Written by By Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, DNP, RN, NHA, CPH, CCM, CDPPublic Health Education Specialist at the Greenwich Department of Health
Our COVID-19 numbers are rising rapidly every day in Connecticut and the nation. Our first Omicron case was on Dec 4, 2021, and look at where we are now, three weeks later.
We have increasing numbers of children getting infected and hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 infections.
The American Academy of Pediatrics noted that pediatric COVID cases are now “extremely high and increasing” (Pediatric COVID Cases Soar as Omicron Spreads).
Please take heed; the highly transmissible Omicron mutation is now our major of COVID-19 strain, just as the CDC had predicted.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe, free, and accessible. (Fact Check-VAERS data does not suggest COVID-19 vaccines killed 150,000 people, as analysis claims | Reuters) (Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC).
Any minor, short-lived side effects you might get from a vaccine pale in comparison to a COVID hospitalization, ICU stay, or dying.
It is not yet too late to get you or your children vaccinated, to complete your vaccine series, or to get your third shot/booster of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Children 5-16 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, but everyone else can receive the vaccine or booster of their choice. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html).
The CDC (12-28-21) recommends that everyone 16-plus get a booster even though all the vaccines are doing what they should be doing (preventing severe COVID illness, hospitalization, ICU admissions and death). Antibody protection decreases over time, especially in our more vulnerable populations (the elderly, those with underlying health conditions/autoimmune diseases, people taking immune-suppressive medications/treatments, those who are obese, and people who are Black, Hispanic/ Latino, or from indigenous populations); and of course we have Omicron in the picture now, which was not a factor just 3 short weeks ago.
If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you must be 18 or older and 2-months past your last shot to get boostered. If you were vaccinated with Pfizer and are 16 or older, you can get your booster 6-months after you completed your vaccination series. If Moderna was your vaccine of choice and you are 18 or older you should get boostered 6-months after completing your initial vaccine series.
Adults are advised to “mix and match” their vaccines. No matter which vaccine you initially took, you can now take any other one as your booster. If you took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a traditional viral vector inoculation, consider getting a booster of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer). Scientific studies have shown that doing so significantly increases your antibody response by up to 10 times the protection.
You can register through VAMS for a pediatric COVID vaccine, your initial adult vaccine series, a 3 rd dose, or a booster vaccine by clicking on VAMS, and selecting the appropriate vaccine option for you.
We are now also in the midst of the annual flu season. I have been monitoring those numbers in Connecticut for the Greenwich Department of Health (CT-DPH) since October 2021, using Connecticut Department of Epidemiology & Emerging Infections data that is posted weekly.
Health experts fear that we may experience a “twindemic,” with both flu and COVID cases rising together.
Last year, when people were largely masked and socially separated because of COVID and better public compliance with public health measures, we had virtually no influenza.
Unfortunately that scenario is no longer the case in Town, in Fairfield County, in Connecticut, or in the nation. To date, CT-DPH data (12-18-21) shows that we have had 971 reported influenza-positive cases with 40 people who were so ill they had to be hospitalized, and two of them have died so far.
Flu strains being seen in Connecticut are A 2009 (H1N1-swine flu), Influenza A (H3N2); Influenza Type B, and Influenza A (Type Unspecified), which represents the highest percentage of our reported cases at this time. So far pandemics have occurred only with Influenza A strains, so monitoring our cases and the percentages of the different influenza strains is an important public health function, along with public education on minimizing disease spread through such essential life and health-saving measures as vaccinations, the appropriate and responsible use of masks, and the importance of social distancing and respiratory hygiene measures.
For your own protection, everyone 6-months of age and older should get their flu vaccines except for the very few people for whom this might be contraindicated.
The time is right now to proactively protect your own health; no one else can do that for you! If you have not done so already, please vaccinate yourself and your loved ones against annual flu and COVID. You can take both together. The symptoms of influenza and COVID are very similar, but they are two different viral diseases.
Both can and have been deadly. If contracted together, they would be far more lethal especially in our vulnerable
populations and age groups. CDC data showed that 12,000-52,000 people (36,000 on average) have died of the flu in the USA each year over the last 10-years; and that was in non-COVID pandemic years. Not all flu cases/deaths are reported thus the figure is undoubtedly higher (CDC, 2021). Protection against COVID-19 will not protect you against the flu, and getting vaccinated against the flu will not protect you against COVID. You need to be vaccinated against both! To find a flu shot near you in Connecticut click here: 2021-22 CT Flu Vaccination Clinics