Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Vax Matters podcast explores facts, myths, misconceptions around vaccines

Vax Matters, a new podcast series from the Louisiana Department of Health’s (LDH) Immunization Program, has released the first three episodes in a planned 36-podcast series over the coming year.

The podcast, with a new episode being released every two weeks, will take a deep dive and explore the history and future of vaccines, as well as address facts, misconceptions and myths on a variety of immunization topics.

In each episode, host Diane Deaton, a former TV personality and weathercaster for WAFB 9News in Baton Rouge, along with a guest host, will speak with medical and infectious disease experts from Louisiana, as well as across the country, to address that episode’s topic.

In a two-part episode just released, Deaton and guest host Deon Guillory speak with Dr. Frank Welch, a leading national expert on immunizations and former medical director for Emergency Preparedness at LDH, on the history of vaccines. During the episodes, Dr. Welch walks listeners through the origin of modern vaccines beginning with smallpox through the polio epidemic. Welch explains why some vaccines are grouped and how it is decided which flu strain will be used each year for the vaccine.

Dr. Welch also discusses how vaccines are developed today and the progress we have seen in the last few years and the medical research and tests that are conducted before a vaccine is ever approved.

“I think it's important in society that we recognize the difference between an opinion and scientific research and scientific fact,” Dr. Welch concluded.

In another of the episodes released, Deaton and Guillory speak with Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer at LDH, to discuss the COVID vaccine and recount the past two years of living during the current pandemic. Dr. Kanter will take us behind the scenes as LDH and hospitals responded to the outbreak over the past two years, how the pandemic has impacted our lives and the role vaccines have played during that time.

“To have a vaccine developed from start to finish with full safety and efficacy testing in less than a year from the time that this virus entered this country is nothing short of miraculous,” Dr. Kanter said in Episode 1 of Vax Matters. “I think these companies deserve a lot of credit for helping save lives. We would (have) lost thousands and thousands of more lives in the second year of this pandemic if we had to deal with it without the tool of these vaccines.”

Dr. Kanter also talks about the importance of the vaccine and other FDA-approved tools that are available or will become available in the coming months to fight COVID.

Future topics will look at vaccine mistrust among minorities, vaccines and fertility, how outbreaks happen, and more detailed looks at our most common and well-known vaccines.

In the trailer for the Vax Matters podcast, Deaton introduces the podcast by saying, “For decades, vaccines were something most of us probably didn’t give much thought to. Then COVID happened and suddenly vaccines were all we thought about. Today, facts about vaccines matter more than ever.”

Vax Matters can be found and downloaded on all the top podcast platforms including Apple, Google Podcast, Spotify, Audible and Stitcher.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

When should I get a second COVID-19 booster shot?

By DR. MARTHA WHYTE | OPH Region 7 Medical Director

Since COVID-19 vaccines first became available in December 2020, we have seen occasional changes in the vaccination guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following the availability of and recommendation for the first series of vaccinations, boosters have been recommended for those who are eligible. Now, there is a general push for a second Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) or Moderna (Spikevax) booster shot.

With the second booster shot, many Americans are currently asking when to get it, who should get it and how beneficial it is.

When to get it?

For most individuals to be considered fully vaccinated, they must have received their initial round of primary vaccines and their first booster shot. CDC says guidelines remain relatively the same for most Americans, but recommendations have changed, based on age, immune status and type of original vaccine received.

Timing is important for second boosters — at least four months after the first booster shot was administered. Those who received the J&J vaccine must wait at least four months from receiving their primary dose and booster.

Who should get it?

Health officials are now recommending the second coronavirus booster shot for:

  • Those who are age 50 or older
  • Individuals ages 12 and up who are moderately or severely immunocompromised (Pfizer only for ages 12-17)
  • Those with two doses (one primary and one booster) of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Janssen vaccine.

How beneficial is it?

Recent research shows that during the Omicron surge, those who were boosted were 7 times less likely to be hospitalized and 21 times less likely to die from COVID-19 as compared to unvaccinated individuals.

The average American desires to remain healthy and help keep their loved ones healthy as well. Factors that may affect the choice of a second booster shot include the greater risk for severe disease from COVID-19, the concern over giving COVID-19 to someone close who is immunocompromised, or greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Second boosters are meant to prevent hospitalizations. However, as with any vaccine, the second booster shot has a relative effective time in the body. It is not an end-all to complete protection against COVID-19. The series of vaccines and the second booster help to build immunity against infection and protect the individual for the life of the vaccine.

The choice of whether to receive a second booster shot, ultimately, is left up to the individual and their medical professional.

Future important life events and recent COVID-19 diagnoses are just two reasons that some individuals may choose to wait to receiving a second dose. Other factors include daily schedule constraints and the general thought of overall health being good and already adequately vaccinated.

If you are in a group listed above that is eligible for the second booster, or you know of someone who is, talk to your doctor. To book your free second booster or schedule an in-home vaccination, call 1-855-453-0774 or visit vaccines.gov. Find pertinent information around the second booster shot and other COVID-19 updates at www.cdc.gov.