THE VACCINES

 FAST FACTS

  • Herd immunity to COVID will require 80% of the population to get vaccinated, according to Dr. Fauci.  Others add that past infections will also contribute achieving herd immunity.
  • Black and Latino populations are less likely to trust or get the vaccine, even as their communities are being hit the hardest. (There is a long history of mistrust of the medical communities by minority groups, and for good reason.)
  • Much of the mistrust of the vaccine is based on a few factors: the speed of development, fear of political/partisan pressure, and pre-existing vaccine hesitancy, all of which is muddled together and amplified across facebook and other social media to create confusion and mistrust. 

A quick note on new vaccine technology: mRNA vaccines have been in development since 1989. Initially we weren’t very good at making them, but science kept advancing. Moderna (notice it ends in “RNA”) was founded in 2010 to apply this science, and others like Pfizer did as well. Pfizer and Moderna were able to make a COVID vaccine almost immediately because all they had to do was put the mRNA sequence of the virus spike protein into their vaccine already in development, and voila! 

We developed mRNA vaccines against MERS, SARS, and H1N1. None of which made it to the public, not because of safety, but because those germs fizzled out without needing a vaccine (unlike COVID). I say all this because the SARS and MERS vaccines have 3 years of long-term safety data without major adverse events, and the H1N1 vaccine was developed in 6 months (a similar timeline to our current situation). 

I’m not going to wade into politics, vaccine mistrust, or the history of systemic abuse of minorities by the medical establishment. Don’t get me wrong; all of that is very important in understanding the current situation, but the most important message I have is: trust the process. Trust the expert physicians advising the FDA and CDC, trust the science, and talk with your family and friends about their perceptions of the vaccine. Share this document or other quality information to those that want to learn more about the vaccine. We must vaccinate to end this, the only other way is everyone catches the virus and hundreds of thousands more die. Please get the shot. I would be happy to talk with any of you personally and answer any questions I can. 

 

Common Questions

  • What are the side effects?
  • Minor side effects include injection site pain, body aches, chills, low fevers. This is your body’s immune response to the vaccine, not a sign of infection.  
  • If I had COVID, should I get the vaccine?
  • The CDC has not offered official guidance on this question, but I will be recommending it to patients who have had the infection, based on expert opinion from physicians who are much smarter than me. We do not think the immunity from infection is long lasting, likely less than a year (at best) and so I recommend vaccination regardless of prior infection.
  • Should I get antibody testing before getting the vaccine?
  • NO. Similar to above, a positive antibody test does not necessarily mean one is immune, and the immunity is not permanent. So the result of an antibody test should not dictate whether or not to get the vaccine.
  • What about children under 16, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised?
  • We don’t know yet, as they were not included in the study. At this time it is not advisable for these patients to get the vaccine. A study for this question is likely to start in January.
  • Once I get the vaccine, can I stop wearing this mask?!?
  • Not quite yet. Experts recommend continuing to wear a mask even after the vaccine. This is mainly because we do not yet know if vaccinated people can still get infected and shed the virus without symptoms (asymptomatic spread). A new study has started to investigate this question.
  • When will I get a vaccine?
  • Great question. I wish I had the answer. During “Phase 1,” the CDC has proposed a 3-tiered approach.  Healthcare providers and long-term care (nursing home) residents are in the first phase.  The second phase covers essential workers.  The third phase is adults with high-risk medical conditions and those above 65.  Beyond that, the hope is to extend to the population at large (at least that’s the thinking right now).

As you can see, experts estimate that it won’t be until summer 2021 until there is enough availability to vaccinate the general population. Hopefully we will get Phase 1 vaccinated in the spring. We will continue updating you as we learn more information. 

 

Please reach out if you have any questions!

Dr. Hazen Short

The above was last updated March 2, 2021

TESTING & SELF-QUARANTINE

We are getting a ton of outreach from patients recently about accessing COVID-19 testing and — more importantly — if they should be tested at all.

Let’s talk about whether or not you should be tested first:

  • If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have had prolonged, close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, your first step should be to self-quarantine (please!) to avoid spreading any illness to others.  People in these situations should be tested.
    • For those with symptoms, we recommend getting tested on day 2-3 of symptoms; before or after may increase the risk of a false negative.
    • We recommend getting tested about 5 days after prolonged, close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, as there is a risk of a false negative if testing is done too soon after exposure.
  • If you have been close to someone who has been close to someone with confirmed COIVD-19, we recommend awaiting the results of your intermediary contact and to — ideally — quarantine until they get their results.  

Regarding how to access testing:

Important!  If you are experiencing any symptoms whatsoever of COVID-19 or have had prolonged contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, please self-quarantine, continue to practice good hand hygiene, and avoid spreading any illness to others; even if you get a negative test result after going through w/ one of the below tests, the CDC still recommends quarantining for 10 days after symptom onset or for 14 days after exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual.We have a limited supply of rapid antigen COVID testing; if the rapid test is negative, we will follow it up with a molecular test (details in the next bullet point). This is only available to current KCDPC members; follow the flow outlined below.Anyone interested in COVID19 testing here at the clinic (turnaround time is about an hour for rapid; 2-14 days for molecular PCR) must first fill out a brief screening questionnaire to gather information about their symptoms (if present), how long they’ve been going on, recent travel, and possible exposure to those who have recent COVID19 diagnoses. Please fill out the questionnaire here.  Once you complete the questionnaire, the confirmation page will give you a link on how to schedule the actual COVID testing & link to FAQs regarding the testing.  In the meantime, if you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms whatsoever, please self-quarantine, continue to practice good hand hygiene, and avoid spreading any illness to others. There is a $75 visit charge; the (additional) lab fee for molecular, PCR testing can be billed to your insurance or our lab vendor will bill you after the fact for $0-$100.The state/local health departments are ramping up their ability to test (usually at no cost!) but have some stipulations regarding who can be tested (i.e. symptoms, healthcare workers, exposures, etc.):

Regarding ending your quarantine:

  • The CDC has a website that is frequently updated that can give guidance on this subject.  Their recommendations are (updated November 9, 2020):
    • If you (yourself) tested positive for COVID-19, you may end quarantine 10 days after you tested positive or 10 days after the first day of your symptoms so long as your symptoms have resolved and you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours.
    • If you have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC has a helpful website to help you figure out when you can come out of quarantine.  Generally speaking, you should stay home and quarantine for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19

 

CLINIC OPERATIONS

We are a small clinic (for better or worse!) and have to adjust things these days to make sure that we can keep everyone in the clinic and those we care for safe.  After all, if we all have to quarantine at home or get sick, we can’t be around to serve you for the really, really important things that are still happening as this pandemic continues — like concerning lumps, prescription refills, flu vaccines, and all that jazz!

As such, here’s how we’ve adjusted things (and, yes, like you, we can’t wait to go back to “normal” where we can see anyone for anything in person.  We really miss seeing you all and getting to know our new patients in person!) 

  • Like normal times:
    • Feel free to email us with any concerns that pop up!
    • We invite phone calls during normal business hours (we do our best to answer all of them — but sometimes we’re with a patient or on the other line; leave a message and we’ll call back)!
    • Your physician is available evenings and weekends (members only!) by following the voicemail prompts. Please let us know if this sytem ever gives you an error or doesn’t work (#techfailssometimes).
  • Unlike normal times:
    • We are holding off on scheduling in-person “well” visits — annual physicals, well child checks, pap smears, etc. — until the infection rate in the metro is below 5%.
      • We are still happy to connect via phone or video with any prevention-oriented questions or health goals you want to chat about!
      • If your child urgently needs a form (like a HeadStart form, a school physical, etc.) filled out, please reach out to us to coordinate.
    • As such, all “visits” with your physician will be done via phone or telemedicine.
    • During your phone or video visit, your physician will use his/her discretion and recommend in-person visits for things that can’t adequately be addressed via phone or video.
      • We still sometimes need to check vital signs, to listen to someone’s heart, get labs, give vaccines, and/or perform basic physical exams; COVID-19 doesn’t change that.
      •  Anyone coming in for an in-person visit will be called prior to their visit to cofirm that they are not currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and that they have no known prolonged, close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
      • Depending on weather and the sensitivity of the exam to be performed, we may recommend a “car visit,” where we perform the elements of the visit in our parking lot either by your car or in our pop-up tent.  (Yes, we also think this is a bit odd, but — hey — 2020 is a weird year and we’re doing what we can to keep everyone safe.)
    • As a reminder, in-person exams only occur if your physician deems it necessary; please be nice to Lauran and Mary when they enforce this!  They’re doing this to protect everyone — including you!  

NEWS & UPDATES

At the end of November we published — over on our blog — a long update that covers the following points (and it’s still relevant even into the new year):

  • Prevention and stopping the spread of Covid-19 in light of rising cases and the holidays
  • Small business owners and Covid-19: tips for safety.
  • I have Covid-19, now what? Home care and what to watch out for.
  • Updates on hospital care & treatment. 

 

Local resources:

  • KS and MO are still seeing very high rates of infection .
  • The MidAmerica Regional Council (MARC) has a pretty good dashboard you can keep an eye on regarding cases in the metro area.

 

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, feedback, or concerns!