Updates on COVID Vaccines, Masks, Tests, Treatments
CASES, TESTS, MASKS, AND VACCINES:
Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are trending upward again.
The F.D.A (Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approved a new round of COVID vaccines that will arrive alongside the seasonal flu vaccine and shots to protect infants and older adults from R.S.V., a potentially lethal respiratory virus. These vaccines have been updated to include a monovalent (single) component that corresponds to the Omicron variant XBB.1.5.
The 2023-2024 updated monovalent vaccine is one single shot, even for people aged 5 and up who have never been vaccinated. Children ages 6 months through age 4 still require a series of COVID-19 injections. Aside from people over 75 years old, babies and preschoolers comprise the most vulnerable age group for severe illness when they get COVID-19.
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines should be available locally Sept. 15 for everyone over 6 months of age. People should wait 2 months after their most recent COVID-19 immunization and 3 months, ideally, after most recent COVID-19 illness, but the CDC’s advisory group also said that people could get vaccinated as soon as they feel well again from a COVID-19 diagnosis. COVID and flu vaccines can be given at the same time. It is recommended that people wait 2 weeks after a COVID vaccine to get the R.S.V. vacine.
American can again receive free COVID tests through the mail. The website for the program, covidtests.gov, will begin accepting orders on Monday, Sept. 25, and households will receive four tests.
The website www.vaccines.gov will list locations where all Americans, insured and uninsured, can get the 2023-2024 monovalent COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to them, as well as flu shots, once it’s up and running with the new content.
While the shots are no longer paid for by the government, private insurance will cover them in-network and if your insurance is not required to do that (some policies not part of Obamacare, for instance), the federal Bridge to Access Program at pharmacies, State Health Centers, and FQRCs will kick in so that uninsured and underinsured do not need to pay out of pocket.
To protect yourself and those you love:
• Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
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.
The the new vaccines will be available at River Valley Health & Dental (no appointment necessary) and many local pharmacies (check www.vaccines.gov/search/ for all local facilities offering new boosters).
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 COVID 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: STEP is providing free transportation to COVID vaccination appointments for people ages 60+ and for everyone on Medical Assistance.