Though it could take many months for Covid-19 vaccines to reach a majority of the population, a number of physicians remain optimistic about the progress made so far.
“We hope we will have enough vaccine for everybody in the next few months — that’s months plural,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of the Department of Medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside. “Until then, people have to make sure they’re practicing how to stay safe and healthy.”
Wearing a mask, Glatt appeared alongside MSSN’s chief medical officer, Dr. Adhi Sharma, in a hospital triage tent for a Jan. 14 Facebook Live session, at which the doctors updated the public on the vaccine and the coronavirus, and fielded viewers’ questions. They stressed that those seeking inoculations should not call the hospital or show up and wait in line, but should check the state Department of Health’s website to set up appointments and get the latest news.
The doctors urged patience for those who are eager to get a Covid-19 vaccine, but have been unable to so far, noting that New York state gets only 300,000 doses per week, and nearly 20 million people need to be inoculated. They added that those who get a certain vaccine for their first dose (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) should receive the same type for their second, and they should be inoculated at the same facility each time.
Glatt cautioned that the vaccine takes 10 days to take effect, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people who cannot be vaccinated again in two weeks to get it as soon as they can, but should not restart the series if more than two weeks pass.
The doctors also urged people not to act as though they are immune to the virus because they have been vaccinated, even though the two vaccines have shown to be more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials. Glatt said the science is not there yet to determine whether someone can be vaccinated and still be a Covid-19 carrier, so people should continue to wear masks after they have been inoculated. Research will determine the vaccines’ efficacy in time.
As of Jan. 14, MSSN had more than 100 Covid-19 patients in the hospital and was offering rapid testing, vaccinating those who were qualified and treating non-Covid patients who were in separate units of the hospital.
“We are certainly seeing a second surge relative to the holiday period from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s,” Glatt said. “It looks like there were a lot of events and people were exposed.” He added that doctors believed the number of cases would decline in the coming weeks as more people return to avoiding mass gatherings and continue to mask and social distance.
Sharma said many Covid-19 patients were in critical care, and he lauded the hospital staff for its hard work. “Whatever we can do to stem this tide, we’re doing it,” he said.
With many pregnant women hesitant to receive a vaccine, Glatt said it was more dangerous for them to risk getting Covid-19 than to be inoculated, and there was no evidence of the vaccines being dangerous to pregnant women or causing infertility. He added that even though pregnant women were not included in the clinical trials to develop the vaccines, 12 people involved in them did become pregnant after and have shown no issues so far.
The doctors also noted that the vaccines could be taken with blood thinners, and those with allergies can, for the most part, receive either of the two vaccines; however, people with a history of allergic reactions to vaccines should exercise caution. Studies are also underway to determine the vaccines’ effect on children and teenagers under 16 years old, they said.
The vaccines have also been effective against the new strain of Covid-19, Glatt said, adding that even those who have had the virus should be vaccinated after waiting 90 days after recovering from the illness. Additionally, Glatt said, a person can get a Covid-19 vaccine and receive another inoculation, such as the shingles vaccine, but should separate the shots by two weeks.
Glatt said that while the slow distribution of the coronavirus vaccine is frustrating, people should be patient and work together to end the virus.
“We don’t control the flow of the vaccine,” he said. “It’s all federal and flows through the state, and each state has a different distribution plan. Everyone is working really hard. There’s no bad guy here. We’ve cleared out every dose of vaccine that we have. We’d love to have more, we’d love to give out more, but it’s coming.”