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Search questions using keywords: How can I get a free Covid-19 test?
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If I can’t get a Covid-19 test right now, how can I tell if I have Covid-19 or flu symptoms?
“Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
But the outcomes can be different. “In general, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people,” the CDC says. “Compared with people who have flu infections, people who have COVID-19 can take longer to show symptoms and be contagious for longer.”
Covid-19 and the flu can have similar symptoms, such as:
Fever or feeling feverish/having chills Cough Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing Fatigue (tiredness) Sore throat Runny or stuffy nose Muscle pain or body aches Headache Vomiting Diarrhea Change in or loss of taste or smell, though this is more frequent with Covid-19 But unlike the flu, Covid-19 can lead to long Covid — with symptoms weeks or months after a coronavirus infection.
“Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if their illness was mild, or if they had no symptoms,” the CDC says.
If you think you might have Covid-19 symptoms but can’t get tested, doctors say it’s best to assume you have Covid-19 and stay home.
“While the virus that causes COVID-19 and flu viruses are thought to spread in similar ways, the virus that causes COVID-19 is generally more contagious than flu viruses,” the CDC says.
“Also, COVID-19 has been observed to have more superspreading events than flu. This means the virus that causes COVID-19 can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continual spreading among people as time progresses.”
It’s also possible to have Covid-19 and the flu at the same time. Here’s what that could do to your body.
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How can I get free face masks?
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Are cloth masks any good anymore? With the more contagious Omicron variant, should I be wearing a cloth mask, surgical mask, KN95 or N95?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its mask guidelines, recommending people “wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.”
“Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection,” the CDC says.
The updated guidance, issued January 14, came after weeks of public debate about whether cloth masks should be ditched in favor of more effective masks due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
“Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron,” CNN medical analyst and emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said in December.
“We need to be wearing at least a 3-ply surgical mask,” she said, such as the ones often sold in drugstores and have an adjustable nose wire. “You can wear a cloth mask on top of that, but do not just wear a cloth mask alone.”
Ideally, in crowded places, “you should be wearing a KN95 or N95 mask,” Wen said. They include materials such as polypropylene fibers that act as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers to help prevent the spread of tiny particles.
When someone is speaking, wearing a face mask can slash the distance that droplets and aerosols travel by half (or more, depending on the type of mask), a recent study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests.
Without face masks, droplets and aerosols traveled up to about 4 feet when someone was speaking, researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando found.
Single-layer cloth masks reduced that maximum distance to about 2 feet. And 3-ply, disposable surgical masks reduced the distance of droplet and aerosol travel all the way down to 0.5 feet, the researchers found. The study did not include KN95 nor N95 masks.
While the CDC acknowledges KN95 and N95 respirators give more protection than surgical masks and cloth masks, it doesn’t say Americans should ditch cloth masks. But cloths masks should have nose wires and multiple layers of fabric that can block light “when held up to bright light source,” the CDC says. They also shouldn’t have exhalation valves, vents or other openings.
“CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said January 12, “and we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
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What is MIS-C? How many kids get it? Does it only affect children who had severe Covid-19? What are the signs of MIS-C?
MIS-C is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.
It’s “a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19 in which different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
(A similar syndrome called MIS-A can happen in adults after getting Covid-19.)
With children, MIS-C happens when “the virus induces your body to make an immune response against your own blood vessels” – which can cause inflammation of the vessels, said pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
More than 6,400 children have suffered from MIS-C, according to the CDC, and at least 55 have died. The median age of MIS-C patients is 9 years old.
MIS-C “is a rare complication that typically occurs 2 to 4 weeks following SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said. (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19.)
And long-term Covid-19 complications can happen even among children who initially had mild or no symptoms, the group said.
“Usually children are picked up incidentally as having (coronavirus). Someone in the family was infected, a friend was infected, so they got a PCR test. And they’re found to be positive. … Then they’re fine,” Offit said.
“Then a month goes by, and they develop a high fever. And evidence of lung, liver, kidney or heart damage. That’s when they come to our hospital.”
The CDC said parents should seek medical care if a child has an ongoing fever plus at least one of the following:
Stomach pain Bloodshot eyes Diarrhea Dizziness or lightheadedness (signs of low blood pressure) Skin rash Vomiting Family schools/education work/life myths & misinformation
Can at-home rapid antigen tests pick up the Omicron variant?
They can — but they work better if you take more than one, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Fauci said a single rapid antigen test — like the ones often taken at home, with results in about 15 minutes — are not as sensitive at detecting Omicron as PCR tests, which are processed in a lab.
But “if you do (rapid antigen tests) maybe 2 or 3 times over a few-day period, at the end of the day, they are as good as the PCR,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“People should not get the impression that those tests are not valuable. They are very valuable. They are valuable for screening. They’re valuable if you do them more than once in a sequential way to tell you whether you’re infected,” Fauci said.
The US Food and Drug Administration recently said rapid antigen tests may be less likely to detect an Omicron infection — but the tests are still useful.
“Studies are under way to confirm the reason for the apparent decreased sensitivity,” the FDA told CNN in a statement. “Once that is known, adjustments to existing tests can be undertaken by each developer with support from the FDA, if appropriate.”
If you think you have Covid-19 symptoms but can’t get tested, doctors say it’s best to assume you have Covid-19 and stay home.
Even if you don’t have the Omicron variant, the symptoms may be from another contagious virus such as the flu or RSV. So it’s still important to wear a high-quality mask and avoid others whenever possible.
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Who can get a booster shot now? Are kids eligible for boosters? When should we get boosted?
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Will we need Omicron-specific vaccines? If so, how long will it take to get one?
Vaccine makers have been working on developing Omicron-specific vaccines – but they might not be necessary.
If booster doses of the current vaccines appear to offer sufficient protection, there is less need for a variant-specific vaccine, said Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.
“The last thing we want to do is just be going through and getting new vaccines and this and that if the current boosters look like they will really do the job against Omicron,” Woodcock said January 3.
“We also have to consider that we might have additional variants, but we will be ready to switch if needed.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said booster doses help prevent severe illness and hospitalization with the Omicron variant.
On January 10, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that his company’s Omicron-specific vaccine will be available in March — though it might not be needed.
“The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection, particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and severe disease, it is reasonable right now with the current vaccine – as long as you are having, let’s say, the third dose,” Bourla said.
“I don’t know if we will need it. I don’t know if and how it will be used. But (we) will be ready.”
As for Moderna, “we’re working very actively on an Omicron-specific vaccine as a booster,” CEO Stéphane Bancel told CNBC January 10.
“That should be in the clinic very soon, and we are discussing with public health leaders around the world to decide what we think is the best strategy for a potential booster for the fall of 2022.”
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How is Omicron different for children compared to other variants? Is it safe for kids to be back in school?
Pediatricians say it’s critical for students to have in-person learning — as long as there are safety measures in place to mitigate the Omicron variant surge.
Some doctors believe Omicron may affect younger children differently. Unlike previous variants that usually caused lower airway problems, Omicron may cause more upper airway complications, New York pediatrician Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez said.
And upper airway complications can be more dangerous for young children than for adults, she said.
“We cannot treat the airways of children like they are the airways of adults,” Bracho-Sanchez said.
“And for us pediatricians, we know that respiratory viruses can lead to … croup and bronchiolitis — that inflammation of the upper airways that does get in children in trouble.”
Studies suggest Omicron causes less severe disease than the Delta variant. And children still make up a small percentage of those hospitalized with Covid-19. But because Omicron is much more contagious than Delta, some pediatric hospitals are seeing more children hospitalized with Covid-19 than ever before.
In fact, pediatric Covid-19 hospital admissions just reached a record high. For the week ending January 2, an average of 672 children were admitted to hospitals every day with Covid-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Doctors say the vast majority of children hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated, including some who are too young to be vaccinated.
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Are fully vaccinated people protected against the Omicron variant? How effective are booster shots against Omicron?
In South Africa, where the Omicron variant quickly became dominant, researchers said 2 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 33% protective against infection — but 70% effective in preventing severe illness, including hospitalization.
“If you get two doses of a Pfizer or a Moderna (vaccine), the protection against infection itself is dramatically down” with the Omicron variant, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“However, what is the somewhat encouraging news is that the protection against hospitalization and severe disease — although it goes down to around 70% from around 93% — when you get boosted, it brings it back up to the level of pretty good protection.”
For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a study from South Africa showed vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization from Covid-19 rose to 85% following a booster dose of the J&J vaccine — even after the Omicron variant was circulating.
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How much more contagious is Omicron compared to the Delta variant? How fast is Omicron spreading in the US?
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What should I do if I test positive for Covid-19? How long do I need to isolate if I might have the Omicron variant?
“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The decision was motivated by research showing most Covid-19 spread “occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” the CDC said in late December.
“Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.”
The CDC said those whose “symptoms are resolving” can also leave isolation after 5 days, as long as they also wear a mask for the next 5 days.
But the CDC was criticized for not mentioning testing for those who want to leave isolation at 5 days.
On January 4, the CDC said those who have access to a rapid antigen test may want to take it toward the end of the 5-day isolation period.
If the test is positive, isolated people are advised to keep isolating until 10 days after their symptoms started. If the test is negative, isolated people can end their isolation — but are advised to wear a mask around other people until day 10.
For those who have a fever or other symptoms that haven’t even improved after 5 days, “you should wait to end your isolation until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved,” the CDC said January 4. “Continue to wear a well-fitting mask. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.”
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What should I do if I was recently exposed to someone who now has Covid-19? How long do I have to quarantine?
It depends on whether you’re fully vaccinated and boosted, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Those who have received a booster shot “do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure,” the CDC said in a December 27 update.
“For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days,” the CDC said.
“Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.”
For anyone who was exposed to someone with Covid-19, it’s a good idea to get tested 5 days after exposure, the CDC said.
“If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19,” the CDC said.
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What makes the Omicron variant so different from other variants? Don’t we get new Covid-19 variants all the time?
As coronavirus keeps spreading, new mutations and new variants are expected to develop.
But the new Omicron variant has an unusually high number of mutations, including dozens on the spike protein — the structure used by a virus to latch onto and get inside cells under attack.
“It has a lot of mutations — more than 50. That’s a new record,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health.
More than 30 of those mutations are in the spike protein — the part of the virus targeted by leading Covid-19 vaccines.
Scientists have been trying to learn how much the Omicron variant might evade the antibodies produced from vaccination or natural infection.
“We worry if the spike protein is of a different shape, maybe the antibodies won’t stick quite as well. That’s the reason for the concern,” Collins said.
“On the other hand, all of the previous variants, which have also had differences in the spike protein, have responded to vaccines — and especially boosters,” he said.
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Can vaccinated people get infected with the Omicron variant?
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We’re about to see friends and family, but we don’t have enough at-home, rapid tests for everyone. Who should we test for Covid-19?
Ideally, “everybody should get tested right before that gathering,” CNN medical analyst and emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said.
If you have very limited tests available, test those who are at the highest risk of recent Covid-19 exposure — not those at the highest risk of illness, Wen said.
In other words, “Don’t test grandma, who’s been hunkering down and being very careful. She’s unlikely to be spreading Covid to everybody else,” Wen said.
“Test the college student who just came home who may have been in bars and restaurants last week. So use those tests in a judicious way and think about the 2-out-of-3 rule: vaccines, masking or testing. You need to have 2 out of 3 things to gather safely.”
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What should I do if I can’t get a Covid-19 test (or test results) before an event?
“I would say consider the risk level of the people who you’re meeting with,” said Mercedes Carnethon, vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
She said anyone unable to get tested may want to reconsider meeting with:
Anyone who is unvaccinated. Anyone who is over age 65, regardless of vaccination status. “Vaccinations help. Boosters help. They obviously help to mitigate the severity of the symptoms,” Carnethon said. “But the reality is that the immune response to vaccination and boosting is a little bit lower in older adults whose immune systems aren’t quite as robust and strong.” Anyone with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer or severe asthma. Infants, since it’s unclear how they might fare with Covid-19 — particularly the new Omicron variant. Families with unvaccinated children who can’t get tested in time should also reconsider meeting with vulnerable relatives, Carnethon said, as those children might be infected but asymptomatic.
But even testing does not guarantee safety, said Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, an Los Angeles internal medicine specialist.
For example, a test taken immediately after a new infection might not detect the virus – “and the test wouldn’t have been positive until tomorrow or the next day,” he said.
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Could I have the flu and coronavirus at the same time? If so, what does that do to your body?
“You can certainly get both the flu and Covid-19 at the same time, which could be catastrophic to your immune system,” said Dr. Adrian Burrowes, a family medicine physician in Florida.
In fact, getting infected with one can make you more vulnerable to getting sick with the other, epidemiologist Dr. Seema Yasmin said.
“Once you get infected with the flu and some other respiratory viruses, it weakens your body,” she said. “Your defenses go down, and it makes you vulnerable to getting a second infection on top of that.”
On their own, both Covid-19 and the flu can attack the lungs, potentially causing pneumonia, fluid in the lungs or respiratory failure, the CDC said.
“The two (illnesses) together definitely could be more injurious to the lungs and cause more respiratory failure,” said Dr. Michael Matthay, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
And just like with Covid-19, even young, healthy people can die from the flu.
Doctors say the easiest way to help avoid a flu/Covid-19 double whammy is to get vaccinated against both.
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Can I get a Covid-19 vaccine (or booster shot) and a flu shot at the same time?
“Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“If you haven’t gotten your currently recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine, get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can,” the CDC said.
The ability to get both vaccines at the same time can make it more convenient for Americans to try to stay healthy, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“If that means going in and getting the flu shot in one arm (and) the Covid shot in the other, that’s perfectly fine,” Fauci said.
But don’t assume you’re protected right afterward. “Remember, after you are vaccinated, your body takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against flu,” the CDC said.
Similarly, you’re not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 until two weeks after the final dose.
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I’ve already had Covid-19. Can I still get infected with the Omicron variant?
Yes. In fact, the first confirmed Omicron-related death in the US was a man who previously had Covid-19.
The Texas man, in his 50s, had not been vaccinated, Harris County health officials said.
For months, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said vaccines give stronger protection against Covid-19 than previous infection alone.
“If you have had Covid-19 before, please still get vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in August, citing research published during a Delta variant surge. “This study shows you are twice as likely to get infected again if you are unvaccinated.”
With the new Omicron variant, the risk of getting reinfected is 5.4 times higher with Omicron than it was with Delta, according to a team of disease modelers at Imperial College London.
“This suggests relatively low remaining levels of immunity from prior infection,” the team wrote in a December report.
Health experts say the best way to help protect against the Omicron variant is to get vaccinated and boosted.
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I’m fully vaccinated, but my kids are too young to get shots — and we’re visiting family members this week. With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, what should we do?
“I think that depends on people’s individual risk tolerance,” CNN medical analyst and emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said.
Some, like Dr. Peter Hotez, decided to cancel a planned visit from in-laws this holiday season.
“Unfortunately, I had to ask them not to come because I thought that it was a little too risky for them in terms of travel with all the Omicron circulating,” said Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
For families who still want to get together with extended relatives, Wen suggests following the “2-out-of-every-3 rule.”
“We have 3 major tools at our disposal: vaccination, testing and masking,” she said.
“We should have 2 out of every 3 things. And so if you’re not vaccinated, you should be masking, and if you’re gathering with people, testing,” Wen said.
“If you are vaccinated, also get that booster, too. But if you want to get together with people indoors without masks, then make sure that people are tested that same day. If you’re unable to get that test, people should still be wearing masks indoors.”
For children too young to get vaccinated — and who obviously can’t wear a mask while eating — “the key in that case is to surround the unvaccinated kids with others who are vaccinated,” Wen said.
“This is classic herd immunity — others protect the young kids who can’t mask. And if everyone tests, that’s the second layer of protection.”
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Does “fully vaccinated” mean two shots or three now?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says people are fully vaccinated:
2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine But the CDC has recommended additional booster shots for all adults who are 2 months past their Johnson & Johnson vaccination or 6 months past their Moderna vaccination.
The CDC has also recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for everyone ages 16 and up who are 6 months past their second dose.
Some doctors say the definition of “fully vaccinated” needs to change to include booster doses.
“I’ve always said this is a three-dose vaccine,” said vaccinologist Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
“The reason is when you get that third dose, you get a 30- to 40-fold rise in virus-neutralizing antibodies, and therefore there’s more spillover protection against new variants – including Omicron,” Hotez said December 15.
“The third dose gives you 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic illness.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said it’s inevitable that the definition of “fully vaccinated” will change.
“It’s going to be a matter of when, not if,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“For me, as a public health person, I just say get your third shot,” Fauci said, referring to eligible Pfizer and Moderna vaccine recipients.
“Forget about what the definition is. I just want to see people be optimally protected. And for me, that’s unequivocally and unquestionably getting a third shot boost.”
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Who should get a booster shot?
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What should I do if I think I’m sick with Covid-19?
If you have Covid-19 or think you might have it, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says:
Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas. Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better. Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, have any other emergency warning signs or if you think it is an emergency. Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis. If you take a Covid-19 test, it’s important to stay away from others while waiting for your test results, the CDC says. This includes staying away from other members of your household.
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If Omicron doesn’t seem to cause more severe disease so far, why are doctors still concerned?
What should I do if I’m physically unable to go out and get a vaccine or booster shot?
“If you have difficulty reaching a vaccination site, you may be able to get an in-home vaccination,” the CDC says.
The CDC suggests contacting the following to see if they provide at-home vaccination in your area:
Your doctor or health care provider The hotline for Medicare recipients at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048) Your state health department or 211 The Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) 1-888-677-1199 Services for older adults and their families at the Eldercare Locator or 1-800-677-1116 Family vaccine work/life treatment & prevention
What exactly is in the Covid-19 vaccines? I’ve heard so many rumors and don’t know what to believe.
The CDC lists active and inactive ingredients for each of the three coronavirus vaccines used in the US.
“None of the vaccines contain eggs, gelatin, latex, or preservatives,” the CDC said.
And contrary to popular myths, the vaccines don’t have microchips and can’t make you magnetic.
“All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, lithium, rare earth alloys or any manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, or nanowire semiconductors.”
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Can a PCR or rapid test tell me which type of variant I might have if I have Covid-19?
Diagnostic tests like PCR tests and rapid antigen tests can help detect whether you’ve been infected with coronavirus. But they can’t tell you exactly which strain you have.
It takes another layer of testing, involving genetic sequencing, to determine what strain or variant caused the infection.
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If vaccine makers are already working on Omicron-specific boosters, shouldn’t I just wait to get one of those doses instead of getting a booster shot now?
“The answer is no,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“If you are eligible — namely, if you’ve had the Moderna or the Pfizer (vaccines), and you’re 6 months following your primary regimen of vaccination, or you’re 2 months following J&J — don’t wait,” Fauci said.
“Get that extra boost now because we know when you do that, the level of antibodies that rise and go up following a boost is much, much higher than the peak level that you get after your second dose of a two-dose vaccine,” he said.
“Our experience with variants such as the Delta variant is that even though the vaccine isn’t specifically targeted to the Delta variant, when you get a high enough level of an immune response, you get spillover protection even against a variant that the vaccine wasn’t specifically directed at.”
Pfizer and Moderna have been working on Omicron-specific booster shots — just in case they might be needed.
But even if Omicron-specific shots are needed, it would take a while to get them rolled out to the public.
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How did the Omicron variant get its name? Didn’t they skip some letters in the Greek alphabet?
Since May, the World Health Organization has been assigning Greek letters to notable new coronavirus variants.
Before Omicron, the last two variants of interest or concern were called Lambda and Mu. The next letter in the Greek alphabet is Nu, followed by Xi.
But WHO skipped over Nu and Xi and went straight to Omicron for the latest variant of concern, which has the scientific name B.1.1.529.
The reason? “Nu is too easily confounded with ‘new’ and Xi was not used because it is a common surname,” WHO said in an email to CNN.
“And WHO best practices for naming new diseases suggest ‘avoiding causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.’”
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What do we know about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines in younger children? Are there any side effects?
Pfizer said its vaccine is safe and 90.7% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in children ages 5 to 11, based on clinical trial data. Trial participants who got the vaccine received two doses, spaced three weeks apart.
After monitoring trial participants for three months after the shots, there were no serious side effects such as myocarditis or pericarditis, Pfizer said.
“The side effects we’re seeing in the kids are really identical to what we’re seeing in adults,” said Dr. Bob Frenck, director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, one of the Pfizer pediatric trial sites. Such side effects include a sore arm, fatigue, headache and fever in about 10% of children. Those side effects don’t last more than a day or two.
Separately, Moderna has been testing various doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in children. On October 25, Moderna said interim trial results showed its vaccine was well tolerated and generated a robust immune response in children ages 6 to 11.
Some participants had side effects such as fatigue, headache, fever and pain at the injection site. Moderna said planned to submit its data to the FDA.
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If my child is 11, should I wait until she turns 12 to get a larger dose of Covid-19 vaccine? Or should she get a pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11?
“I wouldn’t wait,” said Dr. Paul Spearman, a member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.
He said data presented to the committee by Pfizer “showed that a 10-microgram dose — so a third of the dose that is licensed for adults — was equally effective in terms of generating neutralizing antibodies, one of the most important means of protecting people from Covid-19.”
One advantage of the smaller (but equally effective) doses for children was reduced side effects, said Dr. Bob Frenck, director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital — one of the Pfizer pediatric trial sites.
“So, one-third of the dose that we’re giving adults, or even one-third of the dose that was used in 12-year-olds and above, was just as immunogenic. We got just as good an immune response as the 30-microgram dose, and there were less side effects,” Frenck said.
“A lot of people are asking us: ‘Does this mean you’re giving us less of a vaccine?’ I said, well, we’re giving you less antigen, but their immune response is so good that they’re making the same immune response – so there’s no need to give more vaccine,” he said.
For parents of larger 10- or 11-year-olds who are worried a pediatric dose might not be enough, weight is not important when it comes to vaccines, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
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How many kids were in Pfizer’s Covid-19 trial for ages 5 to 11? Do kids get the same doses as adults? And do kids get one shot, or two?
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Why were kids in vaccine trials divided by age groups and not weight? Wouldn’t size or weight matter more than age when determining dosage?
In this case, weight isn’t important, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“I think people have a misconception about the way vaccines work. They think of them in the same way as drugs. If you give, for example, an antibiotic like amoxicillin, your weight matters because the antibiotic is distributed throughout your bloodstream,” Offit said.
“That’s not true with vaccines. With vaccines, you get those as a shot in the arm, and that’s taken up by the local draining lymph nodes. So really weight doesn’t matter.”
Adolescents ages 12 and up who get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine get the same dosage that adults get – 30 micrograms per dose.
Researchers have been trying to see which doses give the best combination of high efficacy and minimal side effects among younger children.
In September, Pfizer announced its Covid-19 vaccine was safe and generated a “robust” antibody response in children ages 5 to 11. It said the “preferred dose for safety, tolerability and immunogenicity” among that age group was 10 micrograms per dose – one-third the dosage for teens and adults.
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Why bother getting vaccinated if there’s still a chance you could get Covid-19?
No vaccine is 100% effective, but the Covid-19 vaccines significantly reduce the chances of severe illness and death — across multiple age groups.
For adults under age 50, the rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations among those unvaccinated was 15 times higher than for those fully vaccinated, according to August data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among those ages 50 to 64, the hospitalization rate is 31 times higher for unvaccinated people.
And the risk of dying from Covid-19 is more than 11 times higher for unvaccinated adults than it is for vaccinated adults, according to the CDC data.
For seniors, who are more susceptible to severe Covid-19, that gap is smaller. Among those 80 and older, the risk of dying from Covid-19 in August was about five times higher among those unvaccinated compared to those fully vaccinated.
Of the breakthrough cases resulting in death, 85% were among people age 65 and older, according to the CDC.
But those cases are extremely rare. As of October 12, about 7,178 breakthrough Covid-19 infections resulting in death had been reported, and 187 million people had been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. In other words, about 0.004% of fully vaccinated people died of Covid-19.
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Is it true children can’t get very sick from Covid-19? How many kids have actually been hospitalized with Covid-19?
More than 72,000 children have been hospitalized with Covid-19 since August 2020, according to the CDC.
And it’s not just children with preexisting conditions getting hospitalized.
Almost half – 45.7% – of children hospitalized with Covid-19 between March 2020 and October 2021 had no known underlying condition, according to CDC data from almost 100 US counties.
And while pediatric Covid-19 deaths are rare, at least 1,015 children in the US have died from Covid-19, according to CDC data.
During the Delta variant surge, some hospitals saw an increase in pediatric Covid-19 patients.
At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, “we’ve had infants as small as 6 to 8 months old up to the teenage years,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Alan Jones said in July.
“It appears as though this particular variant, the Delta variant, while being more infectious is also causing more children to be symptomatic,” he said.
“Whether that just is that it causes a little more severe illness than other variants or that it is just more prevalent — and so we’re seeing more symptomatic cases — we’re not sure … but it’s probably multifactorial.”
Some youngsters have suffered long-term effects from Covid-19 or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) – a rare but potentially serious condition that can happen in children weeks after a coronavirus infection.
More than 6,400 children have suffered from MIS-C, according to the CDC.
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My kids don’t want to wear a mask. What should I do?
If possible, buy a few different brands of masks and see which one is most comfortable for your child, emergency physician and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said.
“Different people have different comfort levels,” she said. For example, some children might like one brand of kid-sized surgical masks over another.
Other children might feel more comfortable wearing kid-sized KN95 masks, which allow more room for the nose and mouth.
“The most important thing is to find the best that you can consistently wear throughout the day,” Wen said. “You don’t want to find a mask that you’re trying to pull off your face every 20 minutes.”
Buying masks with fun designs or with your child’s favorite characters on them can also help, psychologist Christopher Willard said. Children can also customize their masks by drawing on them with markers.
And, of course, parents can set a good example by also wearing a mask.
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What are the side effects of a Covid-19 vaccine booster?
Data suggests side effects from a booster dose of a mRNA Covid-19 vaccine have been similar in frequency and type to those seen after second doses — and were “mostly mild or moderate and short-lived,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said September 28.
The two-shot vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer both use genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to deliver immunity.
Walensky cited a study published that day by the CDC. It covers 22,191 people who received a third dose of an mRNA vaccine and made reports to CDC’s v-safe system, a voluntary, smartphone-based app that lets people report how they feel after they’ve been vaccinated. The reports were made from August 12 (when the US Food and Drug Administration OK’d additional doses for certain immunocompromised people) through September 19.
Among those 22,191 who made reports, about 7,000 – nearly 32% – reported any health impacts. More than 6,200 – about 28% – reported they were unable to perform normal daily activities, mostly commonly on the day after vaccination.
The most common complaints were injection site pain (71%), fatigue (56%) and a headache (43.4%). Of those who reported general pain, only about 7% described it as “severe.” Severe was defined as pain that makes “daily activities difficult or impossible.”
Nearly 2% said they sought medical care and 13 people were hospitalized, but it was not clear from the v-safe reports why these people sought medical care or were hospitalized. Those who sought medical attention are contacted by staff members from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and encouraged to make a report, it said.
Of the 22,191 people, 12,591 happened to have tracked how they felt after all three doses. Out of that smaller group, 79.4% reported a local reaction to the third shot and 74.1% reported a systemic reaction. That’s similar to what they reported after a second dose, when 77.6% reported local reactions and 76.5% reported systemic reactions.
No unexpected patterns of adverse reactions were identified, the report said.
Some people reported getting a booster from different company than their original vaccine or getting a second dose of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the report’s authors said the numbers in both cases were too small to draw any conclusions.
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What should I do if I lost my Covid-19 vaccination card?
Contact the vaccination provider site where you received your vaccine. “Your provider should give you a new card with up-to-date information about the vaccinations you have received,” the CDC said.
“If the location where you received your COVID-19 vaccine is no longer operating, contact your state or local health department’s immunization information system (IIS) for assistance,” the CDC said.
“Please contact your state or local health department if you have additional questions about vaccination cards or vaccination records.”
To be clear: “CDC does not maintain vaccination records or determine how vaccination records are used, and CDC does not provide the CDC-labeled, white COVID-19 vaccination record card to people. These cards are distributed to vaccination providers by state and local health departments,” the agency said.
And don’t try to use a forged or fraudulent vaccination card — that could land you in prison.
Should pregnant women get vaccinated?
“COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future,” the CDC said.
“Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing,” the CDC said in an August 11 update.
Scientists say Covid-19 — not the Covid-19 vaccine — can put a woman at higher risk of severe illness during pregnancy.
Covid-19 can lead to “adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth,” said Sascha Ellington, team lead for emergency preparedness and response in the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health.
“This vaccine can prevent Covid-19, and so that’s the primary benefit.”
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What are the chances of long Covid if someone fully vaccinated gets a breakthrough infection?
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If I’ve already had Covid-19, should I still get vaccinated? What if I got monoclonal antibody treatment?
“Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19,” the CDC says.
“Evidence is emerging that people get better protection by being fully vaccinated compared with having had COVID-19. One study showed that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than 2 times as likely than fully vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again,” the CDC’s website says.
“If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”
The concept that immunity gained through vaccination may be stronger or lasts longer than the immunity achieved from previous infection isn’t new.
“Many of the vaccines that we’ve made in history are actually stronger than the virus is itself at creating immunity,” epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant said.
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Is it true you’re just as likely to get the Delta variant from any vaccinated person as you are from any unvaccinated person?
No. “The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus,” the CDC said about the Delta variant on August 26.
A study published by the CDC in late August showed vaccinated people were 5 times less likely to get infected than unvaccinated people.
When a fully vaccinated person does get a breakthrough infection, “your chances of having symptoms go down by 8-fold” compared to an unvaccinated person, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said August 1.
“People infected with the Delta variant, including fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough infections, can transmit the virus to others,” the CDC said. “CDC is continuing to assess data on whether fully vaccinated people with asymptomatic breakthrough infections can transmit the virus.”
Even if a vaccinated person gets a breakthrough infection and is contagious, “vaccinated people appear to spread the virus for a shorter time,” the CDC said.
“For people infected with the Delta variant, similar amounts of viral genetic material have been found among both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. However, like prior variants, the amount of viral genetic material may go down faster in fully vaccinated people when compared to unvaccinated people,” the CDC said. “This means fully vaccinated people will likely spread the virus for less time than unvaccinated people.”
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Why should anyone care whether I’m vaccinated if they’re already vaccinated?
Avoiding vaccination can harm your loved ones and help create even more contagious or more dangerous variants for everyone, doctors say.
Full vaccination reduces the chances of getting and spreading coronavirus.
Children too young to be vaccinated and people who are immunocompromised also rely on the vaccination of others to help protect them, said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
But vaccination is also important to help prevent more contagious or more dangerous variants from forming — such as one that might evade vaccines and harm those who are fully vaccinated.
“If we are going to continue to allow this virus to spread, we’re going to continue to allow … variants to be c
Americans will be able to pick up free N95 masks from various pharmacies and community health centers
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