MT doctor weighs in on COVID-19 vaccine questions

Posted at 4:28 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 19:29:27-04

BILLINGS — Do we really need COVID-19 booster shots? If you contract COVID-19, how long should you wait before getting the vaccine? Are there any ties to infertility after being vaccinated?

MTN's Jeanelle Slade talked with Dr. Michael Bush from St. Vincent Healthcare, as he weighed in on several questions. He responds with years of medical experience, and also adds in some personal examples.

Do we need booster shots?
“I can tell you that my wife and I both got our — our third dose she of Moderna and myself Pfizer last Friday, and that made me feel a lot better about where we're at. We do know that the immunity with this, with these vaccines with all these vaccines, kind of wanes at some rate, a little different maybe one vaccine to another, but they're all going to show some waning immunity, and so that need for a booster and so on. I think he's going to be there with all of them.”

How quickly do the COVID-19 vaccines lose their effectiveness?
“We still know that those people that haven't had that third dose of the mRNA vaccines, still have a great degree of protection from serious illness, and that's the key message is that the vaccines do provide a tremendous amount of protection from serious illness. Those people we've seen that have been fully vaccinated, that have serious illness are most commonly those at high risk that are multiple comorbidities, illnesses, and frequently are on immunosuppressive drugs. So, they are. It's just unfortunate in that situation, but for our general population being vaccinated is a huge protection against serious illness.”

Why do people who have already had COVID-19 need a vaccine?
“What we don't know is the degree of protection from natural immunity, because if you remember last year there was a lot of information out there about asymptomatic infection. We don't know if you were really asymptomatic, did you generate enough of immune response to actually have natural protection. So we are recommending that even if you've had it, go ahead and get the vaccine because we do believe that we'll be more protected.”

If you contract COVID-19, how long should you wait before getting the vaccine?
“I think it would be reasonable to wait 60 to 90 days, but I still would encourage, at the end of that period of time to be vaccinated.”

Because I had a severe allergic response to the flu shot many years ago, I’ve been advised to NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine. Should I seek another opinion?
“I would recommend they work with their primary care practitioner and follow their recommendations, but I sure would lean on the side of being vaccinated. I will tell you my own daughter-in-law was pregnant, delivered our first grandbaby a few weeks ago. But when she talked to her OB provider. And the question was do you get vaccinated. When you're pregnant childbearing age. The response she got from her OB provider was, “What do you think is worse for the baby, the vaccine or you getting COVID?” The answer is pretty clear. We're not seeing any signs of any complications in pregnancy, from the vaccine, but we certainly know that COVID can cause problems with pregnant patients.”

Are there any ties to infertility after being vaccinated?
“That’s in the realm of rumor mill unvalidated information. There is no statistical change in fertility scientific evidence that indicates there's any issue there.”

What are the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
“There is no evidence today that we are seeing long-term effects from the vaccine. Of course, we'll have to track, long term too. But look at the ‘Long Haulers’ syndrome. Look at the long-term effects of COVID. I've got a friend that lives in California that I was just corresponding with yesterday, who was intubated in the ICU and he's in his 60s, and he's wondering if his lungs will ever come back to the point, he, he told me, I am able to go golf. I can at least live with that. But he said I'm not living life like I did before, and I don't know if I ever will. And he's a year out from recovery.”

Why has the 65 and older population done so well getting vaccinated, and is it working?
“Any place you look at the 65 and older population, the willingness to have been vaccinated is so much greater, and probably because we grew up, lining up in school and getting vaccinated. And in my own career, you know, when I started as an emergency physician, a child that you know a 12-month-old, they came in with a fever was a scary patient because a certain percentage of those would have a serious bacterial illness. Meningitis and staff pneumonia, H Flu, and all of those are prevented today by vaccinations, and we just don't see that anymore, coming into our pediatrician’s office or, or the emergency departments. So vaccines work.”

With the high number of COVID cases, should we expect another slow flu season?
“There really was not a significant influenza outbreak in the southern hemisphere. And so a lot of times we can predict what's going to happen in the Northern Hemisphere and based on what happened in the Southern Hemisphere previously. That's not a guarantee we're not going to have a significant flu season, but I think we're encouraged that there may not be a significant flu season this year. I still encourage people to get their flu vaccine. I'm going to be first in line when it comes available.”

Will we be tested for influenza this year?
RiverStone Health spokesperson Barbara Schneeman said yes there will be testing for influenza in the community this season. She said physicians order tests based on symptoms, and since flue shares many of the same symptoms as Covid-19, and there is testing equipment that tests for both viruses, COVID, and flu cases can be detected.

Schneeman said, “mistakenly, many people believe that there were no flu cases last year because we didn’t test for it. We did test for it, and because of the strong masking, hygiene, distancing, and other prevention strategies, we didn’t have any cases.”

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