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“This is a race”: Dr. Rai on the urgency of getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 7:45 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As positive COVID-19 cases go up in Wisconsin, health officials are stressing the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“More people getting sick, younger people getting sick, younger people going to the hospital. We’re seeing that in our neighboring state. By neighboring state, we share a border with Michigan and we’re starting to see sick patients from Michigan get transferred here for their care. It’s really important that the state of Wisconsin really focuses on its vaccination efforts, not only to keep us healthy long term and to have a great summer and have a great fall and have the normalcy we’re looking for, but right now it’s a race to keep everybody healthy and not have more people die,” says Dr. Ashok Rai, President & CEO of Prevea Health.

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

*Note: Dr. Rai will be off April 13 and 15 and rejoin us the week after.

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

First Alert Vaccine Team Guide to Making an Appointment: https://www.wbay.com/2021/01/25/guide-to-making-an-appointment-for-covid-19-vaccine/

BREWERS GET VACCINATED

The Milwaukee Brewers send a “Crush COVID” message to get vaccinated.

“I think that was amazing that the Brewers did that. So proud of them. So proud of Wisconsin to have our teams do that. Look at professional hockey with the Canucks, almost the whole team is positive and out, and the Brewers not wanting to get COVID and showing that even they’re susceptible. They’ve got to be some of the youngest and healthiest role models in the state and they’re all getting vaccinated. I think that’s great for everybody to pay attention. No matter what age you are, no matter how healthy you are, you should get vaccinated. It’s much better to get vaccinated than to get COVID, and they really are doing a good job out there.”

VACCINE TRENDS

“The trends on Wisconsin are looking good in the sense of our 65 and older. In Brown County, we’ve almost exceeded 80 percent, the state is approaching that. It’s now time for everybody else to get vaccinated. I think we had such a big focus at the rollout, when you look at the map and trends going on the state, where people are getting vaccinated and the percentages of them, we saw a lot.

CLICK HERE to view the state’s vaccine numbers.

“As you can see, we did a really good job in that 65-and-older category, but as you start to get younger, our percentages go down significantly on who’s getting vaccinated. So that really has to be our focus right now. We’ve protected our 65 and older, but it’s now time to protect everybody else.

“A shoutout to the women out there for doing such a great job in the state of Wisconsin. Men, we got a little bit of work to do to catch up. You can see there’s a pretty big discrepancy between men and women in their vaccination rates.”

[As of April 8, 38.3% of women had received at least one dose. The number for men is 29.5%]

VACCINE SUPPLY

“We’ve said since day one supply’s going to ebb and flow. That’s just unfortunate. That’s just how the vaccine’s being produced and shipped. We found out yesterday that the robust supply of J&J that we got a week ago, that’s not going to continue for the next couple of weeks. It’s going to come back in May. The important thing is to not let that delay your vaccination. We have enough vaccine to keep getting through, every week, a good amount of the population. We’ll be running our vaccine sites. There’s not a shortage from that perspective. Everybody just needs to get vaccinated and get the shot that’s available to you the best you can over the next couple of weeks. In May, you may start to see a little more J&J back in the state of Wisconsin. The important thing is get vaccinated now.”

First Alert Vaccine Team Guide to Making an Appointment: https://www.wbay.com/2021/01/25/guide-to-making-an-appointment-for-covid-19-vaccine/

VARIANTS AND CASES GOING UP

“This is a race. Best way I can put it. It’s a race for the United States. It’s a race for Wisconsin. We’re seeing that in Michigan. It’s how fast we can vaccinate versus how fast this new variant, B.1.1.7, starts to make a real impact. And by impact, I mean negative impact. More people getting sick, younger people getting sick, younger people going to the hospital. We’re seeing that in our neighboring state. By neighboring state, we share a border with Michigan and we’re starting to see sick patients from Michigan get transferred here for their care. It’s really important that the state of Wisconsin really focuses on its vaccination efforts, not only to keep us healthy long term and to have a great summer and have a great fall and have the normalcy we’re looking for, but right now it’s a race to keep everybody healthy and not have more people die. We’re starting to see our cases in Wisconsin increase. It’s very worrisome right now. What’s going on in the other five states that are having outbreaks is very worrisome. In the past in the outbreaks, we didn’t have a whole lot of control other than human behavior. Now we have the vaccine. We need to get it into arms.”

REUNIONS

“It gets really emotional for those of us in health care, especially myself having had nursing home patients, but these reunions are great. Fully vaccinated people being able to see each other, family, grandparents getting to see grandkids. I’ve had a chance to witness this. It’s probably the coolest part of my week when I get to visit a vaccination site. I’ve seen grandparents Facetime their grandkids after they get their vaccine. In our 15-minute waiting area, they’re talking to their grandkids and everybody’s tearing up. We’re tearing up when we watch it. This is why we’re doing it. This is why we need to get our shots in arms. Not only for our grandparents, but every age that can get vaccinated. Get vaccinated so this story keeps repeating itself.”

HOMEBOUND VACCINATIONS

When will homebound patients get the COVID-19 vaccine? Can vaccinated people gather with homebound people who are not vaccinated?

“As far as the first question goes, we’re working on that pretty much on a daily basis. I think the public health department in partnership with local health is very close to getting to those homebound patients. It’s really important to understand that the homebound-- we need to understand the definition--could absolutely not leave the house. For people who are homebound because they don’t have a ride public health has options, we have options, if you schedule, to get you to the vaccination site. Homebound is still a very small amount of people and public health is working through that daily with us. Hopefully by next week or the week after we’ll be able to start vaccinating them.

“As far as gathering with your homebound patient if you’re all vaccinated and they are not, let’s remember they’re still at risk. You’re not 100 percent protected from transmitting that, so you should not gather. If you do, make sure everybody’s masked and distanced if you have to.”

VACCINE AND IMMUNE DEFICIENCY

Should someone with an immune disorder like Hashimoto’s Disease get the vaccine?

“So immune deficiency diseases should not prevent you from getting the vaccine. There are certain diseases in the end stage or certain treatments that may prevent you from developing that really good immune response. But they don’t prevent you from getting the vaccine, so you should still be vaccinated. If anything, you’re at higher risk and you should definitely be vaccinated.”

VACCINE AND FERTILITY

Does the vaccine have long term effects on fertility?

“This is one those things that’s become a social media nightmare for us, because somebody decided to create a link between the spike protein on COVID-19 and a protein involved in fertility for women, specifically towards the placenta. There’s no relationship between that that would affect fertility when it comes to the vaccine and affecting that protein at all. It does not affect fertility. People in the trials got pregnant after getting the vaccine and we’ve seen it in the real world as well. So it’s one of those unfortunate rumors that’s been out there.”

VACCINE VS ASYMPTOMATIC INFECTION

What’s the difference between a vaccinated person and asymptomatic person? Does the vaccine make someone asymptomatic?

“Not really, actually, because remember an asymptomatic person got the disease. They’ll develop some sort of natural response or immune response to it. What we’ve seen out the data is that response is not as strong as the one that would have been developed from the vaccine. That’s why we recommend if you’ve had COVID please still get the vaccine. It’s very important that you get vaccinated despite asymptomatic disease, really sick with COVID, anywhere on that spectrum, you should still get vaccinated.”

RINGING IN THE EARS

A viewer’s sister got the Pfizer vaccine and woke up with ringing in the ears. Is that a cause for concern?

“So tinnitus, of all of the major side effects reported, was not significant to any degree, and not really related to the vaccine. There are other causes for that. Actually, one of the causes for that, depending on where they got that symptom, first shot, second shot, could actually mean they had COVID. It’s one of those things that you can get, unfortunately, and it’s a bad long term effect of having COVID. It’s not really related to the vaccine so shouldn’t be any risk factors associated with that. if so, extremely rare.”

COVID PATIENTS AND VACCINES

If you’ve had COVID-19, do you need to get both doses of the vaccine?

“If you’re on the two-shot, Pfizer or Moderna, you should always get that second shot unless you’ve had a significant adverse reaction and an allergist tells you not to get the second shot. Otherwise there’s no reason not to get that second shot. If you’ve had COVID, it might be slightly delayed. But you should always get that second shot.”

DAILY MEDICATIONS AND VACCINE

Should you take your daily medications on the day you get the vaccine?

“If those daily medications are prescribed medications and they’re not involved in any kind of anti-inflammatory situation, such as anything that contains acetaminophen, ibuprofen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or what we call an NSAID, avoid those the day of or before the vaccine. You can talk them after, a day after, but avoid them before. But the rest of your medications you should be fine taking, and they’re probably necessary for you, so make sure you take them.”

BABY ASPIRIN

“So baby aspirin is an anti-inflammatory and you shouldn’t take it before the vaccine. But, if you’re taking baby aspirin for an medical reason, such as you’ve had a heart attack and you have a stent or you had a stroke, before you stop that make sure you have a conversation with the physician that put you on that to understand the safety or risk of stopping that and timing it with your vaccine.”

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