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Continuing the Conversation: COVID-19 Vaccinations

As the world gets vaccinated against COVID-19, there are still some lingering questions such as, if you’ve had COVID, do you still need a shot? And what was with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension? And if some teens are getting vaccinated, will smaller kids soon follow? On 4/28/21, we continued our conversation around the COVID-19 vaccines with Dr. Joe Gastaldo, system medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth.

Note: The following is a written transcript of our Facebook Live event. If you want to hear Dr. Gastaldo’s answers to the questions, we’ve provided time stamps in our story, to help you get right to the answer in the video above.

As you read on, keep in mind that this information shouldn’t replace the advice of your doctor and was recorded on 4/28/21. If you have additional questions, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 website.

How do you feel your role at OhioHealth has prepared you for this past year and what you’ve experienced? 00:02

It’s really prepared me a lot. So I am a perpetual learner. I’m a big video podcast listener. I’ve been doing that throughout my training. And I think really, this is something I thrive in. I love learning things. I love providing guidance to physicians and I’ve always been that way and that’s been part of my brand. And I think, really, my personality, how I learn, has really prepared me well and to doing what I do now. And I’m very honored and humbled to be engaging you and the public. And I never really would have thought years ago, I would be doing this. But again, I never thought we would have such an extreme pandemic.

What are you most looking forward to as we head into the Summer months? 02:12

Spring and Summer are a new beginning. I feel quite confident in saying, based on the numbers, based on the fact that the seasons are changing, outdoors is safer (we’ll talk about that) and, more importantly, we’re getting vaccines into people’s arms. We will have a very different COVID conversation this summer, as more and more people get vaccinated. I do predict that our numbers are going to go down-they are going down. We will continue to continue on that trajectory. However, you know, COVID in our community and our country is in a good place. Other parts of the world, it’s not. The international world COVID curve is heading, unfortunately, in the wrong direction, based on what’s happening in India and Brazil. Those countries have significant challenges with COVID. And again, with that much infection going on in parts of the world, we still have to worry about continued mutations, evolution of variants, etc. But again, we’ll have to see where that goes and follow the science.

Since we last met, the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was suspended and then reinstated. What can you tell us about that? 03:52

Today in our country, we have given roughly over 230 million doses of three different vaccines. Out of that 230 million doses, only about 8 million doses have been from the J&J vaccine. So, in the background, we have a very robust mechanism in place to monitor for any serious safety signals. And after the J&J vaccine was released, over a short period of time from March 19 through April the 12th, there were six cases reported to the CDC and the FDA of a very rare and serious type of brain blood clot associated with low platelets. Again, six cases from March 29 through April the 12th. Because of the mechanism in place, they gathered all that data, and the FDA and the CDC on April the 13th, one day later, decided to do a pause to take a deep dive to see if any other cases pop up (a few more cases did pop up) and to really investigate that. So they investigated, they have a total of 15 cases, all very similar. The highest risk is in women ages 30 to 39; the oldest was 48 years old. It’s only in women. It has some similarities with the AstraZeneca vaccine. So the J&J vaccine is a special vaccine. It’s a one and done vaccine, you can keep it in the refrigerator. So for some patients, it is a preferred vaccine. You get great protection with a J&J vaccine. So what the FDA and the CDC did was, they put a precautionary statement out there. The roundabout number of the risk of getting this clot is roughly two clots per 1 million doses of the vaccine given so extraordinarily low. You know, you have a higher risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 than a higher risk of getting clots associated with COVID-19. But it is a very serious thing. In addition to that, it gave us the opportunity to put that message out to healthcare providers to be on the lookout for it. And to let them know that if people come in with this type of scenario to treat it differently than we do with regular clots. Now, when this syndrome happens, it typically occurs five to seven days after being vaccinated. People present with vague symptoms, a worsening headache, visual changes, maybe even stroke-like symptoms, and they can get clots in other parts of their body. They can get lung clots, they can have chest pain, leg clots, have leg discomfort. So if anybody has those symptoms, within two to three weeks after getting vaccinated, the guidance is they should seek medical care for evaluation of that. If you have received the J&J vaccine more than four weeks ago, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s very, very unlikely that that is a concern. And if you had the J&J vaccine, you’re good to go. After two weeks, you are fully vaccinated with a J&J vaccine. So again, it is a special vaccine for people who cannot come back for their second dose, those who have a lot of anxiety or fear of needles. It’s a good vaccine, and it’s something that we’re very fortunate to have in our armamentarium.

Viewer question from Instagram: “If I had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, can I get Pfizer or Moderna now?” 07:15

You don’t need it. If you’ve had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after having that vaccine. So some of the things we’re going to talk about moving forward is what does it mean to be fully vaccinated? It’s two weeks after J&J or two weeks after your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna. But, if you’ve had the J&J vaccine, your level of immunity, your level of protection, is wonderful. There’s no recommendation to proceed with the mRNA vaccines.

That leads me to asking about boosters. I believe Pfizer came out recently talking about boosters. 07:51

First of all, the decision of us needing a booster is not going to be dependent upon the CEO of Pfizer or CEO of Moderna or scientists there. That’s going to be a decision that’s made by those experts and scientists in public health. Those are the level the CDC and the FDA. So in our country, we do have variants. The variants that we have in our country, the vaccines that we have all give you great immune protection from all the variants we have. We have the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, which was identified in the United Kingdom. That’s probably the main reason why we had this little bump, this fourth surge, if we want to call it that, but the vaccines that we are using give us great protection against what we have here in our country. Now moving forward, as I said earlier, with so much infection going on elsewhere in the world…that’s a recipe for further mutation and further evolution of more variants. We want the vaccine companies to plan for that and prepare for worst case scenarios. And they are doing that. So both Pfizer and Moderna are tweaking their vaccine to cover for a type of variant that may be concerning for a vaccine not working as well. So we want them to be prepared for that. And that’s happening now. But the ultimate decision of “will we need a booster?” To be determined. “When is that booster going to occur?” To be determined. My clinical hunch is we will likely require one, I’m just not sure when that’s going to happen.

Since we last met, anyone 16 years of age and older can get a vaccine now. That’s big news! How does that feel? 9:41

It feels great! When we talk about herd immunity or community immunity, kids are part of the herd. So again, the more vaccines that we get into people’s arms…that’s a good thing. So, for the record so everybody knows, Pfizer is officially authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC for 16 and older. Moderna and J&J are authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC only for 18 and older. Pfizer already, through a press release, has released the results of their study from 12 to 15 year olds. The study results are amazing. They have not been peer reviewed or been published in a medical journal, but Pfizer is in the process of trying to get that teed up to the FDA for review and recommendation to the CDC. I think the J&J paws probably put that in the back burner a little bit, but I do expect the Pfizer vaccine to be authorized for 12 to 15 year olds hopefully by the time they go back to school this fall, perhaps this summer.

Now moving forward, all three companies, Pfizer, Moderna and J&J, are doing studies also for kids down to six months old. I don’t see that becoming available until, at the earliest, the latter quarter of 2021, early 2022. But we’re going to get there! Again, kids are part of the herd. So we need to take that herd immunity, community immunity conversation to them also.

As vaccine supply starts to outweigh demand, we know there are some fears and misconceptions around getting vaccinated. Do you want to talk about some of those? 11:19

When we started giving the public vaccines, we had many motivated people who wanted to get the vaccines, and that was very limited by the vaccine supply. So what’s happened then, as the supply has gone up, the very motivated people made their appointments. Here at OhioHealth, we had all of our appointments filled for many, many months. And as the supply of vaccines has went up, and up and up, all of the motivated people have been vaccinated. We know that, because we have openings and our schedule for people to come in and get the vaccination. So at OhioHealth this week, for the first time ever, we removed one barrier, and we are now allowing walk-in appointments. So moving forward, we need to remove barriers for people. And some of the barriers that we think about are not the barriers to me or you, but they are to a lot of people. Having to get online to make an appointment, having to make a phone call, transportation, trying to get an appointment that works with your schedule…those are barriers to people and we have to remove those barriers and get creative to bring vaccines to people. The second group that we need to work on too are those who have questions and concerns that are important to them to get answers to so they can make the decision to hopefully get vaccinated. I’m not using this word a lot. Again, the general word that applies to are those who have vaccine hesitancy. You know, those people, people in that group, we have to engage those people in a loving, respectful, non-judgmental manner. We need to talk with them, we need to listen to them. And we really need to hear their concerns and answer them with reliable information. And there’s a lot of unreliable information out there. And if we don’t get ahead of that, and hear these things, people are going to create their own narrative or go online and find information that’s not factually correct. So you and I were talking earlier on, and these things bubble up all the time. So a few days ago, it was announced in Miami, Florida, there was a private school there who had an announcement saying that teachers who are fully vaccinated, we are now allowing those teachers to come into the school, because we have advice from our medical adviser, that people who are fully vaccinated can shed the spike protein. And in shedding the spike protein, the spike protein can cause problems if they come in contact with the spike protein with infertility and the regular menses and stuff like that. And again, that’s science fiction. There is no validity to that. When you get injected with a vaccine, the Pfizer and Moderna and the J&J vaccine, they teach your body to make the spike protein. That process happens in a couple hours. The RNA that you’re injected with gets dissolved; that doesn’t stick around, does not alter your DNA or RNA. Yes, your cells make the spike protein, but it’s only for a few hours and the spike protein that you make is very unstable and it’s degraded, you don’t shed this spike protein. So these things are out there, these stories out there, and people hear the story and they don’t have the time, because they work all day, to really dive into the details of what’s fact versus fiction. And this is what I do for a living. So I’ve been involved studying this, since COVID first hit the scene and more so with vaccines recently. So we really need to talk about these things when they pop up and engage people in a way they can understand and they need to hear this message from somebody they know and they trust.

Viewer question: “Would our scientists recommend drawing routine titers to see if we’re still immune?” 15:31

This viewer is talking about the antibodies. Antibodies, a titer…same thing. So, you know, when we have antibodies out there, these antibodies are not studied to be used as a marker of immunity. So we are very familiar with that for things like measles, and chickenpox and rubella. It’s been well studied, we know with certainty, if you have an antibody or a titer to measles, you have immune protection. We can’t say that with these antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The antibodies that are all out there all perform a little bit differently, and we don’t have the science out there yet that says definitively if you have an antibody, you have protection. We don’t know that that. These antibodies are not meant to be used to mean you have immunity. HIV is another virus. With HIV, you develop antibodies for that, too. But those antibodies don’t do anything. So again, you have to be careful with antibodies.

Viewer question: “People are afraid of getting the vaccine because they hear the CDC call it experimental.” However, the CDC does not call it experimental. Both the CDC and FDA say emergency authorization use, or EUA. Can you break this down? 18:04

I’ve never heard the CDC call it experimental. The experiment is actually not being vaccinated and taking your chances with COVID-19; that’s the experiment. So the vaccine is not FDA approved; it will be FDA approved. When they did the vaccine studies, the studies were done the exact same way we do other vaccine studies. And in fact, they actually had more people in these studies. The reason we got to a vaccine in such a quick way was the red tape was eliminated to make it more efficient. The second thing is, the government went to these companies and said, “you know what? Don’t worry about the financial risk. Here’s all of your money. Go at it.” They took away the financial risk. The way we review the vaccines in our country is the gold standard of the world; nobody else does it. We have three independent review boards that are not influenced by politicians. Two of the boards, One of the boards within the FDA and the other board within the CDC, are completely televise. They are completely transparent. You could see their notes, and I’ve listened into them. When they review the information from the drug companies, it’s not a love fest. They ask a lot of difficult questions. So since we are in an emergency environment, they allowed the vaccines to officially be FDA authorized under emergency use. So once that gets authorized, then it goes to another independent group within the CDC who has to recommend the vaccine. So it could be that there is a vaccine that is FDA authorized, but not CDC recommended. We wouldn’t have a vaccine available if it didn’t go through both of those hoops. And again, when it comes to how we review the vaccine here in our country, we are the world’s gold standard when it comes to reviewing vaccines (done in a very transparent way). In addition, and again, I say this moving forward now, because so far in our country, we have given over 230 million doses of these three wonderful vaccines. And like I said earlier before, we have mechanisms in place to look out for any safety signals, and that process is still continuing to happen. And there have not been any safety signals at all, in the mRNA vaccines, that led to what we had in the pause for the J&J vaccine. So there’s actually more science around the safety of these vaccines, now that we’ve given it to over 230 million people. So again, it’s kind of a moving target, but the vaccines, they’re not experimental. They are FDA authorized and they are CDC recommended.

And plus, another thing too, when you do these studies, you have to have an endpoint. The endpoint for the studies was symptomatic COVID-19 for the mRNA vaccines. And with so much COVID going on, that was an easy thing to do to measure people who had symptomatic COVID-19. That was another thing too, that led into it.

That reminds me of a conversation we had pre-show about the number of people who had “breakthrough COVID”. 21:39

Breakthrough COVID or breakthrough infection is defined as people who are fully vaccinated, who get sick with COVID-19. We want to monitor for that, because it’s going to kind of be a canary in the coal mine for breakthrough variants. And that’s not been the case. So I have to get my slides out because I want to give the actual numbers so let me find my breakthrough section.

Why do they call it “breakthrough”? 22:18

These are people who have infection after being fully vaccinated. This is reportable to the federal government, reportable to the CDC. So this is information shared by the CDC on April the 20th. So from December 14 of 2020, through April 20 of 2021, in the United States there’s 87 million people who are fully vaccinated. A huge denominator. 87 million people who are fully vaccinated. Out of those 87 million people who are fully vaccinated, there have been 5079 cases of symptomatic breakthrough infection. That is 0.05%. Out of that group, there was only 0.0003% hospitalizations, and out of that group, only 0.00009% deaths. The vaccines work. One of the other things we learn to do vaccines work in 100% of people who get them? The answer to that is no and Pfizer and Moderna, their endpoint was symptomatic COVID-19. 95% of the people who got the vaccine did not get symptomatic COVID-19. So what that means, though, in the study, one out of 20 people who got the vaccine still had symptomatic COVID-19. So again, no vaccine is 100%. From this reporting mechanism, there are some things that we’ve learned. Number one, we know that those that are very old, don’t respond well to this vaccine. That’s not new, that’s true with any vaccines. One of the patients I saw at Riverside was an elderly woman who was 92, who had the vaccine in February, who came in the hospital in March from being sick with COVID-19. She left the hospital alive, she was hospitalized, but she didn’t die. My hunch is, if she wouldn’t have got the vaccine, she probably would have died. The other group of people who don’t respond to the vaccine are those with very weakened immune systems, like transplant patients, like those with advanced HIV or AIDS, those on certain medications that specifically weaken your immune system like Rituxan. We know that and so that’s not new. We know that with other vaccines, too. So when you look at the people who have gotten sick after being vaccinated, a lot of those people fall in that group.

Viewer question: “Why should I get vaccinated if I’m around people who already got vaccinated?” 24:54

A common question I get, and I don’t know if this viewer is younger or not, but a common question I get is, “hey, Dr. Gastaldo, I’m in my 20s and 30s. I’m young, if I get COVID, chances are I’m going to do fine. So why should I get vaccinated?” So a couple things. Number one, that is true. If you’re younger and healthy, and you get COVID, chances are you going to do fine; you’re not going to die. Low risk is not zero risk, just like flu, COVID-19…we’ve had many people hospitalized and we’ve had deaths from people who are young and healthy, who have gotten COVID-19. So low risk is not zero risk. Number two has to do with long COVID. Long COVID refers to a syndrome that we’re starting to learn about, for people who have had COVID. They’re not infectious anymore, but they have lingering symptoms for many, many months. Weakness, mental fogginess, chest pain, breathing problems…long COVID occurs in people who are hospitalized, it also occurs and younger and healthier people. Another reason: if you are younger and healthy, and you have COVID, you could spread it to people who have not been vaccinated and at risk. And you could spread it to those people who have been vaccinated, like I just described, who don’t work well with vaccines. And the fourth reason too, another reason to get vaccinated is it’s really a sign of love and respect for your community. Guess what, I want everybody on this call who’s listening to have joys and pleasures be brought back to their life. As a person of privilege, all of the joys and pleasures of my life have either been taken away or altered because of COVID-19. And I’m sure everybody on this call can relate to that. And part of us getting back to a sense of normalcy is for us to get vaccinated so we get immunity. In Riverside, the only people we’re seeing in the hospital are those who have not been vaccinated. The virus is looking to cause infection in people. It’s looking for people who don’t have immunity, it’s looking for people who have not been vaccinated. So again, we want to get shots in the people’s arms so we can get that immunity in there. I don’t know if that was a reason specifically for that question, but I think we hit on a lot of topics there.

Viewer question: “if I had the J&J vaccine, and in the future a booster is needed, will I be able to choose a different vaccine?” 27:32

Probably yes. Again, when it comes to boosters with other vaccines, that’s the case. I think, moving forward, when we decide when we get to the point where we talk about that. I’m certain that they’re not going to say you can get one shot or another, you could probably let you pick and choose. I don’t I don’t see that being an issue.

Viewer question: “Have there been any significant findings of babies born to mothers that have been vaccinated? Is there a point in the pregnancy when it’s better to wait to be vaccinated until after delivery? Or during breastfeeding to give the antibodies?” 27:57

Look this up on Google: New England Journal of Medicine, April 21 2021, they released information on there from over 35,000 women who were pregnant and were vaccinated. And there were no safety signals in there. You know, choosing to be vaccinated, when you are pregnant, you had to really have that conversation with your doctor. And to really get in the mindset of risk versus benefit. Being pregnant and getting COVID is a riskier proposition for the mother and for her baby. And when you choose to be vaccinated as a pregnant woman, we have data that shows that a safe, we’ve been doing this now for many, many months, no safety signals at all. And when a woman gets vaccinated when she’s pregnant, we call that a twofer. We call it a twofer, because the woman is getting vaccinated, but she’s also giving some immunity to her baby. We also know now too, that a vaccinated woman who is breastfeeding does put protective antibodies into the breast milk. So again, you really have to have that understanding of the risk versus benefit and have that conversation but if you are pregnant, you should not be excluded from not receiving a vaccine.

We’re seeing a lot of people not follow through with their second dose. And there’s a lot of different you know, I’ve heard a lot of different reasonings around that. What would you like them to know? 29:35

The thing that was out in the news recently that was 8% of people are not coming back for their second dose. I don’t know how reliable that number is. You know, if you go from state to state or go to different areas, like if you get your first shot at OhioHealth, and then you go down to Scioto County to get your second shot, there’s a lag in that. So, you know, to put a positive spin on it, it really means that 92% of people are coming back for their second dose, which is good. So again, when we talk about these vaccines being 94-95% efficacy and we talked about, “oh, your antibodies are this level at six months out, or seven months out” or whatever they’re talking about, that’s really based on two doses for the mRNA vaccines. If you only get one dose of an mRNA vaccine, you’re really cheating yourself for the best immune protection shield that you can get. Yes, when you get one shot, you do get an immune response, you do get a layer of protection. With the second shot, your layer of protection, your shield is much, much stronger, and it’s longer lasting. You’re getting a more robust stimulation of memory cells of your immune system with the second shot compared to the first shot. I think a reason for that might be barriers, a lot of people have concerns about the second dose as far as the immune response goes, or the reactogenicity or side effects. Again, it may be where people a barrier for some people is they can’t get the day off with their second dose. And again, for anybody who’s a boss or a business leader, we need to talk about that and offer ways for people to work around that to remove those barriers.

How about people who say they’ve had COVID, so they don’t really need to get vaccinated? 31:36

They need to get vaccinated. Again, it is true when people who get COVID…people who get COVID have a layer of protection for a period of time. Is it six months? Is it eight months? Or is it 10 months? We don’t know. There are studies all over the place that say that when you get COVID, you do have a layer of protection for a period of time. But we will know more scientifically what that protection looks like and the duration of it with the studied information from being vaccinated.

Viewer question: “Are monoclonal antibodies still being given to eligible patients?” 32:14

Yes, they are. Monoclonal antibodies are what we give to people who have symptoms of COVID-19, a diagnosis of COVID-19, and they have an at-risk condition. Monoclonal antibodies given early enough in the disease process to an at-risk person keeps them out of the hospital, they do work, we still have that program up and running at OhioHealth, and there’s always going to be a role for that for people to receive those because vaccines don’t work in all people like we’ve talked about.

We just got some updated guidelines from the CDC yesterday on masking. Can you explain these to us? 32:49

As more and more people get vaccinated, the positivity numbers will go down. And what we are seeing now is a gradual, gradual de-escalation of public health recommendations by the CDC. The first one was, if you are fully vaccinated, and you have a high risk exposure, as long as you remain asymptomatic, you don’t need to quarantine again, how wonderful was that? That was the first one that came out. The other ones that have come out have to do with travel. And again, there’s a lot of COVID-19 activity going on, but people who are fully vaccinated, can safely travel. Just to piggyback on that, too, as everybody knows, I didn’t see what Columbus is, or Franklin County’s color code was. But a couple weeks ago, there was this big announcement about Franklin County being purple again. And you know, that purpleness really, that danger zone, really applies to people who are not vaccinated. At that press conference they had downtown with Mysheika Roberts, Dr. Amy M. from OhioHealth was there, Dr. Andy Thomas from Ohio State was there. They had this big press conference about Columbus being purple again. And they did a question from somebody in media. And the question was, “hey, what does that mean? Do we stay home? This that the other?” And Dr. Roberts, her answer was, “you know what? If you are fully vaccinated in Franklin County, you can go out and do your business. Wear your mask, follow the policies, but being fully vaccinated gives you a great layer of protection. So back to the CDC de-escalation. Other thing that’s out there too, as in a private setting in your own home, two different households who are fully vaccinated can be safely together inside. How wonderful is that? Other thing that they had recommendation wise that if you are fully vaccinated in one household, that household can be indoors safely with another household that’s not fully vaccinated, as long as that household does not have an at-risk person in that household. And again, it’s only one household. So really the application for me and my family was my parents being able to see their grandchildren or great grandchildren who they’ve not seen in a long time from one household and not being fully vaccinated. So we’re seeing that now. So what the CDC had recently is the de-escalation of mask, masking, being outdoors. Just to retrospectively make a statement: outdoors is very, very safe. The science is out there, we know that it’s safe. It’s all about the ventilation of the air. The one caveat to that though, is when people are outdoors all on top of each other, like at a concert where people are yelling and screaming and singing and this, that, the other, if you’re outdoors on top of each other, that is a riskier proposition. But otherwise, if you’re outdoors, distancing, it is a safe proposition. So we have the diagram that you prepared up there. Let’s kind of dissect that a little bit. So on the left hand side, you have unvaccinated people. And you’ll notice you’ll see things that are green, yellow and red. And on the right hand side, you see fully vaccinated people and everything is green. So this is good, this is happening. We are going to see more de-escalation for people who are fully vaccinated. That’s happening and I anticipate it will continue to happen. So being outside for both unvaccinated people and fully vaccinated people, they can be outside, walk around, do whatever they want with members of your own household. For people who are outdoors who are fully vaccinated, they can attend a small outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends, and they can also be with unvaccinated people outdoors. Moving forward for people who are not fully vaccinated, if they are attending a small party or outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, unvaccinated people need to wear a mask. For those who are outdoors fully vaccinated, they can be unmasked dining outdoors at a restaurant with friends from multiple households, as long as those people are fully vaccinated. That’s a riskier proposition for people who are unvaccinated. And the last thing on there, what’s red is attending a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade or sports event. If you’re fully vaccine, still needing to wear a mask. And that is a riskier proposition for someone who is not fully vaccinated. When you are fully vaccinated, you have a great layer of protection. But if you’re in a crowd, you still have to wear masks because you don’t know who in that crowd who’s vaccinated who’s not vaccinated.

So you have different levels? 37:55

Different levels. And it’s a gradient. It’s a gradient. It’s impossible for the CDC to create gradients for each individual scenario.

What can you tell us about Long COVID? OhioHealth has some resources we’d like to share. 38:07

Long COVID is a syndrome that we’re just starting to scratch the surface on. So long COVID basically refers to a condition where somebody has COVID they’re not contagious anymore, but they have lingering symptoms. Some of those symptoms may be mental fogginess, headaches, fatigue, loss of stamina, chronic cough, chest discomfort, weakness, those things can go on for months. It’s seen more in younger women. Is it related to it residual inflammation? Is it related to younger women perhaps making some type of antibody response? We don’t know. It’s an area where a lot of research is needed. The NIH is looking into it and doing studies on it. But again, that’s another reason to get vaccinated. For reasons that I can’t explain, medically, it is being reported that people who have long COVID symptoms are anecdotally reporting either improvement or complete resolution of their long COVID symptoms after being vaccinated. And again, we need to learn more about it. We need to support patients who have long COVID. Long COVID is real and we need to support people about it. It’s an area that we’re just trying to wrap our arms around.

I’d like to add that we do have a virtual education and support group for long COVID patients here at OhioHealth. They have it broken up by topics of the different things that could affect somebody with long COVID. If you want more information about that, please email DempseyCenter@OhioHealth.com or call (614) 788.6115. 39:44

I encourage people who have long COVID to really participate in that because it’s reaffirming to talk to other people, share stories, share experiences, because it is an area that we don’t know a lot about. We want to be very humbled by the whole experience and be transparent with patients and support them the best we can and it’s the first step is learning.

Do you have any final thoughts to close this out tonight? 40:42

As far as COVID goes, I actually feel good, Missy. You know, like I said before, our country, we are very blessed to have wonderful vaccines. And I thought that the way the vaccine rollout has been has been great. We’re getting more vaccines, more people getting vaccinated, our numbers are going down. We are getting into the summer season where people are outdoors more, it’s safer to be outdoors. And I really do think we’re going to get back to a new sense of normalcy this summer. We’re on that pathway now. But it’s all about people getting immunity. And the best way-the safest, best way to get immunity is to roll up your sleeve and get a vaccine. And again, we need to remove barriers. We need to take this vaccine safety and efficacy message to all communities and to all zip codes. And we need to respectfully engage people who have concerns and need to get information acquired for their questions. So they can hopefully choose to get vaccinated, but I really am optimistic on where we’re going as a country.

This article is based off of a live interview conducted on Facebook on April 28, 2021. Due to the changing nature of COVID-19, some information might be dated. Always check with the CDC for the latest changing information concerning COVID-19.


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