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Ask Dr. Halverson: More encouraging news for fully vaccinated people

web 12 25 20 HALVERSON SHOTIMG 6572Photo by Haady Lashkari
Registered Nurse Rita Valenzuela gives Dr. Jim Halverson of Ojai a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 20.


By Dr. Jim Halverson
Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released new recommendations on March 8.

 

Have you been fully vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
— Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, namely the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
— Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, namely Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
If it has been less than two weeks since your shot, or if you still need to get your second dose, you are NOT fully protected. Keep taking all preventative steps, which include wearing a mask in public places, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated areas until you are fully vaccinated.

What has changed?
If you’ve been fully vaccinated:
— You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
— You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from ONE other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19. This offers the opportunity for vaccinated grandparents to visit their yet to be vaccinated children and grandchildren as long as the children and grandchildren are in good health and not at risk for severe disease from COVID-19.
— If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms. However, if you live in a group setting (like a group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What hasn’t changed?
For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:
— You should still take steps to protect yourself and others (wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart) in many situations. Take these precautions whenever you are:
• In public gatherings with unvaccinated people from more than one other household (such as indoor dining at restaurants or attending movie theaters). 
• Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk.
• You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
• You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
• You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you have been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
• You still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
These recommendations continue to add additional benefits for those who get vaccinated. Not only do we decrease the chance of getting symptomatic COVID-19 by 85% to 95%, but we nearly eliminate the possibility of getting severe disease or dying from infection from SARS-COV-2. 
We are also likely, in a significant way, decreasing the possibility of each of us passing the virus on to others asymptomatically and unknowingly. Current national surveys indicate that 72% of Americans will take the vaccine when given the opportunity. Please be an advocate to your family and friends, who have doubts, to get the facts from reliable scientific sources and not be influenced by social media.

Ojai Valley vaccination update 
The vaccination clinic at Nordhoff High School has been doing a wonderful job of getting shots into the arms of many residents from our Ojai Valley and Ventura County. The clinic is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for eligible, pre-registered individuals. As of March 9, the first seven clinics have vaccinated 4,502 people. 
Ojai Valley Community Hospital Administrator Haady Lashkari, who was so instrumental in bringing the clinic to Ojai and continues to oversee its operations, stated that the vast majority of individuals who get vaccinated are very grateful for the opportunity to lessen the risk of COVID-19 for themselves and others. Occasionally, people have registered prematurely before their tier is able to get the vaccine, but “most people want to do the right thing,” said Lashkari. 
Please be certain that it is your time to register for the vaccine and do not take away the opportunity from someone who is in a tier ahead of you. The sooner we are able to vaccinate our highest-risk individuals (nearly 65% of those 65 and over in the county have received at least their first dose of the vaccine), the sooner we can bring down the numbers of serious cases, hospitalizations and deaths and be able to move into less-restrictive tiers. 
Be patient. We will all have the opportunity to be vaccinated by June.
Stay hopeful, stay diligent, stay properly informed, stay safe and stay well.

— Dr. Jim Halverson is a longtime Ojai physician who writes a weekly column on COVID-19 for the Ojai Valley News.

 

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