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Dr. D´s March 2021 Medical Update

As we come to a year since the COVID pandemic began, I’m happy to now be writing about the solutions. We now have three vaccines available to help prevent infection or serious illness from COVID-19. In this month’s article, I’d like to talk about the different vaccines and provide more encouragement to obtain a vaccination when it is your turn.

The first vaccine approved was from Pfizer. It is an mRNA vaccine. In simplest terms, the vaccine provides the code to cells to make the spike proteins on the COVID-19 virus. Our bodies then activate the immune system to create antibodies to fight the virus. In the trials, it reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection by 95%. The vaccine is provided in two doses 3 weeks apart and is for ages 16 years and older. The biggest downside to this vaccine is that is must be stored at extremely low temperatures. In San Antonio, our hospital systems are capable of distributing this vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine is an mRNA vaccine as well. The vaccine was shown to be 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID disease after the second dose. The doses are given a month apart. This vaccine is currently indicated for ages 18 and older. The required temperatures are much more reasonable and the vaccine supply is easier to manage.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was approved at the end of February and supplies are being distributed as you read this. It is a viral vectored vaccine. A harmless common cold virus is engineered to carry the code for the COVID spike proteins. Once in our systems, the spike proteins are produced that activate our immune system to fight the coronavirus. This same approach was used to create the vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus. While it may be easy to focus on the 66-72% effectiveness at preventing moderate to severe disease, the significant statistic is that it completely protected against hospitalization and death 4 weeks after vaccination.

One question I’m often asked is whether we’ll be needing boosters to these vaccines over time. The answer isn’t clear, but it seems likely. It may be that we’ll be getting COVID-19 vaccines once a year like we receive flu shots.

The biggest news in Texas in March 2021 is that the governor has lifted the mask mandate and has allowed businesses to open 100%. This is scheduled to go into effect on March 10. The encouragement is to continue to wear a mask to protect yourself and those around you. Businesses will be making their own decisions about whether to require masks or not. At HealthTexas, our providers and staff will continue to wear masks and face shields and require our patients to wear masks when in our offices.

The bottom line, once again, is to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you are able. The vaccines are safe and effective and our best opportunity to get out of this pandemic.

Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine. His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, phone: 210-249-0212.