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Fall Newsletter: Daylight Savings Time, Updates COVID-19 Vaccinations

Happy Fall!!

Hoping everyone had a fun and safe (and dry!) Halloween!

Just as a reminder, it is that time of year again – the end of Daylight Savings Time. On Nov 7, 2021, at 2am, the clocks are turned backward 1 hour (“fall back”). Upside is we get an extra hour of sleep overnight, but it will be getting dark earlier in the day. Be mindful that this can have more impact on you that you might realize! Here are some tips offered by the Sleep Foundation.

Updates: COVID-19 Vaccinations & Boosters

Booster Vaccinations

As you may have heard, the FDA has approved and the CDC has recommended booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccinations.

One point to make clear is that a booster shot is different from the 3rd vaccination indicated for anyone who is immunocompromised. That is important because the dosage is different for the Moderna booster, and 3rd vaccinations are considered part of the necessary vaccinations to improve the response of the immunocompromised person’s immune system against COVID-19. More information, including who should consider this, can be found on the CDC website here.Booster shots, on the other hand, have been approved to “boost” continued protection against COVID-19 among those who are not immunocompromised, but may be at higher risk for serious disease, or who got the J&J vaccination as their initial shot. This was based on the data that immunity wanes with time (of note, immunity from being ill with COVID-19 also wanes over time).

The CDC outlines who is eligible for booster shots here. In summary:

If you received Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, then you are eligible for a booster 6 months after your last vaccination, if:

  • You are 65 years or older
  • You are 18 years or older and live in long-term care facilities
  • You are 18 years or older and have certain underlying medical conditions (including cancer, being overweight/obese, chronic kidney or liver disease, moderate to severe asthma, COPD, smoking or history of smoking, dementia or other neurologic diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, Down’s Syndrome, pregnancy, etc.)
  • You are 18 years or older and work or live in high-risk settings (such as first-responders, education staff, other types of workers “on the front line” of interacting with the public)

If you received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccination, then you are eligible for a booster if:

  • You are 18 years or older and it’s been at least 2 months since your injection

Mixing and Matching

Additionally, the CDC supports “mixing and matching” booster doses – getting a different shot for your booster from your primary vaccination.

There has been significant evidence to suggest this might be particularly useful for those who got the J&J vaccine – that getting a booster of either Pfizer or Moderna gives a better immune response. The original study in regard to this with Moderna was based on a full (100mcg) dose; however the booster is 50mcg, more similar to the Pfizer which is a 40mcg dose (also a different formulation). So likely, it doesn’t matter tremendously which mRNA booster you get – either Moderna of Pfizer.

Another way to consider which booster to get is to look at their known serious side effect profiles. If you fall into one of the categories at risk, perhaps choose a different booster.

J&J potential serious side effects:

  • Risk of blood clots, particularly in women aged 18-49 years old
  • Risk Guillan-Barre Syndrome, particularly in men aged 50-64 years old

Pfizer/Moderna potential serious side effects:

  • Risk of myocarditis/pericarditis, particularly in males aged 12-30 years old

COVID-19 Vaccination updates

The FDA has given emergency use approval of the Pfizer vaccine (at a lesser dosage) for children aged 5-11 years old. It has now gone to the CDC for review and to make recommendations based on the data (they are scheduled to meet Nov 2-3, 2021). More information about COVID-19 vaccination for children can be found here.

The good news is that our current vaccinations remain effective against COVID-19, including the Delta strain, which remains the predominant strain in the US.

If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination and haven’t yet received one, I would strongly encourage you to do so. Those who are not vaccinated remain at increased risk for serious disease, hospitalization, and death – the data is clear on this. Additionally, we are learning that many people go on to suffer longer-term symptoms following infection, commonly known as “long COVID.”

We have learned a lot about the disease, and the vaccinations have now been given to millions of people – and are remarkably safe. Every vaccination carries a risk of rare but serious side effects, and the COVID-19 vaccinations are no different. But on the whole, the benefit far outweighs the risk.

If you experience a side effect that you want to report, the system for doing so is the VAERS. This allows collection of broad data that can be analyzed and reviewed for significant trends and links to the vaccine.

On a community and public health note, it’s also important that we get as many people vaccinated as possible to minimize the emergence of additional COVID-19 variants. So vaccination is not only to protect yourself, but also those in your immediate circles, your larger community, and ultimately the entire world.

Additionally, all the other measures we have been using (physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing) continue to be general measures that help prevent spread of COVID-19 (as well as other illnesses).

COVID-19 Isolation, Quarantine and Testing

Here are the CDC guidelines for those who are vaccinated and have had an exposure or have symptoms, outlining guidelines for quarantining, isolating, and testing.

Looking for a test? Find one here.