Infectious disease expert touts benefits

One of Knoxville’s top infectious disease specialists has simple advice: whatever your COVID-19[feminine] vaccination status, get the updated reminder.

It could protect you against serious diseases and long-standing unknowns COVID-19[feminine].

The first omicron-specific COVID-19 booster shots are now available at Walgreens, CVS and other local pharmacies. It is recommended that you call or check online to confirm callback availability and if an appointment is needed.

The Knox County Health Department expects Moderna and Pfizer boosters to be available as early as next week. Appointments are available by calling 865-215-5555.

Related:CDC recommends reformulated Pfizer and Moderna COVID boosters for all Americans over 12

Previously:BA.5 accounts for nearly 80% of new COVID-19 cases. Here’s what to know about the sub-variant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommend boosters from Pfizer for ages 12 and up and Moderna for ages 18 and up.

These newly approved vaccines are bivalent, meaning they target the omicron variant and the original COVID-19 strain. You must have had the first series of vaccinations to receive the booster.

Vaccines.gov is also an easy source to find vaccines available near you.

Covenant Health infectious disease specialist Dr. John S. Adams spoke to Knox News about the recalls and who should get them. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Dr. John S. Adams

Who should receive the updated COVID reminder?

The current recommendation from the CDC — and which has also been supported by other organizations — is that anyone over the age of 18 really should be up to date. The new (booster) contains the original coronavirus and the omicron-specific strains and, beyond that, omicron types suitable for the omicron subtypes currently circulating.

And certainly, immunocompromised people and (those) who are undergoing cancer chemotherapy, or who are taking very high doses of steroids for various conditions, or the very old, definitely need a boost.

Should older children still get the COVID reminder?

(For 12-17 year olds) it is always recommended to get a booster, updated booster if you received Pfizer as your primary vaccine and you did not receive the new booster then you should get the new one reminder.

Even if you started with Moderna, now you’re going to have Pfizer. If you have Pfizer to begin with, you will always have Pfizer.

Should people who already had a recall also get the updated recall?

As long as you’ve completed your main streak, or if you qualified for a booster at least two months ago, you can check out anytime to get the updated booster. If it’s been less than two months, you should wait until it’s been two months. You are still eligible, just wait.

What is your advice for those who received the initial doses but were not boosted?

It’s never too late. If you never finished your main streak, got the first hit, and didn’t get the second hit, get that second hit. You don’t have to restart the main series. You can finish it at any time.

Ideally, you’d want to wait one to two months after getting the first before getting the second in the series, but if it’s six months, that’s still good. And then you wait two months after that and get your reminder.

But if you’ve never received a reminder, get your reminder.

What is your advice for healthy young adults who think they won’t get very sick from COVID?

I would still advise that they get vaccinated. It is true that even with the most severe earlier versions like the delta, younger, healthy adults tended to fare better with the virus than older adults or compromised individuals. And it’s certainly true that omicron is a milder infection in many ways than delta was. That still doesn’t mean it’s the common cold.

Some studies have been published that indicate that multiple episodes of COVID may confer some risk of adverse health effects down the line. So it’s not something you want to get multiple times. And we still sometimes have younger patients with severe disease if they are not vaccinated.

The strong point (of the vaccine) is the prevention of serious diseases. Even if the vaccine does not completely prevent the disease, you will recover from it more quickly. You will be less seriously ill, almost certainly. There are many advantages to (the vaccine). The advantage is simply indisputable in my mind.

Read it:Man pleads guilty in COVID drug scheme that has ensnared Tennessee pharmacies

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Will the boosters limit the effects of the long COVID?

I think the studies are still going on about what exactly will happen with long COVID because some people have experienced long COVID even after relatively mild primary COVID infections. Most people with the most severe symptoms had a more severe infection, but sometimes someone with a milder infection will have long symptoms qualifying as COVID. So I think that’s still to be seen totally.

But to the extent that you can reduce the severity of illness, the duration of illness, and maybe even reduce the likelihood of getting the disease a bit, you’re going to reduce the amount of long COVIDs. And young people can get that, and I’ve known people who have long COVID symptoms, and it can be very debilitating.

How do you encourage people with breakthrough cases to keep up?

Decisive cases can arise. I always recommend vaccination. And if you had recent COVID, got the main series, and still got COVID, still get the booster.

And you can get it anytime after your recovery. There is some debate that maybe you should wait a month, or two or three, certainly no more than 90 days. But there’s no absolute, firm recommendation if you’ve had natural COVID for the time of recall afterward, as long as you’re recovered. Once you are no longer actively symptomatic, you may receive the booster. The bottom line is that you should always get vaccinated. Everyone agrees on that. So you should get vaccinated.

Can people who recently tested positive for COVID still get the booster?

You can get the callback. You should take the encore. You can receive it immediately after recovering from natural COVID. You can choose to wait a bit longer if you want, but you should still get it.

Is it safe to get the flu shot with the updated COVID reminder?

Get your flu shot! Get your flu shot!

Keeping our community immunized against the flu is a huge economic, personal benefit, in every measure you can think of and it can be administered alongside a COVID booster. It is perfectly safe to get both at the same time. Just, (probably) not in the same place, so two different arms.

There is no data that would indicate that there is a greater risk of having side effects if you get both at the same time, it is perfectly safe.

What is the status of the spread of COVID in Knox County and East Tennessee?

High. The transmission rate for most of the country is still in the red on the The CDC map. There have been a few rate cuts over the past two weeks. Globally, there is a bit of a downturn in COVID. But we are still at the regional, local level, we are still in strong transmission. There are still plenty around.

So, continue to take careful precautions, wear masks in public places. There are simply too many around and masks work too well when worn correctly to provide a barrier against even the virus entering you.

Which variant should we be concerned about?

You’ve heard all these different numbers like BA.4, BA.1 and BA.5; four and five or the two most recent significant variants of omicron.

And number five is running about 80-85% across the country. If you go through it by states, it’s in that general range. That’s roughly what this particular omicron variant now accounts for out of the total number of cases, and that’s just a handful of the others. But BA.5 is unquestionably the dominant one. And omit for sure; that’s more than 98% of the cases in the United States

Any other advice for our readers?

Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. They work best when you take careful precautions, and we really should be looking out for each other and our general public health, as well as our own, to try to get the situation under control and get back to true normalcy.

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