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Dr. Rai answers: “How can I spread COVID after I’m vaccinated when I’m 95 percent safe?”

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 10:13 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 10:40 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A lot of people have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and getting life closer to normal a year after the pandemic reached Wisconsin.

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai answers your questions Tuesdays and Thursdays on Action 2 News This Morning. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com

You can find all of Dr. Rai’s past interviews at https://www.wbay.com/drrai

DR. RAI JUST FOUND OUT MORE SPECIFICS ON JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE...AND IS EVEN MORE IMPRESSED!

“All the information is great. The J&J vaccine, the data behind it, it’s efficacy and more importantly, its safety, it’s ease of use. Every time we looked for a “gotcha,” there wasn’t one there. It’s a great vaccine, and you know I think a lot of people are going to try to crosswalk this vaccine with Moderna and Pfizer and try to do a comparison, and you shouldn’t because -- I’ve used the horse racing analogy before -- but these are 3 horses that are in a race on 3 separate tracks and 3 separate environments. Moderna probably had the easiest environment: only the United States; the caseloads and variants weren’t as prominent. Pfizer, around the world, so a little bit of a headwind, South Africa and Brazil, so they were testing in those environments. And then J&J, pouring rain, in the mud because it had variants out there and a huge amount of caseloads out there.

All three, though, were not racing against each other. They were racing against COVID, and the finish line was preventing death and serious infection and all three won hands down. And you look at the data, and I know people talk about, well, 100% of beating death. Well, hopefully we see that in the real world, but we’re starting to see from serious infections and death that these vaccines work.

We need to get them in arms as quickly as possible, because that’s the endpoint we were going for. Comparing mild infections, you know -- did this one prevent a mild infection and that one didn’t? -- you know, that’s not the endpoint we were looking for, and if this vaccine can reduce the burden of death and hospitalization, it’s met its goal, it’s won its race.

THOUGHTS ON HAVING A FEDERAL HOLIDAY GIVING ALL WORKERS A DAY OFF TO GET THE VACCINE

“I love the fact that employers and vaccinators are using their creativity to make sure everyone gets their vaccine, and so a day off for the Bonduel School District [see related story] it’s not a huge school district compared to the Green Bay public school district, where that would be a little harder to do, but it’s great that people are doing things like that. You know, a federal holiday in a single day, number one, we’re not going to get all the vaccine we need in one day. You know, it’s going to come off that production line over days and... a single day is probably not as logical, but I think vaccinators, those of us who are vaccinating, like Prevea, need to continue with their creativity. For example, every Tuesday and Thursday night is kind of our late day. We’ll go into the evening vaccinating so we can get people after work. The rest of the days are during the day. We probably need to do some early morning ones to get people coming off of third shift. We need to make a second shift viable, and we have a Saturday clinic. Maybe we may need to run that longer. Whatever we need to do between now and June, because now we know we’re going to get our vaccine by the end of May. We need to get shots into arms, but it’s not going to be a single day off.

REACTS TO TEXAS NOW OPENING UP BUSINESSES AND LIFTING MASK REQUIREMENTS

It’s decisions like that that have been proven to be wrong in the past and we shouldn’t repeat. Wisconsin’s a great example of that. We had a phase-in plan. We threw it away and all of a sudden we had a surge.

The last thing you want to throw away is your mask, so you want to phase in, and I like Milwaukee and cities around the world that are phasing things in by percentages and then eventually getting away from masking. But just to rip the Band-Aid off like Texas did, when they’re not in a position, their caseload is still high, their vaccine numbers are not as high, it’s a really bad decision and it’s unfortunate because it will affect the whole country.

IS IT SAFE TO SEND MY SON TO SUMMER CAMP?

The number one caveat is what’s going on around you when that happens. If we still have a percent positivity caseload like we have today, I think you can do it safely [the 7-day average counting all coronavirus testing is 2.4%]. If we get back to where we were in say different peaks, then our opinion would change. So, it’s really what’s going on around that time, but there are things you can do safely and still have camp environments.

It’s not ideal. You’re going to need to mitigate risks. Talk to them about their masking policy. The ideal thing would be for them to be testing, you know, before you go to camp -- “Here’s my negative test from the day before, and here are the precautions I’ve taken throughout.” It’s not 100 percent, but it’s one of those things we can do to mitigate the risks. There are a few things we can do to make camps successful this summer, but once again, hopefully we have a good summer and these numbers stay down. If they shoot back up, our opinions will change.”

DOES EVERYONE GET SICK AFTER THE SECOND SHOT?

First of all, no one gets sick. You’re going to have a wonderful reaction to that second shot: that means your immune system is working. But it doesn’t happen to everybody: about 40 percent of the people, depending on the study, depending on the vaccine, aren’t going to feel a thing. There are people who are going to have a sore arm and feel a little bit tired, and it may be a little bit more pronounced -- in other words, more than your first shot. Those symptoms are going to go away. That’s your body doing its thing to defend yourself against future infection. They will go away. You’re not getting sick because of that, and it’s important to get that second shot because maybe you didn’t feel great after the first shot. That is definitely not a reason not to get the second shot for the two vaccines we’re talking about, Moderna and Pfizer; it takes 2 shots to work.”

CAN WE MIX AND MATCH OUR DOSES OF VACCINES?

“We shouldn’t be mixing and matching. You know, that’s a last ditch, serious situation.... If a pharmacy of any vaccinator is telling you they don’t have your second shot, please call your public health department, get a hold of the state through the DHS website (make sure you Google Wisconsin state website), message them. Everybody who’s given you the first shot automatically is going to receive your second dose. If they’re telling you they didn’t, that’s an incorrect statement.

The right way to manage a two-shot vaccine is, you will get your second appointment before you leave your first appointment. Anybody who isn’t doing it that way isn’t doing it right, and anyone who’s telling you they don’t have your second dose... you should really be coordinating with your public health officer and the state to make sure and understand why. There are special circumstances where that may not happen -- we had some weather issues, obviously, a couple weeks ago with what happened down south, those are gone. As we go forward, there really shouldn’t be a reason why your second dose isn’t there, and that person should be working on finding you that second dose.

HOW CAN I SPREAD COVID AFTER I’M VACCINATED WHEN I’M 95 PERCENT SAFE?

We never said 100 percent on not getting COVID with any of these vaccines, and transmission was never the endpoint, [not] getting sick was the endpoint. We’re studying transmission now. More details may come out of that, and a lot more recommendations will come out later this week for those who’ve been vaccinated from the CDC on things you can do that are different from those who’ve been vaccinated, but understand it’s not 100 percent.

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