COVID 19 with mask

It’s (Still) Complicated…

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, Campus Public Health Officer
You ask, we answer. Here are a few more questions received as feedback on the previous messages.

Why don’t you write about the long-term effects of COVID-19?

Excellent point. Survivors can experience life-altering symptoms that persist long after they have “recovered.” The CDC has listed post-COVID symptoms. Many can limit the return to work and other activities. For a first-hand account, watch “Chad’s Story.”

My daughter is eight. Should she be vaccinated? 

The answer is “probably, yes,” but this is a discussion you should have with the health care professional who knows your child’s medical history. The CDC answers some common questions about vaccination for children ages 5-11. Minnesota currently offers $200 for parents who get their children completely vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of February.

I have children too young to be vaccinated. What should I do? 

Every family is different, but there is guidance from the CDC that covers many common situations. A recent article sums up the basics: “to protect unvaccinated kids, everyone around them should be protected to form a cocoon of safety. The surrounding adults need to get vaccinated, get a flu shot, wear a mask, socialize outdoors when possible and avoid contact with sick people.”

On Tuesday, Pfizer/BioNTech requested emergency-use authorization from the FDA for its low-dose vaccine for children six months through four years of age. It could be available for this age group as early as late February. Moderna has completed a clinical trial of its vaccine for the two-to-five year age group, and hopes to have this data analyzed by March.

What is the “stealth” variant?

It is a subvariant of omicron (BA.1), known as omicron BA.2. In this case, “stealth” is used like “stealth bomber,” meaning difficult to detect. BA.2 has many mutations in common with the omicron BA.1, but there is a small difference that means lab-based PCR tests do not recognize it as omicron.

It is being closely watched to see if it is more transmissible or if it causes more severe disease. If it becomes a global “variant of concern,” it will get its own name and Greek letter.

Do masks prevent hospitalization and death?

Not directly. Masks help prevent transmission of the virus, reducing the number of people who get sick. If fewer people get sick, fewer people risk hospitalization, post-COVID complications, and death. Fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations also means my colleagues can ensure that patients with cancer, heart disease, and other conditions currently seeing delays in care get the help they urgently need.

Vaccines lower the risk of hospitalization, post-COVID complications, and death. The CDC published data showing that “In November, unvaccinated adults aged 18 years and older had 13× the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 68× the risk of dying from COVID-19.”

Anything else I should know?

You should be aware that the FDA has specified that two forms of monoclonal antibody treatment are not effective against the omicron variant.

Suggested reading: “The Power of Boosters” NY Times. “Minnesota COVID-19 cases set new monthly record in January” Star Tribune.

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Please take a moment to think about what you can do to prepare to protect yourself and the people around you.