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July 30, 2021

Another COVID-19 Summer: What you need to know now

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COVID-19 is sticking around for another summer and into the fall, and Missouri is making national news for its growing rates: 

We want you and your family to stay healthy and cautious.

Still haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine?

We want you to help you get it done. Individuals 12+ years old are eligible now to get this life-saving vaccine.  

Visit kccare.org/covidvaccine for more information or call 816.656.8981 to make an appointment. For the latest info about where we’re providing COVID-19 vaccines, follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. 

To get some of the latest news and recommendations, we talked to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Dietz. Here’s what you should know now the coronavirus: 

Why should I still get vaccinated?

First, vaccines are easily and widely available. You can also go to many local grocery stores, pharmacies, and doctors’ offices. It doesn’t have to be a wait. And of course, you can get an appointment at KC CARE and get it as part of a regular medical visit with us. And your kids can get vaccinated at Homeroom Health.  

Second, school will start again soon, and that’s when illnesses start up again—the flu, cold, etc. If you haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, it could be unclear for your family, if it’s COVID-19 or not and cause you extra worry. Vaccinations are especially important if older folks live with you or help with school pickup or childcare. 

Third, even though COVID-19 rates had gone down (and are going back up now), the emerging delta variant is more deadly than the one we saw last year. The good news is that the vaccines we have protect against those strains too.  

Nearly all recent COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations have been in the unvaccinated. Don’t let this be you.  

Additionally, being vaccinated reduces your ability to transfer the virus to others.  

Lastly, now it’s been over a year since we’ve had the vaccine, including the clinical trials. So, we know a great deal about the vaccine and its side effects. It’s been found to be safe and effective. And so, we’ve been able to open our state/national border and resume normal life as much as possible.  

What should I know about the delta and other COVID-19 variants? 

These are naturally occurring mutations that happen in the virus that’s circulating. They spread person to person like the COVID-19 virus and are transmitted quicky (showing severe respiratory symptoms within a day or so). With the variants, you’re at a high risk of spreading it to others and at greater risk of hospitalization.  

Without the vaccine, it will take your body many weeks to make sufficient antibodies if you’re ill or exposed. You’d be forced to quarantine and prevented from living your life if you have a variant. However, if you’re vaccinated and exposed to a variant, you aren’t likely to get ill and if you do, it will be significantly less severe.  

 I’ve already had COVID-19. Why get vaccinated now? 

We don’t know if the level of exposure you had was sufficient to make the right antibodies to keep you from getting sick again.  

The dose from a COVID-19 vaccine will give you a standard size of virus that’s been highly tested and studied to get you adequate antibodies.   

I don’t think I’ll get sick, even if I’m exposed to COVID-19. Is that true? 

You can still get sick, and you can make other people sick. Regard for other persons should be just as important as caring for yourself. Our workplaces, friends’ homes, the gym—we want all those places to return to normal. And you being unvaccinated does not help that.  

We hear the term herd immunity thrown around a lot. It is a real thing. And the question is, do you want to part of the healthy herd or sick herd?  

How did the vaccine come out so quickly? 

Because of emerging technology over the last 5-10 years, it’s easier to make vaccinations than ever before. Ebola is a good example. Now, we can duplicate this technology for different disease states—all you needed was the DNA.  

The all-hands-on-deck approach removed some of the barriers to progress. Not as much work was done in a private silo. The vaccines were tested in the COVID Prevention Network (CoVPN) with the NIH, in which KC CARE participates.  

Additionally, instead of Moderna only being in their lab, the research was shared with dozens of research centers across the country and was tested on vast numbers of people. Dr. Barbara Pahud at Children’s Mercy connected us with others in the cohort. And with all this collaboration, vaccine development went faster.  

Dr. Pahud uses the metaphor of making a lasagna: People helping makes it easier and faster and the lasagna can be done in bulk. It’s a community-wide, team-based approach.  

This is ideally how we should do things going forward. Institutional barriers and lack of collaboration are bad for advancing healthcare. Speed and interest in solutions should be applied to other conditions like diabetes. 

What do you think are the safest ways to approach summer activities? 

You should always have a mask with you for the foreseeable future—just like your wallet and keys. You never know when someone will require it or when you’ll have an emergency. Our staff continue to wear masks, and we continue to require our patients and visitors to wear masks. 

You should still mask:  

  • At all healthcare settings where people might be ill or have an unknown vax status. This includes a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or pharmacy. 
  • On public transportation—planes, trains, buses, taxis, and Uber, Lyft, or other rideshares. 
  • At large events with high densities of people because you don’t know who has been vaccinated or not (some outdoor concert venues, waiting in line at amusement park rides, etc.).  
  • Out of respect for businesses that request that you wear masks.  
  • At indoor activities with large amounts of people (concerts indoors, shopping malls, amusement park rides, other events).  

Though you might remove your mask while seated at a restaurant or event, it’s still smart to wear it as you walk around in settings people you don’t know. 

Travel is ok in many parts of the U.S. You’ll want to follow these same mask guidelines wherever you go. Protecting your health and the health of others should dictate your planning. However, be cautious about traveling overseas. The testing requirements are changing rapidly and vary between countries. Having to quarantine or recover from COVID-19 in a foreign country could be costly and stressful. 

Any final words? 

Be aware. If you’ve had the vaccine, really encourage friends, family, and colleagues to get it. You’re the best advocate. Use your close ties to those who are not vaccinated. A lot of times, I tell patients who are hesitant, “Alright, if you don’t want the vaccine, then make sure you mom and grandma have it.”  

Look out for yourself and the most vulnerable people in your life. Together, we will get through the rest of the pandemic. And know that even if you’re unsure about the vaccine now, we’ll be here at KC CARE when you’re ready.