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Top COVID-19 Questions Answered By California’s Top Epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan

Top COVID-19 Questions Answered By California's Top Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan

Magazine, Living Well

As infections continue to rise and hospitalizations continue to increase, Omicron is at a high spread level. ⅕ of people tested are positive. How to slow the spread is critical.  In a recent  EMS briefing, Dr. Erica Pan addressed the most frequently asked questions around Omicron, COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, testing, and more. She shared actual questions received from Californians who call the Statewide COVID-19 Hotline and respond to them live. Callers into the hotline frequently ask about testing and vaccination, as well as the latest travel and school guidance.

Here are some answers to your questions by Dr. Pan the state’s top-ranking epidemiologist who was appointed by Governor Newsom to the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which is responsible for independently reviewing the FDA’s actions related to COVID-19 vaccines.

As part of the California Department of Public Health’s “Week of Action” (Jan. 17-21), this briefing will be hosted by the Vaccinate ALL 58 campaign in English and simulcast in Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean.

  • How do the vaccines work? Vaccines teach our body’s immune system to fight the virus thereby generating antibodies.
  • How effective are the vaccines? While the risk of hospitalization and death remains high for the unvaccinated it is lower in the vaccinated. The mRNA is now recommended over J&J. Getting vaccinated and boosted keeps you safer from hospitalization and death. Even if infected you can still benefit from the vaccine.
  • If someone has had covid should they get vaccinated? If you have had covid, you can still benefit from the vaccine. It protects you from serious infection and death. It also protects family members.
  • With the booster should we still practice safety? Since not all groups can take the vaccines you should still wear masks.
  • Are vaccines safe for children? Parents should know that vaccines are safe and effective for children eligible for the vaccines. Only mild side effects like fatigue and fever. Serious side effects are rare that affect the heart muscle. Getting the virus and disease if not vaccinated is worse in contrast. Vaccines are free, safe, and effective. Currently looking forward to approval for kids under the ages of 5yrs.
  • What are the symptoms to check with the doctor? Difficulty breathing or chest pain. Tiredness or fever is normal.
  • What is the importance of knowing safety for boosters? Booster doses are proven to be safe and the best way of protecting yourself. Maximize your protection from variants.
  • Will there be a fourth dosage? For now following CDC advisement. We are all waiting for data to be direct.
  • Why does OMICRON have a greater impact on children? It finds the unprotected vulnerable. Unfortunately, our children are in that category. So, get vaccinated, wear masks, and practice safety.
  • What is the toll on children’s mental health? It has taken an incredible toll on kids’ behavioral health. It is still important to follow the guidelines.
  • What is the next variant concern? There are going to be ongoing variants especially with so many people unvaccinated. It is hard to predict but there is nothing on the radar right now.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding? Pregnant women are at high risk and getting sick. Vaccines’ benefits far outweigh the risk of getting sick. Take the vaccine if pregnant.
  • KN95 vs Other Masks? How well they fit and filter is important for masks.
  • Breakthroughs? Post-vaccination breakthrough infections can happen because variants are different. However, vaccinations prevent severe disease or illness outcomes.
  • Sterility from Vaccines? There is no evidence that vaccines have any effect on fertility in females or males.
  • Why are testing results taking so long? Turn around time and staffing issues. However, testing is very useful.
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