"Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

This forum is to discuss general things concerning TSOI.
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Can a Microwave Kill Coronavirus Particles on Food?

https://www.healthline.com/health/does- ... oronavirus

Many of us use microwaves to warm or prepare food. In fact, according to a publication by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 90 percent of homes in the United States have at least one microwave.

During the coronavirus pandemic, much attention has focused on how to effectively kill the coronavirus on various surfaces. Because of this, you may have wondered if a microwave can kill coronavirus that may be present on food.

Overall, the answer to this question is maybe. Read on to learn more about microwaving, coronavirus, and safe food practices during the pandemic.

Does microwaving food kill the coronavirus?

The answer to whether microwaves can kill the coronavirus is currently maybe. Let’s take a deeper dive into this topic.

What temperature kills the coronavirus?

You may be familiar with the concept of safe minimum cooking temperatures. This is the minimum internal temperature that a food needs to be cooked to in order to kill germs that can cause illness, such as bacteria and viruses.

For many types of food, the safe minimum cooking temperature is 165oF (74°C). However, this may be lower for some food types.

Studies have looked at temperatures that can kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in both laboratory mediaTrusted Source and on N95 respirators. They found that a temperature of 70oC (158oF) could kill the virus. The amount of time needed to achieve this varied by surface.

Based off of this information, can heating food to above 158oF (70oC) in a microwave kill the coronavirus? Let’s tackle this topic now.

Microwaves and coronavirus

Microwaves work by producing radio waves that are transmitted into the device at a specific frequency. These waves are absorbed by water molecules in the food, causing them to vibrate rapidly. These rapid vibrations produce the heat that cooks the food.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), microwaves can be used to disinfect materials that are microwave-safe. They note that a home microwave may completely kill germs within 60 seconds to 5 minutesTrusted Source.

However, the total amount of time that this may take depends on the specific type of germ. The amount of power and time needed for microwaves to effectively kill SARS-CoV-2 is unknown at this timeTrusted Source.

Additionally, there can be variations across different microwaves. Some may not cook at the same strength or in the same way. For example, the CDCTrusted Source warns that home microwaves may not cook with an even distribution.

This means that there could be areas of food where germs aren’t completely killed. Think of all the times you’ve tried to reheat leftovers and found that there are still cold spots in the food.

Viruses vs. bacteria

Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot grow (replicate) inside of food. They’re parasites that need a living host cell in order to make more of themselves.

Because of this, we focus on viruses that are present on the outside of food as opposed to the inside of food. Studies have evaluatedTrusted Source how long SARS-CoV-2 can be found on various surfaces, including some common food packaging materials:

plastic: between 3 to 7 days
cardboard: up to 24 hours
glass: up to 4 days
paper: up to 4 days

According to the CDCTrusted Source, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported due to handling of food or food packaging. While disinfecting foods or food packaging is unnecessary, always wash your hands after handling these items and before eating.

Is it safe to order and eat takeout food?

The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry particularly hard. That’s why ordering takeout food from your favorite restaurant is a great way to support them during this time. However, you may be wondering if ordering takeout is safe.

SARS-CoV-2 is mainly spread through the air. You can contract it if you breathe in respiratory droplets that are made when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks. Because of this, ordering takeout is relatively low-risk.

Takeout food handling tips

When you receive your takeout food, follow these steps to be sure that you’re handling it safely:

Use your own utensils to carefully transfer the food from its packaging and onto a plate or tray.
Promptly dispose of all food packaging, washing your hands thoroughly after doing so.
Use your own eating utensils and napkins instead of those that were provided with the takeout order.
Wash your hands again before eating.
After you’ve finished your meal, clean your plates and eating utensils or place them in the dishwasher. Then, wipe down the table or countertop that you ate on.

If the restaurant offers contactless curbside pickup, consider using this service. This will help limit the number of individuals, such as delivery people, that come into contact with your order.

Can microwaves kill other types of germs or bacteria?

As we touched on earlier, the microwave can be used to kill a variety of germs on microwave-safe surfaces. This may take seconds to minutesTrusted Source, depending on both the type of germ and the microwave.

However, remember that microwaves can vary in how much power they have and in how thoroughly they heat foods. Because of this, it’s important to check that food items are cooked to the proper internal temperature before eating them.

Kitchen sponges, germs, and microwaves

You may have heard of microwaving kitchen sponges to kill the germs on them. Indeed, a 2006 studyTrusted Source found that a home microwave at full power killed test bacteria and viruses on kitchen sponges in a matter of minutes.

However, it may be a good idea to just toss an old kitchen sponge. This is due to a study from 2017Trusted Source that evaluated the bacteria present on and in kitchen sponges.

The researchers found that regular sanitation of kitchen sponges, such as by microwaving or boiling, actually increased the number of certain types bacteria that are more resistant to sanitation.

Why you shouldn’t microwave masks or books

You may have seen information about using microwaves to disinfect N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment (PPE). It’s true that scientists continue to studyTrusted Source this as a potential decontamination method for PPE.

However, it’s important to avoid microwaving your masks at home. This is because masks can contain materials that aren’t microwave-safe, such as cloth and metal. In fact, it’s possible your mask could catch fire in the microwave!

According to the CDCTrusted Source, reusable cloth masks can be cleaned in your laundry or by hand. The combination of warm water and laundry detergent can kill the virus. Disposable face masks need to be thrown away after each use.

Books are also a fire hazard in the microwave. Because cleaning a book with a disinfectant wipe can damage it, consider quarantining a book for a few days before using it. If you need to use the book sooner, wash your hands after handling it.


Microwaves can kill different types of germs, such as bacteria and viruses. This can include SARS-CoV-2, although we don’t yet know what power and time settings are needed to achieve this effectively.

Additionally, remember that microwaves can differ in strength and how well they heat food. Because of this, germs in some parts of the food may not be killed.

Overall, the risk of contracting COVID-19 from food or its packaging is very low. However, it’s always important to practice good food safety measures in order to prevent becoming sick with a foodborne illness.
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Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:22 am

Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

I've had my Covid-19 vaccine -- now what can I safely do? Your questions answered


https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/03/health/a ... index.html

The day has finally come. You've received the second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine currently on the Western market -- Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Does that mean you're free to go about life as you did before the pandemic once immunity kicks in?

Sorry, there is no immunity passport yet, experts told CNN. There are still safety precautions you need to follow in order to keep you, your loved ones and everyone else safe and protected from the deadly coronavirus.
Read on for answers from the experts on top questions such as when can you stop wearing a mask, eat inside a restaurant, travel, go to sporting events and concerts, and freely visit friends and family.

Can I please stop wearing a face mask?

Let's "face" it: The answer is no.
Try to think of a face mask as your new best friend, one that you plan to cherish and appreciate for a good, long time. Here are five reasons why.

1) It's not 100% protection. Even the best of the currently available vaccines only offer up to 95% protection when you are fully immunized. That means there is a 5% chance you can catch the novel coronavirus at any time.
Think that sounds small? Let's compare that risk to birth control: Pills, patches, vaginal rings and shots are 91% to 96% effective. Yet that translates to nine women becoming pregnant for every 100 women on each of those forms of birth control, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

2) Everyone's different.
Some people are going to mount more robust immune responses to both rounds of the Covid-19 vaccination than others. That's one of the key reasons experts are insisting everyone receive the second shot of the vaccine within a key time frame.
"In looking at the Phase 1, Phase 2 data, what I saw with a single dose is some people had high levels of virus-neutralizing antibody, others were nonresponders," said vaccine scientist Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, in a prior interview.
"So the major reason for the second dose is to get everybody to respond. If you just get a single dose, you don't really know where you stand," Hotez said.

Remember, it can take two to three weeks after you get the second shot before your immunity fully kicks in.

3) A moving target. As is typical with viruses, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mutating around the world -- creating variants that are proving to be more contagious than those the US is currently battling.
Experts are already warning that antibodies from a prior case of Covid-19 won't protect against being reinfected with a variant from South Africa.
"If it becomes dominant, the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicate that even if you've been infected with the original virus that there is a very high rate of reinfection," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday. "Previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection."
There is also a possibility that the current vaccines won't fully protect against the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That's being studied feverishly right now, so stay tuned.

4) You could be a silent spreader.

Remember "Typhoid Mary" Mallon?
She was an Irish immigrant who worked as a cook for New York families and refused to believe she was an asymptomatic conduit for typhoid fever because she remained healthy. Refusing to cooperate with authorities, Mallon contaminated at least 122 people in the 1880s, leaving five dead, before she was caught and quarantined twice for a total of 26 years.
That scenario could apply to Covid-19.
"We don't yet know whether being vaccinated means that you're no longer a carrier of coronavirus. That is, fully immunized people may still be able to spread Covid-19 to others," said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

"It's possible that someone could get the vaccine but could still be an asymptomatic carrier," Wen said in a Q&A for CNN. "They may not show symptoms, but they have the virus in their nasal passageway so that if they're speaking, breathing, sneezing and so on, they can still transmit it to others."
5) Will immunity last? Researchers don't yet know just how long the immunity given by the current vaccines -- such as it is -- will last. There is a possibility that booster doses may be needed in the months or years to come. That's not uncommon -- adults need tetanus and diphtheria boosters every 10 years.
So until more is known about how long the protection lasts -- and against which variants -- stay safe and protect others by wearing a mask.

When can I hang out with friends and family?

That depends on everyone's vaccine status, experts say. If friends or other members of your family have also received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, the risk is greatly reduced, especially if the visit is outdoors.

"It's probably pretty safe to see others who were also vaccinated, after everyone gets both doses and waits a few weeks," Wen said.
It would also be safe if the unvaccinated friends or family members or friends quarantined for 10 days before the outdoor get-together.
However, if the visit is indoors, "there is going to be some level of risk," Wen said, especially with the current spread of more contagious variants and the less than 100% efficacy of today's vaccines.
"That risk will be much lower than if you were not vaccinated, but the risk is still going to be there to you, and you could still be a risk to the unvaccinated members of your family, as you could be an asymptomatic carrier who transmits to them," Wen said.
"If you really want to spend time with the grandkids indoors, the safest way to do this is still for everyone to quarantine for at least 10 days and lower their risk during these 10 days," Wen said. "Quarantining for seven days and a negative test is an option too, but everyone also has to do the quarantine — a negative test alone is not enough."

And again, just because you've been vaccinated, that doesn't reduce your responsibility. You should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing whenever you are around others.
"You wouldn't want to engage in activities where you could potentially acquire the novel coronavirus and then transmit it to others," Wen said.

"That includes seeing other people who are vaccinated, but not wearing a mask — based on what we know now, they could have the virus and pass it onto you, and you could pass it onto the people you live with. An abundance of caution is still a good idea."

When can I eat at an indoor restaurant or go to a concert or sporting event?

Indoor restaurants are likely hotspots for Covid-19 transmission. That's partly because no one is wearing a mask while they eat, thus spreading their respiratory droplets around as they socialize.

The other reason? Most restaurants do not have HEPA filters or other filtration equipment on their circulation systems, leaving the air poorly ventilated and a prime breeding ground for virus spread. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding "poorly ventilated spaces."

"I think the 6 feet indoors is not enough by itself," said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, who has been studying Covid-19 transmission.
"You have to have good ventilation in that bar or restaurant," said Marr, the co-author of a paper on airborne transmission of Covid-19 via very small droplets called aerosols.

However, even a HEPA filter wouldn't make environmental engineer Marr feel comfortable eating inside a restaurant. In order for the filter to protect you, the virus-laden air would have to pass through the air handling system and be filtered first before it gets to you, she said.
So even with a second vaccine, you're still taking a chance that you might be exposed to Covid-19 and become a silent spreader.

But won't the typical 6-foot spread between tables or booth partitions do the trick?

"I think the 6 feet indoors is not enough by itself," said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, who has been studying Covid-19 transmission.
"You have to have good ventilation in that bar or restaurant," said Marr, the co-author of a paper on airborne transmission of Covid-19 via very small droplets called aerosols.
However, even a HEPA filter wouldn't make environmental engineer Marr feel comfortable eating inside a restaurant. In order for the filter to protect you, the virus-laden air would have to pass through the air handling system and be filtered first before it gets to you, she said.
"HEPA filters reduce the amount of virus in the background air, but most transmission takes place in these close contact type of scenarios where you're near someone that's infected and they're spreading lots of virus. The HEPA filter doesn't help with that," she said.
"And since I can't wear a mask while I'm eating, I'm just avoiding indoor restaurants until this is over," Marr said.

What about fun things to do, such as concerts and sporting events?

"Once vaccinated, an outdoor sporting event or concert is probably safe, if there is good social distancing between households and everyone is wearing masks," Wen said. "Indoor, crowded gatherings are probably still best to avoid even if you're vaccinated."

Can I travel if I've been vaccinated?

"I want to emphasize that now is not the time to be traveling period, internationally or domestically, it's just not a good time to be traveling," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's new director, in a CNN global town hall last week.

And that applies to people who have already been vaccinated, added Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser.

"Getting vaccinated does not say now I have a free pass to travel," Fauci said at the CNN global town hall. "Nor does it say that I have a free pass to put aside all of the public health measures that we talk about all the time."
"I mean, if you absolutely have to travel and it's essential, then obviously, one would have to do that. But we don't want people to think because they got vaccinated, then other public health recommendations just don't apply," Fauci said.
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQs: If I Have No Post-Vaccine Pain, Is It Working? Plus: Goat Dilemma!


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... at-dilemma

I got my COVID-19 vaccine and didn't feel any pain after nor experience any symptoms. Could it be that it didn't work?

Our experts agree: If you received your two doses of COVID-19 shots and made sure to follow up with your second dose on time — within 28 days after your first prick for the Moderna vaccine or 21 days for the Pfizer option — you really shouldn't worry.

Current trials show that post-injection symptoms vary significantly among individuals who've received the vaccine, so how you feel after the shot isn't a litmus test for whether or not the immunization worked.

In other words, it's possible to receive a (perfectly-administered) vaccine and suffer no symptoms whatsoever. Just "consider yourself lucky," says Harvard Medical School physician Abraar Karan.

So the idea that our physical responses can tell us if a vaccine worked is a misconception. "The fact that [an individual] did not see a reaction is not a reason to believe that their body did not develop an appropriate response that will be protective," says Jonathan Runstadler, a professor at Tufts University's Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health. Especially, he adds, as our bodies' tendency to react to a vaccine "varies a lot between individuals and the individual's circumstances, like where the needle went into the [patient's] arm or where in the arm the shot was deposited."

But there are some obvious red flags in vaccine administration that should be pretty easy to notice — for example, Karan says, if you see lots of liquid from the tip of the needle squirting out before it even enters your skin. Then, of course, it might be a good idea to alert the nurse or doctor.

The by-and-large wisdom here, the doctors concur: You're probably fine if you've gotten the shot. But it never hurts to stay vigilant — at all stages of the process.

When my mom got her shot, the nurse told her she had to get it in her arm in two minutes – or else the vaccine would expire! Now my mom is worried that she could have gotten an expired dose.

Every vaccine has a shelf life, explains Dr. Hana El Sahly, associate professor of molecular virology, microbiology and medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Vaccine administering facilities have to abide by those windows of time because the vaccine is tested for stability at this room temperature and it doesn't stay good forever."

For the COVID-19 vaccines Pfizer and Moderna, you have 6 hours from the time the vial is punctured. After that, El Sahly says, "the vaccine will no longer be stable, and its biologic effect will vary after that."

However, if you're anywhere within that window, there is no cause for concern.

"All it takes is five seconds to get it in the arm," El Sahly says. "Two minutes to me sounds good!"

And if it took three minutes for someone to roll up their sleeve? Sadly, the vaccinator wouldn't have a choice.

"Throw it away," she says.

It's important to note that being injected with an expired vaccine wouldn't be cause for safety concerns. The concern would be that it might not be as effective in preventing infection with the coronavirus.

Which vaccine should I get?

Right now, the two licensed vaccines in the U.S. – Pfizer and Moderna — are so close in efficacy, and so scarce, that the vast majority of us would be thrilled to get either. But what if a vaccine with less efficacy is approved?

The advice doesn't change, says Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease expert and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America: Get whatever you're offered first. "When you are given the opportunity to get the vaccine, get that vaccine," she says. If, when your turn comes, it's not Moderna or Pfizer, remember that the FDA's efficacy goal was over 50% effective. "It's phenomenal that they're all over 50%," Kullar says.

Another way to look at it: Consider what could happen if you don't get it, Kullar says. "COVID is so prevalent right now that people's risk of getting it if they exit their house is very high."

Do I need to do any blood work first?

Dr. El Sahly and Kullar have the same answer:


What if I've had a different vaccine recently? Can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, but wait two weeks first, say Dr. El Sahly and Kullar.

"It is generally recommended to wait 14 days between the other licensed vaccine you received for your health and your COVID-19 vaccine," El Sahly says.

The other day I wore my mask in the grocery store but then kept it on as I drove home because I didn't want to touch it without washing my hands first. I took a deep breath while driving and it caused me to wonder: If I had walked through a cloud of virus and it was stuck to my mask, was I sucking it through the mask closer to my nose and mouth with every breath I took? Is it important to take masks off as soon as you can, or does the virus get stuck and stay there?

Once a virus particle gets blocked by your mask, "it's pretty stuck there," says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who has spent years studying airborne virus transmission. Marr says it's possible that you might potentially loosen some particles if you were to say, flick or disturb the mask in some way while taking a sharp breath in, "but I imagine that would be rare."

So the importance of taking off your mask as soon as you can would be more for your own comfort. But do remember to take off the mask by handling the ear loops, head ties or headband – and avoiding touching the front of the mask. Because any virus particles your mask stopped would be stuck on the front, so you wouldn't want to get those on your hands. It's also good practice to wash or disinfect your hands after removing your mask.

I was wondering if it is safe to cuddle baby goats during COVID?

It would be a private cuddle session, so only my household, but the goats might cuddle other people that same day. I figured "Goats and Soda" may be able to help!

Sterling news for the cuddling baby goats industry: If you're generally careful, do a private cuddle-sesh and follow all the usual pandemic precautions — it's a go!

"In the general sense, it's safe to do," says Jonathan Runstadler, who studies how emerging viruses transmit in animal hosts at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

To understand the mechanics of why that's the case, Runstadler points to two possible transmission pathways which might cause COVID-19 to move from an animal to a human, particularly in the goats scenario — both of which are pretty low risk.

The first risk is the chance that the adorable goats contract COVID-19 themselves (oh heavens no!) – maybe from another group of people who played with them – and transmit the virus to an unlucky bunch of cuddle-loving humans.

But while COVID-19 has been detected in animals — a handful of documented infections of cats and dogs, some infected tigers at the zoo and minks in mink farms — Runstadler says it's "really unlikely" for transmission to happen directly from animal to human, based on what current studies are showing.

Even though some cases of animal to human transmission have been documented, particularly in the case of high-intensity mink farming, it's usually not a huge risk.

A bigger concern, says Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is the possibility that an infected person could expel viral particles onto the animal's fur, which could then be picked up by humans who pet the animal. Runstadler agrees.

In technical terms, this is the route of fomite – or surface-level – transmission. That is a higher risk than direct goat-to-human transmission through airborne particles. But experts agree it's still pretty low in the grand scheme of things. Especially because studies show that the virus does less well at spreading via surfaces than through the air.

Plus, the fur of a goat might have an advantage over other surfaces here: "There's some work that shows that the virus can be picked up much less frequently from organic surfaces," Runstadler says. "So, for example, the hair of a goat."

Runstadler says there's a "low possibility" of infection happening this way. But the risk is certainly not nonexistent. The best thing to do is follow all of the typical guidelines to prevent infection when you go to cuddle the goats, and the risk will likely be "negligible," Dr. Abraar Karan says.

"I would wear a mask and wash hands, and use hand sanitizer after playing with the goats," Kratt says. "Practice social distancing [with other goat-cuddlers] and try not to touch your face or eyes before washing your hands."

And perhaps this is a good time to pivot away from the pandemic and share another bit of goat advice from those lazy, hazy days before the pandemic. If a goat eats poison ivy (and they can with no ill effect) and you drink that goat's milk — no worries, it won't give you a rash!
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQs: Mammograms, Vaccine Ingredients ... And Dogs Who Sniff Masks

February 19, 2021

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... niff-masks

I'm eligible for the COVID vaccine and due for a mammogram. Which should I do first?

Definitely do both, says Dr. Lars Grimm, associate professor of radiology at Duke University. But if you can, schedule the mammogram either before the vaccine or 4-6 weeks after the second dose, in keeping with new recommendations from the Society of Breast Imaging.

That's because swollen lymph nodes are both a common side effect of the vaccines and can also be a marker of early breast cancer, he says — especially when lymph nodes on only one side are swollen.

"It can be the only sign we see," he says, noting that a mammogram often detects swelling that a person wouldn't notice. Of course, other things cause lymph nodes to swell, such as colds – swollen nodes shouldn't cause anyone to jump to the conclusion that they have cancer. But "when we see one, it triggers us to work it up and figure out what's going on," Grimm says.

And as soon as people started getting vaccinated, breast radiologists started noticing a big uptick in the number of women with swollen lymph nodes on one side of their body. They started asking patients whether they'd had the vaccine recently. Now he and his colleagues see vaccine-related swollen lymph nodes every day. The day we talk to him, two of the three patients he'd seen that morning had shown swollen lymph nodes on one side.

The good news? Most people can adjust their vaccine and mammogram schedules accordingly. Even if you can't, Grimm encourages you to pursue both. Worst case scenario? "They might ask you to come back and take more pictures and make sure it's resolved," he says. "It's a pretty low-key thing."

I've heard that the ingredients in the COVID vaccines are dangerous. Even if this is a rumor, I'd love to know what's actually in there!

Anti-vaccination groups have historically propagated false information about the ingredients in vaccines, and the COVID vaccine is no exception. We asked Richard Kennedy, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Vaccine Research Group, to explain exactly what each ingredient in the two vaccines licensed in the U.S., Pfizer and Moderna, vaccines does:

This is the only "active" ingredient in the two vaccines, i.e. the ingredient that provokes the desired medical response. mRNA (messenger-RNA) is a short stretch of RNA that tells cells to make a protein," Kennedy explains, in this case the now-famous spike protein we've all seen so many pictures of. That's what triggers the immune response. And it's similar to the mRNA that's floating around in our cells all the time, he says.

Vaccine critics have raised concerns that these vaccines could enter a cell's genome, and cause unexpected problems. For that to happen, the vaccine mRNA would have to enter a cell nucleus, and according to data from the manufacturers, it doesn't. Even if it did, many scientists say the possibility of an mRNA entering nuclear DNA is low.

The mRNA is identical in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Lipids: "Normally your cells don't like foreign RNA, so they vaccine manufacturers have tweaked it to be stable," Dr. Kennedy says. Manufacturers needed to make the mRNA last several hours in your cells, giving the vaccine time to make enough protein for your body to respond to.

One way they've done that is by adding lipids, molecules made from fats that don't dissolve in water. . Both vaccines contain a variety, including cholesterol and polyethylene glycol-2000 (affectionately known as PEG2000) and some "alphabet soup" molecules with names such as 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]. "Basically they act like little droplets of oil, and the RNA is floating inside," Kennedy says. This serves two purposes, he adds: It stabilizes and protects the RNA, and it helps the RNA get through the cell membranes .

Buffers: The Pfizer vaccine uses salts to maintain the right acidity inside cells. Moderna uses a mixture of mild acids and bases to do that.

These ingredients are commonly used as buffers in other injectable medicines, Kennedy notes. "They make sure that the pH of the vaccine matches the pH of your body and make sure that it won't damage cells when the liquid is injected."

Sucrose: Without an ingredient like sugar, water molecules form crystals that can act like razor blades. "So the sucrose blocks how those crystals form so they don't chop anything up," Kennedy says.

Saline solution: Most of the liquid in the vial is saline solution.

What's not in the vaccine, Kennedy notes, is any live or dead virus. And since these vaccines are made in machines, they're easier to keep sterile than other types of vaccines, which are made using living cells. While researchers aren't yet sure why a small percentage of people who get the vaccine experience allergic reactions, he says many people suspect it's that PEG2000 lipid, which is also found in everything from laxatives to cosmetics to toothpaste.

The bottom line? "The disease has a known mortality rate between 1 and 2 percent," Kennedy says. "If the vaccine were as dangerous as the disease, we should see 34,000 people dying from the vaccine every day."

My dog can't resist sniffing a discarded mask on the street. How risky is that?

Dog-walkers on oft-trodden streets know the perils of the fallen mask.

The good note here, explains Dr. Dana Varble, chief veterinary oficer of The North American Veterinary Community, is that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from such an encounter — both for you and your dog — is "extremely unlikely."

Preliminary research demonstrates that dogs are fairly resistant to infection, Varble says. And even if viral particles did get onto your dog's pelt or body, it would be difficult for you to contract the disease through surface-level, or physical, transmission. You'd have to touch the dog, pick up the particles from the fur and bring them to your eyes, nose or mouth.

Nonetheless, if you're eager to be extra safe — and to avoid a potential nightmare scenario arising from your dog's mask-sniffing escapades — there are a couple things you can do.

"For one, always have your dog on a leash," Varble suggests. "And take careful diligence to keep them away from strewn masks."

One idea is to look for dog paths or less crowded streets to walk your dog where litter is less or a problem. If you do see your dog sniffing on a mask, Varble says, usher them away from the area as quickly as possible. Do your best not to make contact with the mask directly.

In the worse-case scenario, you might need to use your hands to pull the mask out of your dog's mouth. You could carry disposable gloves for these occasions. But even then, Sonali Advani, an assistant professor medicine at Duke University, and Varble agree that your first priority should be to wash your hands with soap and water ASAP! And keep hands away from your face and mouth prior to washing.

Finally: "If you see your dog walk over a mask, something as simple as baby wipes can help to decontaminate fur and feet," Varble adds. "Just be careful around your dog's eyes, nose and mouth and wipe off feet and face softly."
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQs: What Are Mask Braces? What If I Get COVID After 1 Vaccine Dose?


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... ccine-dose

With concerns rising about more transmissible variants, I've been reading a lot about double masking. But are there other ways to improve mask fit? What about mask braces and mask tape? And do I need to shave my beard?!

Two masks are better than one. That's what Dr. Anthony Fauci has said in the face of looming variants that are likely more transmissible.

The goal is to get a better fit when you're in potentially risky places – say, a crowded store. Anything you can do to improve the seal, especially around the nose creases, is helpful at keeping pathogens out of your personal air space, says Richard Corsi, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University.

But there's no one-size-fits-all solutions. "There's not one way that's better than another," says Sonali Advani, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University.

Try the various options and find one that's comfortable enough to sustain for the length of time you're out in a potentially risky environment.

Here's a closer look at some of the various options.

Mask tape: Similar to what's marketed as medical tape, "mask tape is kind of like a high-tech Band-Aid, says Corsi. It's sold at most pharmacies and online, of course. You can take one strip about 3 inches long and use it to tape your mask down to your skin where it meets your nose or use 3 smaller strips vertically to tighten the fit. "Anecdotally, my wife has used it, and the tape lasts and helps with the seal and fogging her glasses," Corsi says.

Mask braces: Virginia Tech researcher Linsey Marr has tweeted that these are very useful, although she warns that they look super dorky! You can buy these rubber fitters online, or you can make a DIY version with a template – first you have to purchase a sheet of rubber. Marr found a brace a bit tight to wear over a mask for a long time but also easy to tote with a backup mask you keep, say, in your car or bag. "It should greatly improve performance of my surgical mask, which was very leaky around the sides," she noted on Twitter.

There are also mask braces sold online, made of silicone and somewhat resembling the forboding mask worn by Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. These braces would fit over a mask to seal it tighter to your face.

A close shave: In normal times, Corsi has a beard and mustache. But he shaved the beard when he realized it was interfering with his mask fit. "When you inhale, the air will go to the path of least resistance," he explains. "Facial hair creates a lot of air gaps to get right in. So it's really important to shave the beard if you want to be protected properly." Go for a clean shave anywhere the mask touches the face, he says.

If I contract COVID-19 after my first vaccine dose, what to do? Should I delay the second dose even if it meant going outside of the recommended time frame?

While there's controversy on the point, it's been shown that for two-dose vaccines, dose 1 does not offer the complete degree of protection as the combination.

In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, for instance, one study calculated efficacy after the first injection to be around 50%. That number shot up to over 92% after the second dose.

Meanwhile, it does take a few weeks for your body to start churning out antibodies after vaccination.

So you could in theory be exposed to the virus while you're in a clinic or pharmacy getting your dose. Or perhaps you get careless after dose one and drop some of your preventive measures — which, please, do not do this!!

Then what?

"If you contract COVID-19 after your first dose [of the vaccine], you should wait until you have recovered from acute illness and have cleared isolation guidelines [before getting vaccinated again]," says Abraar Karan, a Harvard Medical School physician.

Because there's a risk of infecting others, you shouldn't break your isolation prematurely to complete your vaccine sequence.

Sonali Advani, an assistant professor medicine at Duke University worries specially about risks to medical staff and front-line workers — beyond the usual dangers of spreading infection you'd carry by going anywhere at all with a case of COVID-19.

Plus, since you already have the infection ... there's really not such a huge rush to get the second installment of the vax.

One fortunate note: For the very few of us unlucky enough to find ourselves infected between vaccine doses, Advani points to new Centers for Disease Control and prevention guidelines: According to CDC, you can delay your second dose up to 42 days without sacrificing effectiveness.

Advani suspects that should be more than enough time for most to recover from a case of COVID-19, finish up needed isolation periods and get their second dosage within the vaccine window.

And to ensure that this doesn't happen to you, Advani emphasizes following all key COVID-19 preventive guidelines carefully after getting your first dose — distancing, wearing masks and washing hands often and well.

Does it matter if I get the second dose of my COVID-19 vaccine in a different arm than the first?

Our experts agree: No.

It really doesn't matter which arm you get your vaccine in, nor does it matter if you get each dose of the two-part Covid-19 vaccine in separate arms, they say. After all, it's still going into the same body.
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQ: Does It Make Your Hair Fall Out?


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... r-fall-out

I had COVID-19 months ago. Now my hair is falling out! What is going on?

First of all, don't panic! Losing fistfuls of hair may seem alarming, but it's actually a common response to extreme stress, both physical (i.e., an illness such as COVID-19) and emotional (i.e., living through a pandemic).

Given the number of us who have experienced either the physical or emotional stress of COVID, it's no surprise that the number of people who have been Googling hair loss has skyrocketed, according to The New York Times, or that a recent study published in The Lancet showed that 22% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in China reported hair loss six months later.

In fact, this type of stress-related hair loss, officially called telogen effluvium, may happen more often than we think, says Dr. Aurora Pop-Vicas, an infectious disease specialist at UW health in Madison, Wisc. We could be noticing it now because so many of us are hyper-aware of COVID-19 and its symptoms. In the past, someone who stayed in bed with the flu for four or five days and then noticed clumps of hair falling out three months later might never have made the connection between illness and clogged drain, she says.

"I think this is coming to our attention more than before," she says.

But why do our bodies often punctuate a stressful event with such an insult?

Dr. Greg Vanichcakhorn, the medical director of the COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says it's more accurate to think of it as hair shedding.

"Basically what happens is when a human is exposed to a significant insult like infection or a super-stressful event, it can cause hair cells to go into their dormant phase," he explains. "They're basically dead. And that can happen months after the insult. So maybe why patients are experiencing it post-COVID is that their body is still freaked out about what happened to them."

Hair goes through this cycle under normal circumstances as well, points out Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

"It's a natural phenomenon that all hair follicles go through periods of rest and growth and hair will fall out," he says.

The difference in people with telogen effluvium is that it all happens at once. Under normal circumstances, about 10% of your hair is in a resting phase, 5% in a shedding phase and the rest in a growth phase, Pop-Vicus says. "But if your body experiences a potent stressor, the body shifts its energy to focus and prioritize life-sustaining function," she explains. "Hair growth is not necessarily a survival function. So then maybe 50% of your hair would shift to the resting phase. That phase usually lasts two to three months, and then it naturally sheds."

That's when patients notice the clumps of hair on their brushes, she says — way more than what you'd usually experience.

That delayed reaction makes it tricky to parse out whether the phenomenon could be associated with COVID long haulers. While it's not one of the primary symptoms or complaints of long haulers, Van has seen cases of it in his patients.

And there are other reasons for hair loss: Medications such as chemotherapy and aging are well-known causes, but sometimes thyroid disease, hormonal imbalances or scalp problems can be the root of the issue, Pop-Vicus says. Contacting your primary care provider can help parse that out.

If you're still noticing clumps after six months, or if you have other symptoms such as scalp itching, redness, flaking or pain, those are signs that something else could be causing the hair loss. Seek out a board certified dermatologist, says Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Whatever the cause, sudden hair loss "can be quite disturbing," Van says.

The good news? Your hair will grow back! With no interventions, telogen effluvium usually resolves within six months, Khetarpal says.

In the meantime, techniques to manage stress may help, says Pop-Vicus: like yoga and meditation, especially when combined with good nutrition, sleep and exercise.

And those who've experienced this symptom also advise family members and friends not to make light of it. "My hair loss was traumatic because as a woman so much of my femininity and self-image is linked to my air," says 44-year-old restaurateur Genevieve Villamora of Washington, D.C. She says her hands were covered with hair after she showered — and that hair would come out during the day as well. The only other time she experienced that degree of hair loss was after giving birth. Her hair loss started to lessen, she says, four months after her recovery from COVID.
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQs: Can I Drink Between Vaccine Doses? What Is 'Vaccine Efficacy'?


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... e-efficacy

I have started hearing that vaccine recipients should abstain from alcohol between the first and second doses of the COVID vaccine. Is this a thing?

It's true that chronic, heavy drinking and binge drinking can suppress your immune system, says Richard Kennedy, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Vaccine Research Group. And there are plenty of health reasons not to drink alcohol, he adds. But an occasional drink here and there — including a celebratory toast after your second shot? "That won't have an effect," he says.

What, exactly, does it mean that a vaccine is, for example, 92% efficacious? Does it mean there's an 8% chance of my getting COVID-19? If so, why would anyone want to get a vaccine that's only 60 or 65% efficacious?

I find the subject of vaccine efficacy very confusing!

Don't worry: If you find it confusing, you're probably on the right track! Efficacy rates (and effectiveness rates and point estimates and confidence intervals) should appear at least a little confusing to most non-biostatisticians. The concepts rely on statistical thinking that many aren't familiar with, says Brianne Barker, a virologist at Drew University.

The tendency to oversimplify has led many people to the same — mistaken — conclusion that an efficacy rate of 92 percent would mean that of 100 vaccinated people, 8 of them would get sick during a pandemic.

But that's not the case. Fortunately, a vaccine with a 92 percent efficacy rate actually means your chances of getting the disease is much, much less than 8 percent. It means that if you were exposed to the disease, your chances of getting infected would be 92 percent less if you were vaccinated than if you weren't.

If you want to geek out on the exact math on how much your chances of getting COVID drops after a vaccine, you'd have to know what the probability of getting sick is, Barker says. "And that varies based on the population that you look at."

Say you originally had a 10% chance of getting sick without being vaccinated. If you got that vaccine with an efficacy rate of 92%, your chance of getting sick would drop from 10% to less than 1% — 0.8%, to be exact.

In reality, the trials found that the probability of getting sick in the placebo groups was much less than 10%. In the Pfizer trial, for example, it was 0.79% — or less than one per 100 people. Participants who got the real vaccine had just a .04 percent chance of getting COVID ... that's 4 in 10,000 people.

While efficacy rates should, theoretically, make comparisons among different vaccines possible, a number of variables have made it more like "comparing an efficacy rate of 70 percent to purple," says Richard Kennedy, co-director of the Vaccine Research Group.

"You're laughing because that's a ludicrous comparison," he says. But to truly make an apples-to-apples comparison, he says, you'd have to run the vaccines head-to-head in the same clinical trial. As it was, the characteristics of the participants in the various trials were different (Johnson & Johnson enrolled more people at higher risk, for example), variants were circulating during some trials and not others, and each trial defined the disease differently. (For example, Moderna defined a COVID-19 infection as a positive PCR test plus two symptoms from one group or one symptom from another group. Pfizer defined it as a positive PCR test plus one symptom.)

"The devil really is in the details," he says.

Can I get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and then sign up for Pfizer or Moderna?

Theoretically, that should be fine, Barker and Kennedy agree. In real life, it's unlikely to happen — "it's hard enough to get one in the first place," Barker says, and "having already received one shot of Johnson & Johnson, you'd be considered fully vaccinated and probably no one is going to let you get another one because you're taking it away from someone who needs it," Kennedy says.

However, your body would likely handle the mixing and matching just fine, since all of the vaccines have the same antigen, Kennedy explains. The antigen is the component that your immune response recognizes — in this case, the spike protein. It's akin to the flu vaccine, he says. We get influenza vaccines every year, often with similar strains, without worrying about which company made it. When antigens are different, however, your body usually develops weaker antibodies.

"Another thing to consider is what will happen if we need booster doses in 6 months, 2 years, whenever," he says. "I doubt that we will have the resources or ability to only provide the same vaccine that you originally received."

And can people who have an allergic reaction to their first Pfizer or Moderna shot follow up with Johnson & Johnson?

Again, this may work in theory, Kennedy says, but until vaccines are more widely available it may not be possible. In the meantime, be reassured that your first dose may provide pretty good protection. After all, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines weren't studied as single doses, so the efficacy rate after a month or two could be higher than you think, he points out.
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQs: Does Smoking Blunt The Vaccine? What About Painkillers?


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... ainkillers

I just got the first dose of the vaccine. Is it okay for me to smoke? Or should I wait until I have my second dose?

Well, you didn't specify what you'd be smoking. But actually it doesn't matter. Smoking, generally – be it marijuana, tobacco or via a vape – has not been known to interfere directly with the efficacy of the vaccine. So that would not be your main concern.

But that's not an endorsement of smoking. In fact, studies have outlined an association between smoking and worse outcomes from COVID-19, note Harvard Medical School physician Abraar Karan and Sonali Advani, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University.

Because of that extra vulnerability, Advani adds, "Smokers should get the COVID vaccine when available to them." Indeed, some states, Illinois for instance, have placed smokers in a top priority group for scheduling vaccines.

Is the first dose different from the second?

The short answer is no. For the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the chemical content is identical and so is the dosage, says Sonali Advani, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University. But each dose does play a slightly different function in protecting your body from COVID-19.

"The first dose serves as the primer," Advani explains – kicking off your body's initial immune response to the virus. Because your body isn't experienced in dealing with the COVID virus antigens, "the second serves as a booster of your immune response," Advani says, ensuring that your immune system pumps out enough antibodies to tackle invading viral threats.

Harvard Medical School physician Abraar Karan adds that though doses in two-step regimens are identical, it's important not to mix between the vaccines.

"If your first dose was Moderna, the second dose must be as well," he advises. "The schedules are different for both as well." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the "safety and efficacy" of mixing vaccines regimens have yet to be evaluated – so play it safe, and follow the straight-and-narrow.

Are painkillers OK to take?

The topic of painkillers is one we've covered before in the blog. But as more people sign up for their vaccines, we keep getting questions. OK to take a painkiller beforehand? What about immediately after the shot as a preemptive measure against possible side effects?

These are tricky questions, because the information we have is limited. According to Harvard Medical School physician Abraar Karan, there's yet to be comprehensive data analyzing the effect of painkillers on vaccine efficacy in humans. So until that information surfaces, it's difficult to draw concrete conclusions about how painkillers affect the ability of vaccines to do their work.

That's why both Karan and Sonali Advani, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, point to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which recommend against taking over-the-counter medicine (like ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen) to prevent vaccine-related side effects unless you would already do so regularly for other important health reasons. The general concern is that painkillers will blunt the effect of vaccines, as some studies have documented in mice. Even though that finding hasn't been confirmed in humans, experts suggest being safe just in case.

And if you develop a headache or your arm is sore after a vaccine inoculation? As Dr. Jill Weatherhead told Goats and Soda a few weeks ago: "You don't want to be taking medicine you don't need," adding, "If you develop symptoms afterward, then at that point it's certainly OK to take some sort of pain relief to help control symptoms."

I will be getting my second Moderna shot shortly. A special friend wants to visit me from another state. She does not believe in the vaccine – thinks it will kill you, conspiracy, etc. She would have to stay in my house several nights. Hate to jeopardize our friendship but I have been isolated for exactly one year (just curbside groceries) and don't want to blow it now. I have many animals dependent on me if I were to get sick. Would I be protected if she is in my house ? , No masks – she doesn't believe in them either.

Hosting your friend would not be advisable, says Harvard Medical School physician Abraar Karan.

"In this case, the host is still waiting to get her second vaccine dose, [and] this [friend] doesn't want to pursue vaccinations or masks," he says. "The CDC currently advises that only for people who have been vaccinated with both doses more than 2 weeks out since dose two, and who are low risk, is it okay to have private indoor gatherings with another family [member] or another person."

Duke University assistant professor of medicine Sonali Advani adds that even after being fully vaccinated, you are still at some risk of contracting COVID-19 — even if small, and especially if you are living with someone who exhibits high-risk behaviors (like not masking or choosing not to get vaccinated).

In this case, Karan advises this individual to get their second dose and to wait for at least 2 weeks before considering indoor hangouts with a friend who presents a risk of transmission.
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQ: To Travel Or Not To Travel? Plus, Tattoos And Vaccines Can Mix


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... es-can-mix

Airports are getting busier, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn't issued new guidelines for people who are vaccinated. So, what's a vaccinated wannabe traveler to do?

That question can best be answered with a healthy chorus of that depends.

With 26% of the population at least partially vaccinated, the temptation to return to pre-pandemic life is high. The problem is that — while laudable — that percentage is still not enough to safely reopen, says Charlotte Baker, assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia Tech.

And putting the CDC in the position of giving some people the green light to travel when not everyone has had the opportunity to get vaccinated, she says, poses some thorny ethical issues. "Then you get into vaccine passports and the haves and have-nots of who can travel."

Health officials will likely learn from spring break in Miami Beach how much of a spreading risk there is when you have people traveling from all over to one spot. The mayor issued a state of emergency when students who didn't yet qualify to get the vaccine thronged to the popular spring break destination.

Then there is the issue of variants. This week, Florida became the first state to surpass 1,000 variant cases of COVID-19. "With the variants, the more people travel the more they move them around," Baker says. "And all it takes is one person bringing it in. So it's best to keep the number of people moving around low."

"Some say the vaccines do a really good job against the variants; others say they don't know — and it's hard to put the lid back on once it's off," she says.

Until there's new guidance from the CDC, what is the best way to navigate the decision to travel? For that, we turned to Dr. Henry Wu, director of Emory TravelWell Center and an associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine.

"I think whether or not to travel should still hinge on the consideration of risk vs. the importance of the trip," Wu says — adding that it's perfectly acceptable to weigh hugging a family member as important.

Vaccines have mitigated the risk but we're not back to the pre-pandemic world, he points out. The general threshold when it comes to the "why" you are traveling should still be higher than normal — even if you're vaccinated. Wu hasn't been on a plane since the pandemic, but his risk-to-importance ratio may soon tilt toward visiting his elderly parents in Hawaii, he says.

"I have a father whose health is marginal," he says. Now that he and his parents have been vaccinated, "I am thinking the risk may be outweighed by the importance of seeing him."

If you go, here are Wu's suggestions

Seeing only vaccinated people would be safest indoors or out. If you do see unvaccinated people, or others who are not fully vaccinated, make sure to keep all the social distancing and masking precautions in play.

Most airlines aren't holding middle seats open any more, and security lines may be edging back toward normal. So it's extra important to wear a good mask that fits well and keep as distanced from others as possible. That protects both the mask wearer and others around them, since we don't know how much vaccinated people may or may not transmit the virus.

Consider booking an AirBNB or VRBO instead of a hotel if it will help avoid crowded elevators or lobbies.

Quarantine and test before and after — even if you're vaccinated. "It's a small headache in the big scheme of things," Wu says, and it could help control the spread of variants.

Consider a trip to a state or national park with lots of outdoor options — and skip the cruise for now because there are too many enclosed spaces and not enough people vaccinated yet.

If you are visiting anyone at high risk for complications of COVID-19, double down on your precautions, Wu says, adding that he'll probably wear a mask when he visits his parents.

"From a cautionary perspective, we want everyone to stay home," Wu says. "From a realistic perspective, we want everyone to be safe going out."

I got a tattoo two weeks ago. Is it safe to get the vaccine?

Yes! "As long as you went to a place that is safe, certified and accredited with a low risk of skin infection — go get [the vaccine]," says Baker, from Virginia Tech.

I've heard that people without a spleen aren't protected by the vaccine. Is that true?

"I don't have a spleen," says Baker. "You do have to be careful because all vaccines don't always protect us as well as people with spleens. But there's no known biological reason why you wouldn't be protected with the COVID-19 vaccine."

Whether vaccines work as well for immunocompromised people as they do for people who aren't immunocompromised is not clear yet.

"We don't have enough evidence to say it doesn't work as well as in the rest of the population," Baker explains. "We didn't include enough people in the trials without spleens to be totally sure. But you do get protected from COVID and poor outcomes from COVID, which is the most important thing. As the numbers roll in, I think they will confirm the same thing we have seen with other vaccines and people with no spleen — you're good!"
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Re: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions"

Post by trader32176 »

Coronavirus FAQs: What Should I Do With My Vaccine Card? Is Choir Practice OK Now?


https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandso ... ice-ok-now

I've just had my second dose of the vaccine, and now I have a vaccine card. Um, what do I do with it?

That's a good question. The U.S. version bears this instruction: "Bring this vaccine record to every vaccination or medical visit."

In essence, it's proof that you've gotten the jab (or jabs for the two-dose options).

Beyond that? Yes, there are questions about what purpose it can serve — and how to safeguard it.

In the U.S., the card is a 3 by 4 inches. The document will have your name, birthdate and key information about your vaccine regimen: which brand you got, when you received your dose or doses, and where you were inoculated.

The idea of giving out cards to document a vaccination has been around since the 1930s, says Maureen Miller, an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

"As people colonized the world, there were illnesses that were endemic to certain areas," she says. "Using cards saw to it that those diseases could be monitored as individuals crossed borders, like the now internationally recognized yellow fever vaccine cards."

Indeed, the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card is a valuable document. Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, "urges people to keep [vaccine cards] safe." So-called vaccine passports will likely soon be needed for some international travel, he says — though the concept is still very much in the development stage. One idea is to digitize immunization records into easy-to-trace systems such as scannable bar codes. Until those systems get set up though, you'll likely need to carry your physical card for international travel — even though its size in the U.S., for example, isn't the most wallet-friendly.

The use of the vaccine card may stretch far past air travel, Miller says. You may need it to enter movie theaters, board trains, even sometimes as a condition of employment. In the U.K., for instance, government officials are considering asking individuals to present proof of vaccination to get access to public spaces such as pubs and sporting events — a provision that reportedly more than 70 lawmakers have announced they'll oppose.

As societies begin to reintegrate and have similar conversations, having a vaccine card will likely determine access to certain services. To this end, "people should be guarding vaccine cards very carefully," Miller says.

So what does that mean for you once you receive your vaccine card?

First things first. Miller says it's prudent to take pictures of both sides of your document as soon as you receive it or find a way to scan it, just so you have a personal record. That's what people often do with a driver's license or passport, she notes. While it wouldn't fly to present a phone scan as proof of vaccination, it's good to capture all the data just in case you lose your card.

(A quick tip for iPhone users is to use the built-in Notes app for a close-to-Xerox-looking clean photocopy.)

Miller also suggests laminating your card, as she did. That way, the card feels a bit less like a random scrap of paper and more like the real, official and important document it is. But some worry that lamination might preclude the ability to update a card with potential immunity "boosters" in the future. Adalja says thinking about "boosters" is a bit premature and urges individuals to do what works for them. And if you opt for lamination, you shouldn't have difficulty fulfilling that goal. Office supply stores such as Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax have agreed to laminate, for free, your vaccine card if you visit one of their stores. Check to make sure the offer is still on before stopping by.

As to where you'd keep the card at home, Miller says she has hers in the folder she uses for medical insurance and health documents. A safe bet would be anywhere you store important records such as passports. Miller emphasizes it's probably better to keep it at home and not in a security deposit box in a bank.

And in the worst-case scenario, what if you lose your card?

"The physical document isn't the only record," Adalja says.

When you get vaccinated, that information enters your state's immunization registry, Adalja says – so no need to call up your primary care doctor or do any other logistical legwork to make it be part of your permanent health record. That process should happen automatically (although it couldn't hurt to call your primary care doctor just to make sure it did).

In the case of losing your card, your best bet is to hit up the pharmacy or clinic or site where you got your vaccine at and ask for a duplicate copy. This will be problematic if you were vaccinated at a local pop-up effort; in that case, Miller suggests contacting your state board of health. You should be able to get a duplicate, but perhaps not without a fair share of moving through bureaucracy, Adalja says.

Eventually, Adalja predicts, more "durable forms of vaccination status" — aka, records that don't just exist on a flimsy piece of cardstock — will emerge. But until then, it's just a matter of being extra careful.

My choir director says that the pandemic is ending soon and that face-to-face, in-person practice is expected to begin in May. Is it true that vaccinated people can safely sing together? Should people still be wearing masks?

Singing indoors is one of the riskiest things you can do during this pandemic — up there with screaming for your March Madness picks in a packed arena. When you sing or scream, you expel air forcefully, which generates lots of respiratory aerosols that can contain SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

We all remember that haunting episode from the early days of the pandemic in which 52 of 61 members at a choir rehearsal in Skagit County, Wash., got confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 after a 2 1/2-hour practice. Three choir members were hospitalized, and two died.

But the vaccines are powerful tools. So, for advice, we tapped one of the co-authors of the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study, University of Maryland mechanical engineering professor Jelena Srebric, and Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of adult and pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.

After Srebric had a good chuckle about the choir director's pronouncement that the pandemic is almost over (as much as we may wish, we're not quite there), she explained the study's most recent guidelines, released in December will hold true for a while — even with the additional protection from vaccines. Here's a summary:

Masks should be worn by choir members and anyone playing an instrument. (Cutting a slit in your mask with an X-Acto knife allows you to fit it over a wind instrument.)
Practice outdoors if possible. If indoors, the choir director should make sure there's a good air filtration system.
Singers should be at least 6 feet apart. Practice no more than 30 minutes at a time. The idea is to move away from plumes of air created from singing.

As vaccines become more widely available, Srebric suggests asking as many members to get them as soon as they're eligible.

"Vaccination reduces the risk [of infection] dramatically, especially for vaccinated people, but we still don't have a clear picture on what is going to happen with variants," Srebric explains. "So, it's very prudent to continue to be cautious."

That's why she suggests sticking to the above guidelines even once most of your choir is vaccinated. Instead of changing your habits when you get vaccinated, she suggests changing your thinking: "The vaccine gives you peace of mind," she says. "You can keep the same precaution measures but not worry as much as people used to worry."

Choirs could also wait to resume in-person practice — and definitely performances with audiences — until more people are vaccinated, Weatherhead points out. "Wait until the community transmission comes down. That is the safest plan."

But don't despair that you will have to follow these rules forever. Real-world studies suggest that vaccines may be efficacious against transmission from asymptomatic cases. "That was one of the biggest unknowns because the clinical trials didn't study that," she says.

And an observational study published in Nature showed that the small percentage of people who got infected after a vaccine tended to have much lower viral loads than unvaccinated people who got infected, providing further evidence that the ability to transmit the disease likely diminishes with vaccination.

As more people get vaccinated, choirs should be able to start gradually shifting their protocols, Srebric notes. For example, choirs could practice longer and shorten the breaks, she says.

And yes, all of this also applies to screaming at big concerts and sporting events. But feel free to cheer as much as you like for the UConn Huskies from the privacy of your couch on Friday night!

Will taking a CBD product before my shot affect its efficacy?

In short, avoiding CBD before a shot will probably be the safer approach here. CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a chemical component of cannabis. It's been known to have a relaxing and therapeutic effect and is sometimes used to manage pain.

According to Miller of Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, there's "absolutely no research" that looks at the effect of CBD oil on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy in humans. So it's important to note upfront there's not much that can be said conclusively on the effects of CBD specifically.

That said, Miller points to updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that advise against anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen and other painkillers before inoculation — unless those medications are already a part of people's typical medical regime. Miller notes CBD also happens to act as an anti-inflammation tool — though the CDC advisory did not specifically take note of it.

To gain immunity, she emphasizes, your body needs to build up an inflammatory response. So, she reasons, it might be better to be safe than sorry and stay away from using CBD before your shot – just to make sure you're getting your biggest bang for your buck with the vaccine. Unless, of course, CBD is already part of your usual medical routine, Miller says — in which case, you should continue business as usual.
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