Dr. Rai talks Halloween safety, mix-and-match boosters, and timeline for kids

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 7:16 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - U.S. health officials are poised to approve COVID-19 vaccines for children 5-11, and they could be administered starting in November.

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to discuss the timeline and the process for getting kids vaccinated. He also has some tips for having a safe Halloween.

LOCAL COVID-19 SITUATION

“Our cases per 100,000 are starting to trend down. They’re not definitely in an area where we feel comfortable or where we’d say it’s safe right now, but things are trending down. Hospitalizations most definitely are trending down. It’s that lagging indicator. We’re starting to see some good signs. Definitely not in a safe area yet, but the trends are going in the right direction.”

VACCINES FOR KIDS

“The FDA will meet today, they’ll review all the literature. Some of the FDA staff has already started to review that literature and they released a report on Friday that looked really good, so we hope all of that carries over to today. Then the FDA approval will happen. Then it goes to the CDC. That’s their ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) committee, and once they approve it then the drug will be released to us. It’s important to remember that the pediatric vaccine, it comes in a different vial, it’s a different dose. It’s not pulling the Pfizer off the shelf that’s there today. So there’s a little bit of planning and operational work for those of us who vaccinate that needs to be done as well. So realistically, you’re looking at Nov. 8 or Nov. 15 for really big schedules to open out. It’s also important to remember that it’s going to take us months to get to the finish line for this age group of 5-11. It’s not a small group of kids. Remember, it’s not just one shot. It’s two shots and two weeks after. So it’s about five weeks per child to be considered fully vaccinated. There are thousands of children that need to be vaccinated. If you just looked at Green Bay alone, and we only looked at our patients, it’s going to take us three-to-four months to get through that.”

TEST TO STAY

“Probably the most frustrating thing for a parent or child or school right now is quarantine. In other words, my child doesn’t have COVID but they were exposed to somebody who does. Depending on the school, some schools are maintaining good quarantine rules, and the good thing to do is to quarantine them for 14 days or 10 days, depending on the school rules, but some have completely done away with it, and that’s also not appropriate because you’re bringing risk into the school. What the CDC did with certain states is they piloted, OK, we’re not going to quarantine you but we’re going to test you so you can stay. It’s called Test to Stay. The study actually showed really good results. The CDC has not recommended Test to Stay yet. As school boards and superintendents are looking for solutions to find the middle ground, they may start to consider that research where basically five days into your exposure you’re masking that whole time at school so in case you have it, you’re not spreading it, you’re getting tested with a PCR test, and then you’re not having to quarantine.”

MIXING BOOSTERS

“Operationally, this has not been an easy thing, the whole mix and match. We want to make sure it’s done safely. Starting today (Oct. 26, 2021) for us, you can schedule your booster. There’s certain qualifications depending on your age and what you do and depending on what you got. For J&J, you really just need to be 18 and over, which is anybody who got it. For Moderna and Pfizer, there’s certain categories to qualify for the booster, but they’re very broad, so pretty much everybody that needs a booster can get one. You can also choose what want as a booster today. I think the most popular decision point now is going to be for those who received J&J if they want to get another J&J or if they want to get one of the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna. You can still mix and match with the other two, but I think the most common one we’re going to see is those who got J&J and then getting something else. That’s really where most of the mix-and-match research came from. So you can start scheduling that now.”

HALLOWEEN SAFETY

“Just be safe and make good decisions. Really, when it comes to families, make sure as many people that can be vaccinated are vaccinated to protect children who aren’t eligible for it and to protect our elderly. You still don’t want to be backed inside in a badly ventilated area. Hopefully we’ll have good weather and we can trick or treat outside and the parties can be outside and not too many people. If you have multiple households that are gathering, make sure we’ve kind of talked about vaccination. If you’re not vaccinated, mask because you want to protect everybody. I think it’s been proven lately with some of the deaths we’ve seen in the press, you don’t know who could get sick so you want to protect those around you.”

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