By: MEDICAL DIRECTORS FALANA CARTER, MD and JERRY I. LEVINE, MD, PA
COVID-19 continues to spread in Maryland. Individuals who remain unvaccinated are at the greatest risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 including highly contagious variants resulting in hospitalization and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance recommends booster vaccines for adults over 65, those with high-risk medical conditions, and individuals at risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due their occupation or institutional settings. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine has been approved for a booster after two months. The Pfizer vaccine is available for children 12 and older, and soon will be approved for children 5 years and older. Here’s how the latest COVID-19 news affects you.
The Delta variant
Like many other viruses, the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) continually changes, producing new strains with features different from the original virus. The Delta variant is the most common form of the virus in the U.S. today and is very dangerous, causing most new COVID-19 infections. Here’s what you should know:
- The Delta variant is significantly more contagious than previous variants, infecting many more people.
- The Delta variant appears to cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people than previous variants, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.
- COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing Delta infections, and the vast majority of new hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people.
- Fully vaccinated people can get “breakthrough” Delta infections, but they are rare and are generally less severe than in unvaccinated people.
- Fully vaccinated people with Delta breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others, but vaccinated people appear to be contagious for a shorter period of time.
COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against the virus months after vaccination, but their effectiveness will decrease over time. The effectiveness of the vaccine is enhanced by getting a booster shot. Based on CDC recommendations, these groups are eligible for booster vaccines:
- Adults 65 or older who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
- Adults 18-64 with underlying high-risk medical conditions
- Adults 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their work or institutional settings
- All adults 18 or older who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine at least two months ago
Also, individuals with compromised immune systems are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least 28 days after the first two doses.
Boosters may be “mixed and matched,” heterologous dosing. While preference remains to obtain the same booster as the primary vaccine, either Moderna or Pfizer can be received as a booster for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. This can be discussed with your primary care provider.
MPCP administers the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines in our offices, and many of our offices will also offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting November 1.
Call your MPCP office to schedule an appointment to receive a booster dose. Vaccines are also available at your local pharmacy or health department clinic.
COVID vaccines for children
The CDC is recommending COVID-19 vaccination for children 12+. Here’s the latest:
- Fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, but they can still get sick from the virus and spread it to others.
- CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older should get a vaccination to protect them and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children 12+. As with adults, serious side effects from the vaccine are rare in children, and the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the potential risks.
If you have questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine, contact your MPCP doctor or visit Maryland’s covidLINK website.
Dr. Levine is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He serves as MPCP’s Medical Director and Vice President, and sees patients in the Columbia office.
Dr. Carter is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Family Physicians. She serves as Assistant Medical Director and sees patients in the Arundel Mills office.