Written by Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, DNP, RN, NHA, CPH, CCM, CDP, Public Health Education Specialist Greenwich Department of Health
Public health professionals monitor public health sites daily, as they have done routinely during all pre-COVID crises. These include but are not limited to the CDC, the WHO, and the American Public Health Association. People look to their State and Local Departments of Public Health. Legitimate sites such as these are counted on to provide guidance based on validated science- and evidence-based information.
Accurate and transparent information is what municipalities, agencies, organizations, businesses, individuals, and families need in order to make sound public health policy and personal health decisions.
Health and public health workers monitor messages from various leaders so those with responsibility for providing and disseminating health education and public health guidance can remain on top of emerging issues; they gently and apolitically correct intentional and unintentional misinformation; and they remain abreast of the concerns of the general public and of special-needs groups. Equally important is that health and public health workforces can become quickly aware of changes in valid public health guidance and be able to differentiate facts from misinformation. This is critical during a major outbreak or a pandemic. Things have changed rapidly during COVID; we learn new things daily and we shed outdated information as more becomes known. It is the nature of viruses to continually mutate, thus guidance and practices alter as known information expands or changes. Many wrongly misinterpret this as government and scientists being disingenuous with the public.
Now we have learned of a new emerged COVID mutation out of South Africa, Omicron, that may or may not have yet reached America. It could again alter guidance recommendations and has already changed travel guidance. We have no known cases of Omicron in America now, but increasing numbers of nations emerged on Sunday on the list of countries with newly found cases of this variant.
According to Reuters, this includes Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, and the Netherlands, in addition to South Africa. How many people travel here from there each day and have done so in recent days? This new variant reportedly has multiple mutations that appear to increase its transmissibility (Dr. Kerkhove, WHO), which will more rapidly increase the numbers of infected people.
If you have not yet gotten vaccinated or boosted against COVID, now is a great time to do so! Please don’t wait until it is too late.
This is also an ideal time to get your pneumonia vaccine and your flu or senior flu vaccine. Having either the flu or COVID alone would be bad enough, but to get both together, which can and does happen, would be so much worse. Both are viruses, but they are different viruses. You can take your COVID and flu vaccine at the same time.
You need to protect yourself and your loved ones by getting everyone vaccinated against both. Both can kill you or make you extremely ill. We are losing over 1,000 people a day, (men, women and children) to COVID, and we lose thousands of people to the flu every year.
Being vaccinated against the flu will NOT protect you against COVID and getting vaccinated and boostered against COVID will NOT protect you from the flu.
You need to protect yourself and your loved ones by getting everyone vaccinated against both. Both can kill you and make you extremely ill. We are losing over 1,000 people a day, (men, women and children) to COVID, and we lose thousands of people to the flu every year.
The people being lost to COVID continue to be our unvaccinated men, women and children (CDC). The stakes might be getting higher now that a new COVID variant-of-interest has come on our radar.
Please protect yourselves, your children, your unborn children, and those around you whose immune systems may be less robust than is a healthy young person’s immune system.
How, you may ask? Get vaccinated, get your children vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, wear your masks, and socially distance, especially when indoors. Avoid crowds and enclosed places.
I urge you to use common sense when determining a course of action. Just because someone says you can do something, or that you no longer have to do something (like wear a mask or socially distance) doesn’t mean that you can’t apply your own common sense to any given situation. You do not know who around you has been fully vaccinated, or who does or does not have active COVID.
Many adults and children are asymptomatic, yet still capable of actively passing the virus on to others. Please err on the side of caution both for your own sake and for the sake of others whose underlying health conditions can make contracting COVID a death sentence.
To find a COVID vaccine or booster, go to ct.gov/covidvaccine, check the Greenwich Department of Health website https://www.greenwichct.gov/575/Health-Department or Google local pharmacies, hospitals, and community health centers for their vaccination sites.
You can use VAMS to find a site, register and complete your COVID questionnaire via https://portal.ct.gov/vaccine-portal/COVID-19-Vaccinations-VAMS-Support or call them at 800-232-4636.
Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno
Public Health Education Specialist
Greenwich Department of Health