatively few individuals and the expected aftereffects of a standard vaccination.
According to the CDC, nearly two million people received one of the coronavirus vaccines in the first week it was available. It said at least 29 of the had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This condition can be life threatening, and must be treated immediately with an emergency injection of epinephrine.
“This is still a rare outcome,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a media briefing. “Right now, the known and potential benefits of the current COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks of getting COVID-19.”
If you have a history of severe allergic reactions that require you to carry an Epi pen, check with us before being vaccinated.
Many of those who have already received the vaccine reported no side effects. Research from the vaccines trials reported most people can expect to experience at least one side effect from the shot. And that’s normal, as the body swings into action to mobilize its immune defenses against the coronavirus. It can also happen with the flu vaccine.
Reported side effects include
- muscle soreness and aches
- joint pain
- pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
These generally go away in a day or two. We believe such short-term discomfort is a small price to pay to keep from getting COVID-19. Just ask the “long haulers,” whose lives have been disrupted for months with lingering, debilitating effects from the virus.
If you have any questions about the effects of the vaccine, please let us know.