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Appointments available: Dr. Rai on vaccine availability and new CDC guidance on gatherings

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 7:51 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As we get more supply and more shots in arms, appointments are opening up for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai encouraged people in eligible groups to try to sign up now. You can also see which vaccine is given on which day.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays on Action 2 News This Morning. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com.

Previous Dr. Rai segments: https://www.wbay.com/health/drrai/

SPRING BREAK

“We’re so close to that finish line, and we want to get our most vulnerable, those who that could pass away from this disease, vaccinated as quickly as possible. And we are going as fast as we can, and it’s really been a supply-related issue. We would hope that those large settings like Spring Break partying wouldn’t create a problem. We know it’s going to create a problem. We’re just hoping it’s not a big problem.”

NEW CDC GUIDANCE

CLICK HERE for the new CDC guidance on gatherings for vaccinated people.

“It’s a great first step. It’s a game changer for a lot--especially grandparents that now can see their grandchildren--if the grandparents are fully vaccinated and the grandchildren are at low risk, yes you can see them, or people getting together that are fully vaccinated in small groups. Those are really good steps for socialization, for a lot of reasons. I’d like to just stress: it’s just step one. The more and more people we vaccinate, the more the CDC can stretch that. I think these were pretty conservative opening up, which you should be conservative given all the outbreaks we have and the fact that we’re not consistent around the country, so it’s hard to figure out what to do for the United States when every state is different. So it’s a good first step.

LACK OF NATIONAL PLAN

“It’s a very hard thing in the United States, going state-by-state, and obviously we respect state’s rights, but not having consistency among the states, having certain states with not really low levels and getting rid of a mask mandate that makes it a dangerous place to travel to, and it’s unfortunate that we don’t have that. I think the next thing that CDC definitely needs to address is travel. Hopefully it will happen within the next couple of weeks. It’s very hard when you’re sitting at the federal level, knowing that every state is different, to make a recommendation. It may be more delayed than it has to be.”

VACCINATION APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE

“I woke up this morning and there was still availability, so that’s an unusual part. That’s good that we still do. A couple of things are playing into this. Number one, we got more doses for this coming week, so very thankful for DHS and the allocations. Secondly, our teachers that are being scheduled right now, all of their doses were allocated to us. Everything we asked for for teachers we got. Those bookings start March 15 because that’s when those doses arrive. We don’t have this eligible class going against an eligible class. The teachers have their own allocations now, which leaves the rest for 65 and older, and we’re over 60 percent on those being vaccinated. I strongly encourage all the other vaccinated classes to go. On our website, prevea.com/vaccine, if the box is green, we have doses available. If you scroll down, Sheboygan’s red, there’s no doses available there. But you also can see what vaccine we’re giving on any individual day. Pfizer day, Moderna days. You can actually choose the day you want now. That’s based on CDC recommendations that we become more transparent, so we are doing that.”

NEXT VACCINE GROUPINGS

The state this week will release the next vaccination groupings.

“As a physician that’s been trying to campaign for this since day one, we really hope it’s those that have underlying medical conditions. Those are the ones that keep us up at night as doctors, and we want to get our patients vaccinated. I’m hoping with this next class they’re quite liberal with, in other words they’re not going to create too many rules around that and just let us vaccinate, and hopefully get the supply there. If the supply is what they’re telling us it’s going to be, I really hope that there’s very few walls around this and we get to put shots in arms, especially into our patients with underlying medical conditions, 16 and up.

“I do expect them to be on that list, but it really depends on what they define as an underlying medical condition, if they put age restrictions on it. Once again, it really depends on vaccine supply. But if vaccine supply is great, let’s get through those patients as quickly as we can.”

SERVING BEVERAGES

A viewer who works at a hair salon wants to know if it is safe to serve customers coffee and other beverages.

“I think it’s always that risk-benefit situation, how your hair salon is set up. Obviously if somebody is drinking coffee, they’re going to remove their mask. Masking is the best way to prevent transmission in an enclosed setting. But if you can create enough space and ventilation in that closed setting like some restaurants do with limiting their capacity, then there may be an opportunity there. So it’s a risk-benefit. If coffee’s definitely necessary for your customers, find a safe way to do it by significant spacing when their masks are off and increasing that ventilation.”

ALLERGIC REACTIONS

A viewer says her mother developed an allergic reaction and shingles after her first dose of the vaccine. Now they’re worried about the second dose.

“It’s a different kind of reaction, not one that’s very common, especially developing another basically medical condition, shingles, from a vaccine. Definitely not common in the studies. So what I would highly recommend in that situation is meeting with your physician, meeting with an allergist. You have 21 days between the shots. Good time to get an evaluation to see. It likely wasn’t due to the vaccine, but in case it was, they can maybe do some studies there and find some solutions for you.”

CHOOSING VACCINES

Can people choose which vaccine they get?

“Right now, the volume of vaccine that we’re getting is still limited. It’s getting better. No doubt about it. It’s much easier to get vaccinated today than say it was four weeks ago. You can’t pick, but now the CDC has strongly recommended vaccinators, especially those who do it on a large scale, to make sure you know what you’re signing up for. So in a way, you can kind of pick before you sign up on our website, prevea.com/vaccine. Depending on the site, it will tell you the day and what shot you’re getting, Moderna or Pfizer. We don’t have J&J yet. That should come by the end of the month or early April.”

VACCINE AND LASTING SYMPTOMS

A viewer wants to know if asymptomatic people will still face the possibility of long-term COVID-19 side effects.

“If you do get a mild infection, there’s always that risk. We’re not seeing that in every patient with mild disease. I want to make sure we clarify that. The majority of people do get over their symptoms with time. It’s a little longer time than we’re used to getting say over the common cold. It can take months to get over it, but people are getting over it. There’s a minority of the population that have those residual symptoms. And yes, if you do get infected after you have the vaccine, you’re still at risk for those, because you were infected. But the severity of the disease is much less if you’ve been vaccinated.”

ANTIBIOTICS

If you’re on antibiotics, can you get the vaccine? If not, how long do you have to wait until you finish taking them?

“There’s no contraindication, which means you can get the vaccine if you’re on antibiotics or other medications. There’s very few reasons not to get the vaccine. A list of medications isn’t one of those things that would be preventing you from getting the vaccine.”

SURGERY BETWEEN DOSES

A viewer had an emergency appendectomy between doses. She’s scheduled to get her second shot soon. Is that OK?

“You definitely can. There’s no contraindication or no reason not to get that second shot. What I would though do is work with your surgeon, make sure you’re fully resolved from the surgery. Understand, after you get the shot, you could be a little bit more tired, you could have a low-grade fever, you could have a headache. Those are all symptoms, also sometimes, if you’re recovering from surgery, of maybe an infection after. You want to make sure your surgeon knows about that so he or she can take that into account if you have any symptoms. Those other symptoms go away after the vaccine.”

VACCINE AND MAMMOGRAMS

Can the COVID-19 vaccine impact mammogram results?

“It’s a kinda. We definitely now, as we learn more, will delay your mammogram appointment--probably about four-to-six weeks after you’ve received one of the shots of the vaccine. The main reason is, once again, as your immune system starts to react to the site, you have lymph nodes in that area that are going to be involved in that immune reaction, so they can slightly swell during that time period. That swelling goes away, just like the headaches and the fevers and the chills go away, but those lymph nodes being enlarged could throw off what we’re looking for in a mammogram. To just be safe, we wait about four-to-six weeks after your shot and we’ll delay your mammogram. We still want to make sure you get your mammogram and know that you’ve had your vaccine, and make sure the radiologist knows that, too.”

CHOOSING VACCINES NEXT YEAR

If someone gets a certain vaccine this year, would they be able to opt for a different one next year?

“You’re making a very big leap that we’re going to need a second shot. The data continues to look better and better about this vaccine. I’m not even sure if we’re going to need an annual shot. If we do, it likely won’t matter what the brand you got the first time to get the second time. Essentially, we’ll be restarting or rechallenging your immune system. We don’t know what brands will be available at that time. We don’t know what technology will continue to evolve with these vaccines. Once again, kind of cart before the horse, we don’t know if this is going to be an annual shot or not.

“More and more data. You have to understand that now millions of people have received this vaccine and we’ve been able to follow them since December. The more we see, the better we feel.”

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