You ask, we answer. Here are a few more questions received as feedback on the previous messages, answered by UMTC Campus Public Health Officer Dr, Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD.
How do I know if I’m fully vaccinated?
COVID-19 continues to be a moving target, with Omicron BA.2 now the dominant variant in the U.S. The CDC has switched from talking about being “fully vaccinated” to staying “up to date on vaccinations.” As we learn more about both the virus and the vaccines, the CDC booster recommendations are kept updated here. A meeting to review booster recommendations happens April 6, so expect changes. As of today:
- If you are immunocompromised, it is recommended that you schedule a second booster at least four months following the previous booster.
- If you are over age 50 and received either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, you are eligible for a second booster at least four months after the first booster.
- If you received the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, it is recommended that you have your first booster at least two months after the J&J dose. The booster should be either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. If the booster was J&J, you are eligible for a second booster at least four months after the first booster. It should be either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
- Boosters are not currently recommended for children ages 5-11.
What is “layered protection” and how do I know how much protection I need?
Based on considerations like our personal immunity and health, or having unvaccinated children, elderly loved ones, or family members with impaired immunity, each of us evaluates the level of risk we can tolerate.
Then we consider the variables over which we have little control, for example, the infectiousness of the variant (“COVID variants: What you should know”) and the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community (national data, Minnesota data).
Based on these factors, you can add layers of protection as needed: washing your hands, staying up to date on vaccinations, wearing an N95 mask indoors, maintaining safe spacing, and so on.
Why are we hearing so much about wastewater?
You can thank some of our outstanding Duluth and Twin Cities researchers for this one. When people with COVID-19 use the toilet (including asymptomatic and undiagnosed individuals), some of the virus is shed with the waste products. This allows the CDC to test wastewater (read sewage) to measure the amount of virus present in the community. This data gives an early warning that allows public health experts to take action to limit the spread of the virus.
Where are we in the progress for a vaccine for children under five?
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are now testing vaccine candidates. Results of testing are expected no sooner than the end of April. The general expectation (read guess) is that, with favorable data, a vaccine for this age group could be available in early summer.
Parting thought: We are interconnected on this planet, especially during a pandemic. To see how others around the world are being impacted by COVID-19, refer to this World Health Organization website.