Updates on COVID Vaccines, Masks, Tests, Treatments
CASES, TESTS, MASKS, VACCINES & BOOSTERS:
The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ended May 11, but people are still getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying. COVID remains among the leading causes of death in the United States, taking the lives of a thousand people every week. It is important to get an updated COVID vaccine/booster NOW.
COVID vaccines and treatment remain free in the United States, but once the federal government’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines runs dry, vaccine manufacturers will start charging. Vaccine stock is anticipated to last through the summer. Then, Pfizer and Moderna will charge for vaccines. Pfizer expects to charge $110 to $130 a dose.
People age 65 and up can now get a second bivalent dose at least 4 months after their initial bivalent dose. FDA said a second bivalent dose for this group is supported by data showing that immunity wanes in this population over time, but that an additional dose restores it.
Those who are immunocompromised can get an additional dose at least 2 months after their initial bivalent shot, FDA said. They can have additional doses at the discretion of their healthcare provider.
Lycoming, Clinton, and Union counties are all at low COVID-19 community level, as are the vast majority of counties in our commonwealth. That said, our area’s vaccination and booster levels continue to trail those of Pennsylvania and the U.S. as a whole. One in 192 people in Lycoming County have died from COVID since the beginning of the pandemic.
To protect yourself and those you love:
• Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
Vaccines and Boosters are still FREE.
• Wear a high-quality mask or respirator indoors in public and on public transportation.
• Test if you have symptoms.
• If you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed.
Pennsylvania now only reports its case numbers weekly, on Thursdays. So, don’t be fooled when you see that a county in Pennsylvania has zero new cases on other days of the week. To view any county’s COVID-19 transmission status and vaccination numbers, use the COVID Data Tracker.
Updated COVID booster shots for children as young as 6 months are now available. Updated COVID-19 boosters (bivalent boosters) add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to the current vaccine composition, helping to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination by targeting variants that are more transmissible and immune-evading.
The new bivalent boosters are available now at River Valley Health & Dental (no appointment necessary) and many local pharmacies (check www.vaccines.gov/search/ for all local facilities offering new boosters). Scientists say the new boosters could avert between 102,000 and 160,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States and more than one million hospitalizations.
Free at-home-test kits are available from the State Health Center, in Water Tower Square at 1000 Commerce Park Dr., #109, Williamsport, PA 17701. Medicare and private health insurance will reimburse the cost of at-home tests at pharmacies and healthcare providers.
VACCINES FOR CHILDREN:
The FDA and the CDC authorized Moderna’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 reduced-dose vaccines and boosters for the youngest children, six months through 5 years. The FDA advisory panel of independent scientists voted 21 to 0 on June 16 to authorize the vaccine and the CDC voted to authorize June 17. Parents can call their pediatricians, or go to Vaccines.gov to find locations offering the children’s COVID vaccine.
FAQ on vaccines for young children.
Local cases include children and adolescents. None of the three hospitals in Lycoming County, has a pediatric ICU (so no pediatric mechanical ventilation will be possible locally), and only UPMC/Williamsport has a small inpatient pediatrics unit where children and adolescents can be treated. Youngsters requiring critical care will need to be transferred elsewhere.
VACCINES AND PREGNANCY:
Infants whose mothers received two doses of an mRNA coronavirus vaccine during pregnancy are less likely to be admitted to the hospital for Covid-19 in the first six months of life, According to a new study from the CDC.
The CDC issued an advisory urging pregnant individuals, those planning pregnancies, or are.currently breastfeeding to get vaccinated as soon as possible, The CDC went on to warn that there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including severe illness and death for infected pregnant and recently pregnant people, plus heightened risk of preterm and stillbirths for the infants.The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19.
CDC community guidelines for pandemic protection in the United States are:
• People exposed to the virus no longer need to quarantine at home, whether they are vaccinated or not.
• People exposed to the virus should wear a mask (N95 is best) for 10 days and get tested for the virus on day 5 (or as soon as possible if symptoms appear), test again after an additional 2 days and test a third time after another 2 days, even if initial tests were negative.
• Individuals who test positive should mask immediately and isolate at home for at least five days. They should follow the existing recommendations for coming out of isolation, which in all cases require masking around other people until day 10, avoiding travel, and refraining from contact with people who are immune-compromised.
Symptoms for the vaccinated are generally mild. Initial symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of a bad cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, headache and a sore throat. If you are experiencing cold-like symptoms, get tested.
High-quality masks, called N95 or KF94, that are fitted to cover nose, mouth, and chin completely without any gaps, will filter out 94 or 95% of aerosols containing the COVID virus.
VACCINES AND BOOSTER FACTS:
The FDA granted full regulatory approval for the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines. The best protection against COVID-19 is to be vaccinated and boosted and to wear a properly fitted, high quality mask when in public indoor spaces. When someone is fully vaccinated, that person is 5 times less likely to become COVID-positive, 12 times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, and 11 times less likely to die.
Mobile vaccination clinics at your organization, workplace, or faith community site can be set up with River Valley Health & Dental.
Walk-in Vaccinations are available at River Valley Health and Dental Center and Rite Aid, Wegmans, and CVS pharmacies. Discount coupons given at Rite Aid & CVS.
Transportation: Free, Pre-scheduled Transportation to COVID vaccine appointments is available from River Valley Transit, Lyft. and Uber. STEP and Rabbit Transit are providing free transportation to COVID vaccination appointments for people ages 60+ and for everyone on Medical Assistance.
Let’s end COVID! is a group of concerned people in Northcentral PA working to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic through education, outreach and mitigation.
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