Last week, MLive announced it would begin taking — and answering — reader questions related to COVID-19.
Soon after, inquiries about coronavirus vaccines, booster shots, and hospital capacities started trickling in. Do you have a question? Send it to email@example.com for our public health team to answer and perhaps feature in an upcoming story.
Below are some of the questions we’ve received, along with answers from our health reporters, based on previous and new reporting.
Q: If I have had COVID and have completed my 10-day isolation, but still have lingering symptoms, am I contagious to anyone at this point?
A: In your case in which you have tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC recommends you isolate for 10 days. That clock starts either when your symptoms first appear, or when your specimen were collected for testing — whichever came first.
After that 10-day period, as long as your symptoms are improving and your fever has broken for at least 24 hours without the help of medicine, you are OK to resume your normal activities and not believed to be contagious.
Q: I was on lockdown for 10 days. If I use a riding mower, can I pass the COVID to the next person that uses it if I don’t wipe it down?
A: It’s possible to transmit the coronavirus through shared surfaces like a riding mower if respiratory droplets containing the virus land on a surface and another individual touches that area and then touches their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. To reduce risk, you can use a disinfectant spray or disposable wipes to clean off shared surfaces
However, the CDC considers risk of transmission from surfaces to be low. The virus is more commonly spread through airborne transmission. Wearing a mask over your mouth and nose can reduce the respiratory droplets you release, and limit the distance those particles can travel.
Lastly, if you isolated for 10 days and your symptoms have improved, you’re not believed to be contagious any longer, according to the CDC.
Q: When will COVID vaccines be available for 11-year-olds?
A: Vaccines for younger populations could be coming this fall. Last week, Pfizer announced that its clinical trials involving more than 2,200 participants showed promising safety and effectiveness results. Given two doses about one-third the size of the adult vaccine elicited robust antibody responses, according to the company.
Pfizer submitted its clinical data to the FDA, and an Oct. 26 meeting of the FDA’s advisory committee has been scheduled to review the data and consider recommending emergency use authorization. Typically, federal regulators have acted within days of getting a recommendation from its committee of independent medical experts.
Q: Seeing as the Pfizer vaccine is the only one with an available booster dose, can someone who’s had the initial doses of Moderna or J&J get the Pfizer booster?
A: There isn’t enough data available on the safety and efficacy of mixing the COVID-19 vaccines, so health officials don’t encourage people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to seek a Pfizer booster dose.
The FDA did amend its emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine in August to allow individuals who are immunocompromised, including organ transplant recipients, to receive a third dose. In Michigan, there have been 27,407 people who have received a Moderna booster, according to state vaccine data.
As for the rest of the population of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients, you’ll have your chance soon. The FDA’s advisory committee of independent experts is scheduled to hold meetings Thursday, Oct. 14, and Friday, Oct. 15, to review data from the companies, respectively, and consider the potential of authorizing booster shots for each vaccine.
Both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently have emergency use authorization for individuals 18 and older.
Q: It was reported Saturday by U.S. Sen. Rob Johnson that the Food and Drug Administration has not given approval to the COVID-19 vaccine. Why are so many politicians and news outlets not reporting on this?
A: The main reason Rep. Johnson’s comments aren’t being heavily reported is because they aren’t accurate. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was initially granted emergency use authorization by the FDA on Dec. 11, 2020. Then in May, the FDA broadened its authorization to include 12-to-15-year-olds, again under emergency circumstances like the pandemic.
But on Aug. 23, the FDA gave its full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 and older. The two-dose vaccine is now marketed under the name Comirnaty and is intended to prevent COVID-19 disease. It’s important to note, however, that the vaccine is only available to 12-to-15-year-olds through emergency use authorization, as is the case for third dose shots for specific populations (individuals 65+, immunocompromised, front-line workers).
Q: Is it true people are getting surgeries canceled because of lack of beds, due to the rise of COVID patients being admitted?
A: At times during the pandemic, hospitals have chosen to delay non-emergency procedures due to increased COVID-19 patients and staffing shortages. However, a quick survey of local health systems indicated that isn’t typically happening in October 2021.
At Henry Ford Health, Dr. Adnan Munkarah, said the system has not postponed any clinical procedures and it continues to encourage residents to seek clinical care — in-patient or out-patient — as needed. He said they’re still equipped to provide “every segment of care and to provide it safely with state-of-the-art care, compassion and focus on patients and their families.”
Spokespersons for other hospitals said total patient numbers are up, and in some cases beds have been closed due to staffing constraints, but they hadn’t heard of any procedures being canceled.
One hospital — Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids — did note it is delaying some non-emergency procedures that would require an overnight stay.
“As a result of a significant increase in the number of hospitalized patients, we have been postponing a number of elective procedures in our hospitals, on a case-by-case basis, that in a physician’s judgement can be safely deferred to another date,” reads a statement from the health system. “We realize the delay is an inconvenience to patients and their families. Affected patients have received individualized communication about the delay, and we will work with them and their surgeon to reschedule as soon as possible.”
Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are indeed on the rise. Hospitals were treating 1,815 patients with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. That’s up from 1,415 such patients a month ago.
Q: Why is little said about getting COVID a second time?
A: Like other viruses, some re-infections are expected to occur with the coronavirus. The CDC notes that there are ongoing studies to better understand how likely reinfection is, how often it occurs, and who might be at a higher risk for reinfection.
In August, a case-control study in Kentucky looked at re-infection data from its more than 700 participants. The retrospective study was limited based on time and population, but it found that unvaccinated residents who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 were 2.34 times as likely to be reinfected in May-June 2021 compared to those who were vaccinated after their first infection.
More research and data is needed to better understand re-infection rates.
If you have a COVID-19 related question as we continue through this pandemic, please respectfully submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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