“We could be done”: Dr. Rai on how many need to get vaccinated to overcome COVID

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 7:47 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - “We have this unique opportunity of vaccine or vaccines that are showing effectiveness over 90 percent. You combine that with say a 70 percent uptake, we could be done.” That’s the message from Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai on the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning Thursday to answer your questions about the vaccine, including the two cases of allergic reactions in the United Kingdom.

He also talked about an important message from Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have a question? Email

Previous Dr. Rai segments:


“We’re starting to see those patients coming into the hospital. We’ve started to see, unfortunately, people coming into the ICU. And by history, their exposure was at Thanksgiving. It’s still really early to say that we’re either through it or seen the peak of it. It’s going to keep building. Unfortunately what happens in situations is people congregate, people get infected, and then they go out and infect others and it continues to spread. It takes awhile to contain that. We know we’re getting Thanksgiving spread, unfortunately, despite all the advice given. I just hope it doesn’t get too bad.”


“We have this unique opportunity of vaccine or vaccines that are showing effectiveness over 90 percent. You combine that with say a 70 percent uptake, we could be done. I don’t know anybody in this world that doesn’t want to be done with COVID. So when we talk about getting the vaccine, it’s about being done. It’s the overall population getting immunized to a certain level where we don’t have to deal with this anymore. That’s well above 50 percent. We need to keep the conversations going, we need to do the education around this, and need to talk and answer questions honestly and openly and be really transparent about it so we can get to that 70-to-80 percent immunization rate.”


Two people in Britain with allergies possibly suffered reactions to the vaccine. Is this a cause for concern?

“I think there’s a lot of good things that came out of this. Number one, the two people are doing great. That’s a fantastic thing. And now we get to study it. We know that there are a very small percentage of people who are going to have an allergic reaction, and they usually have some sort of history around that. These two people have a significant history around that. The UK’s put out a warning basically saying if you have a history of severe allergic reactions to the point where you need an epi-pen or you carry one, have a discussion with your physician and your practitioner about how safely to get this vaccine and making sure you’re safe when you get it. The good news is it was reported right away, it’s being researched right away, and we understand who could possibly have a reaction and try to prevent that going forward. That’s what’s so good about the science right now is that everybody’s watching it.

“We’re not talking about the allergic reactions you get from ragweed. We’re talking about what we call an anaphylactic reaction, that really serious reaction when you need to carry epinephrine with you. That’s the small percentage of the population we’re talking about here. And we just need be a little more careful.”


“I really hate the world prioritizing. We’re phasing this in. Everybody is a priority. If you look at healthcare, everybody who works at Prevea is a priority to me. There’s not one person over the next. It really is about phasing this in and what’s best for public health. Why would healthcare go first? Because you need healthcare to stay healthy to take care of people because we’re not going to be done with this pandemic for months. So we need to keep healthcare going so our hospitals don’t get overcrowded, our ICU’s don’t get overcrowded.

“We want to make sure we’re protecting our most vulnerable in congregant settings: nursing home patients, those who work in a nursing home, so they don’t carry it into them. The next phase. Every phase needs to be around what’s best for public health. There are no priorities in this. The number one priority is getting rid of COVID. That’s the only priority we have. As we phase it in, what’s best for public health.”

Scroll to the end of this article to watch Dr. Rai’s interview on Action 2 News at 4:30 Thursday afternoon.


Packers QB joins a Zoom meeting for Prevea and a podcast.

“He’s a great person. He really wanted to say some good words to our staff, to keep them going. We talk about this being our halftime in healthcare. We have another six-to-nine months to go in this pandemic, and he’s the best halftime speaker I know. It was great to have him Zoom on and give us some motivation, and he gave a sincere thank you to healthcare, which is really nice to hear from somebody like that.”



Will people receive documentation proving they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19?

“It will be healthcare providers giving you the vaccine, so you can always ask for documentation like you could any one of your medical records. If you’re a Prevea patient, it will be on your My Prevea app, right on your phone, under the tab immunizations, and you’ll have a record of it.

“I’m not sure it’s going to be as much airports as it’s going to be destinations. They may ask for it. You never know. Right now, for example, if you travel to the Caribbean, certain islands ask you for a test three days before you get there. They test you when you land and test you halfway through your stay. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going to ask for documentation at some point.”


The Pfizer vaccine comes in two doses. If there’s a shortage, would it be possible people would not get a second dose and have to start the process over?

“It’s a great question because honestly, it was the first thing that came out of our mouths when the state told us what allocations are going to happen. What the federal government has told us, and what the state has reconfirmed for us, is plan on giving everything you have because what they’re doing is holding back that second shot to make sure you definitely get it. Let’s just use round numbers. Say Wisconsin is getting 50,000 vaccinations on the first day. If it’s getting 50,000 vaccinations on the first day, it expects you to vaccinate 50,000 people because the federal government has held back the other 50,000 step two dose for 28 days later.”


Is Wisconsin getting a smaller shipment of vaccines than other states?

“It’s a great question and it’s one we’d love to understand the methodology on. What the government has told us is, they’ve tried to use every formula: which town got hit hardest by COVID, which state got hit hardest. And that stuff, because it’s so fluid, it wasn’t a great predictor. So what they’ve done is they’ve just said it’s going to by state population. So the percentage you’ll get of their first shipment will be based on your state population and go from there.”


Will the U.S. ever mandate the vaccine?

“At this point, I don’t see that happening, but it’s hard to know where we’re going. We don’t really have vaccine mandates, per se, from a federal stand point. There’s certain situations, certain employment situations, or school situations, where in the best interest of public health vaccines are mandated. But I’ve not seen a federal one and I don’t think we will.”


If a family member gets the vaccine, has minor symptoms, are they considered contagious?

“Every vaccine is different. So let’s talk about the two we’re going to see right away: the Moderna one and the Pfizer one. Those are mRNA vaccines. So we’re not giving you, in that shot, any version of COVID. You’re getting a genetic piece of material to help your body create a small protein, and then that genetic material gets eaten away, and that small protein is what your body is trained to react to, which is similar to the one that’s on COVID. So you’re not getting COVID, you’re not getting any version of COVID when you get the vaccine. Why you feel bad for a day or two is your body’s inflammatory response to that small protein. But you’re not sick, it’s your body doing its job.”


A viewer’s husband had Guillain-Barre syndrome and has been unable to get a flu shot. Can he get the COVID vaccine?

“You know, Guillain-Barre, it’s a very rare disorder. Some of it in the past has been tied to certain types of vaccinations. In this case, there’s been no recorded episodes of that in the trials. Because everybody’s personal medical situation is different, if you’ve had Guillain-Barre, obviously you have to be very careful, we’d recommend having a conversation with your treating physicians.”


Do allergy medications, such as antihistamines, react with the COVID vaccine?

“No. Go ahead and take your normal allergy medications like you would. That’s not going to prevent you from building a response to this protein or in any way help you or hurt you in the response to the immunization.”


Should people who have had COVID-19 get the vaccine?

“At this time, when we read the first draft of the state recommendations, which have yet to be finalized, they said, ‘yes, if you’ve had COVID-19, you should still receive the vaccine.’ We don’t know what the final recommendations are going to be from the CDC and the FDA. Hopefully we’ll find out more later today and in the coming weeks, but for right now, the answer is yes.”


Is it safe to eat gifts of home baked goods?

“It’s a difficult question because you really don’t know what went into the making of that. But if you actually look at the risks, if you talk about the virus on certain surfaces, and that’s not really where you’re going to get it from. Most likely, those treats are safe. If you let them sit for about 72 hours they’ll even be safer. Maybe a little staler, but safer. We’ll have to see how that goes. But for right now, I don’t think I’d recommend against it. Treat it like you would any other food that you buy from a store.”

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