February 2022 Q&A

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.

Are vaccines safe and effective?

Yes! The data, and it is extensive, is clear on this point. The vaccines approved for use in the U.S. are overwhelmingly safe and effective for ages five and up. The exception is that they are not as effective in people who are immunocompromised.

I’m immunocompromised, what should I know?

People who are immunocompromised are now eligible for a fourth shot (the CDC describes this as a third primary shot and a booster) and should contact their healthcare team about receiving it. In December 2021, the FDA authorized a drug made by AstraZeneca, called Evusheld, that is designed to be an additional layer of protection on top of vaccination in people who are immunocompromised. To get Evusheld, you will need a note from your doctor stating that you are eligible, and you will need to find the drug itself.

Why doesn’t anyone ask how safe COVID-19 is?

Good question because it really, really isn’t safe. It is extremely contagious, and overall, COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illness in some people [as compared to influenza]. Out of every 100 people in the U.S. who have had COVID-19 (confirmed by PCR testing), 1 person has died from it. Many people who survive continue to struggle with long-term effects that significantly impact their quality of life.

No one asked, but I’m 0 for 2 for my predictions (and I use that term loosely) in the last message.

  1. Omicron BA.2 has been classified as a subvariant (or descendent lineage) of omicron B.1.1.529, so it will not get its own Greek letter.
  2. Vaccines for ages under five seemed imminent, but the FDA has delayed the meeting to discuss Pfizer’s vaccine for six-month-old through four-year-old children for at least two months while additional data is collected and reported. Basically, at the current low dosage, it would appear that children might need three shots of the vaccine to be protected. Given how quickly the data is coming in, the FDA wanted to wait until it could add the data from the third shot into the review.

Takeaway messages:

  1. Statistics show that many of us in Minnesota have not yet received a booster shot. If you haven’t gotten your booster shot, please do so as soon as possible. It significantly reduces your chances of getting, and increases your chances of surviving, COVID-19.
  2. If you’ve been postponing basic medical care, preventative screenings, etc., please make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Many diseases, like cancer, can be much more effectively and successfully treated when diagnosed early.