Talk to your doctor about COVID-19

I am asking you to make your personal physician your first line source for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the available vaccines.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden addressed the nation from the White House briefing room, sharing

where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do.

His remarks outlined a series of executives orders and recommendations which have been met with controversy; I will briefly list them but there was one that I think no one can disagree with. He asked the nation’s family physicians, and I am one, to talk to our patients about the vaccine.

I’m already doing that and I think most primary care doctors are. But I think he should have taken it one step further, and that is to ask Americans to

Talk to your doctor about COVID-19

a female physician talking to a male patient
photo from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection (affiliate link)

Like most of you, I am on social media, not just professionally but personally, and I have been appalled when people I know pass around information that is unverified, unreferenced, contrary to science, inflammatory, conspiratorial, and sometimes just plain nonsense.

I absolutely support anyone’s right to have an opinion and share it, but labeling opinion as truth when it may or may not be true is irresponsible. And I somewhat agree with Mr. Biden when he said ” These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. “

So I am asking you to make your personal physician your first line source for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the available vaccines.

Your doctor may not be an expert on the pandemic; we are all working overtime to keep ourselves informed and still take care of the myriad of other health conditons our patients bring to us. But the advantage is your doctor knows you, and any medical decision ultimately boils down to what you and they decide working together, it’s called “shared decision making.”

What if your doctor recommends against the vaccine? That’s possible because I know there are some medical professionals who have taken the minority opinion on the safety of the vaccine. I do not understand their position; some of the high profile ones are known for consistently taking a stance against mainstream medicine. If that’s the case for you, I encourage you to ask why they lack confidence in the vaccine and what would it take for them to change their minds. Ultimately, the choice one way or the other is yours, so be sure it is a truly informed choice.

Michael Munger, M.D., consults a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan.
Photo compliments of American Academy of Family Physicians

Biden’s plan

You’ve probably read or heard it in the news by now, but here is an outline of his major points.

Large employers, those with 100 or more employees, should require vaccination or weekly testing

Vaccination required for all federal employees and contractors

Vaccine required in all healthcare facilities that are paid by Medicare and Medicaid, and all federally funded educational facilities like HeadStart

Large venues such as sports or concerts to require vaccination or negative test for entrance by patrons

Home tests available at cost at Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger

Federal funding for testing at schools and salary protection for teachers who protect children

Continue mask requirements on interstate travel, and in federal buildings

Calling on the states’ governors to support viral mitagation measures in schools

President Biden Visits NIH Vaccine Research Center
NIH immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett speaks to President Joe Biden about the fundamental research that contributed to the development of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines when the President visited NIH’s Vaccine Research Center on February 11, 2021. Credit: NIH/Chiachi Chang

Here is my previous review of President Biden’s original plan to deal with the pandemic as he took office in January 2021.

2021-National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their science and healthcare teams have developed a plan with 7 goals to end this pandemic and prevent others. You can read the entire 200 page report at the link. Here is a list of the 7 goals with a few of the points of each goal.

1. Restore trust with the American people.
  • establishes a federal COVID-19 response team to coordinate efforts
  • regular public briefings led by science experts
  • track and make data available to the public by the CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates credit James Gathany, public domain
2.Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
  • increase the production of vaccines
  • give states clearer projections on vaccine availability
  • partner with states to create more vaccine centers
  • launch a national campaign to educate and encourage Americans on vaccine
3. Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments,health care workforce, and clear public health standards.
  • asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days (note-this adds to any state or local recommendations or mandates on mask use)
  • require masks on public transportation
  • the CDC develop guidelines to help schools and businesses to reopen
  • create programs to develop new treatments for COVID-19
cloth facial coverings to prevent transmission of COVID-19
Mask use required on airplanes, trains, and other public transportation
4.Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defence Production Act.
  • increase emergency funding to the states for pandemic costs, including for PPE and use of National Guard
  • invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of PPE, and testing and vaccination supplies
5. Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers.
  • develop a national strategy to reopen most schools within 100 days
  • federal agencies to issue updated guidance on protection for workers
  • asks Congress to provide financial aid to schools, universities, and daycares (cost in the billions)
a girl with a large backpack, walking to a school bus
6. Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
  • establishes an equity task force to address disparities based on race, ethnicity, and geography
  • create a U.S. Public Health Workforce to help with testing and vaccinations in their communities
Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved [date graphic was accessed], from https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/social-determinants-health
7. Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.
  • rejoin the World Health Organization
  • increase humanitarian aid and support efforts to fight COVID-19 around the world
  • asks for Congressional support to establish a national center to prepare for future biological threats
2 bandaids crossed on a world globe
photo from the Lightstock collection (affiliate link)

Exploring the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

By following this blog, you’ll know when I post additional pieces reviewing the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other topics that explore the HEART of health.

2 oval plates with words "thank you"

Dr. Aletha

What the CDC recommends for fully vaccinated people-a welcome update

Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by law.

This information is current as of the publication date; it is general medical information that helps doctors and patients make decisions about what is right for them. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things. If you deal with any of these issues , please discuss with your doctor before taking any action.

Now that many of us have been vaccinated against the coronavirus we want to know what we can safely do. We should also be wondering what is the risk of various activities, as nothing will ever be risk free.

In the White House Rose Garden, within a mask, President Biden announced updated guidelines from the CDC, based on ongoing studies of vaccinated persons.

update May 13, 2021

Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance

Fully vaccinated people can refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter

Here is what the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, posted on their web site as of May 13, 2021.

Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19

  • ≥2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or We
  • ≥2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen ).
Dr. Aletha inspecting her arm after a COVID-19 shot
Three days after my first vaccination the soreness in my arm was almost gone, and I had no redness or swelling. After the second shot, minimal soreness. No other side effects to report. I feel fortunate. I am now fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Travel

For now, masks are still required for everyone on public transportation, until those policies are updated.

Healthcare facilities

For now, you will likely be required to wear a mask in hospitals, clinics, medical offices, and other facilities that provide direct healthcare.

Immune compromise

We don’t have enough data on vaccine protection in people who are immunocompromised. People with immunocompromising conditions, including those taking immunosuppressive medications (for instance drugs, such as mycophenolate and rituximab, to suppress rejection of transplanted organs or to treat rheumatologic conditions), should discuss the need for personal protective measures with their healthcare provider after vaccination.

Testing, testing, testing

Testing helps us identify cases, trace contacts, and prevent spread. With fewer cases, public health professionals can find contacts easier and sooner. Stopping spread will make the variant viruses less of a threat.

So please don’t stop seeking testing if you have symptoms; it is still important to know how many cases of COVID-19 there are. If we only know about the severe cases that required hospitalization, it will skew the statistics, and be less representative of the true extent of the pandemic.

Masks and Vaccines -“do unto others”

I’m not here to debate the use of masks. If you are not yet vaccinated, you should continue to do so. Better yet, just get vaccinated; it’s available and easy to get. Just click on this link

VACCINES.GOV

Remember, this is a contagious infectious disease spread by direct person to person contact. It’s not just about you, we’re here for each other.

Information and misinformation

There has been much of both in the past year, some deliberate, some well intentioned, some valuable, some just plain wrong. Whenever possible, get your information directly from the source, not “a friend of a friend’s second cousin”. Here are some tips for finding reliable information

Final comments from the CDC

CDC will continue to evaluate and update public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people as more information, including on new variants, becomes available. Further information on evidence and considerations related to these recommendations is available in the  Science Brief.

CDC website

exploring the HEART of ending the pandemic

And if you found this information interesting and helpful, please share with your friends on social media and elsewhere. They and I will appreciate it.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr. Aletha