This pandemic world we live in has become meshuggeneh and I hope to help guide you through it by answering your questions and giving you common sense tips regarding your health and wellness. I’ve been the medical reporter at 3News for 23 years and while I am not a doctor – nor do I play one on TV – I do talk to some pretty smart people daily.

I’ve learned a lot from them and I’m grateful to be able to share that information with you. I’ll be covering a wide range of topics that will deal with your health and wellbeing in future columns, but the COVID-19 pandemic is on most minds these days, so I’ll start there.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve received hundreds of emails, calls and messages from viewers asking questions about COVID-19 and the vaccines that are now available. I hope the answers to their questions answer some of your own.

Q: Can I get my COVID-19 vaccine right after another vaccine, such as a pneumonia shot?

A: No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends waiting 14 days. The concern is that your immunity may wane while you build antibodies for the other vaccine, and giving the COVID-19 vaccine at that time may make it less effective.

Q: Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

A: No. The taxpayer funded vaccines are free. However, you may be asked for your private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid card. The government is allowing providers to charge a service fee, but these fees must be covered by your insurance. If you do not have insurance, the provider can be reimbursed through a government program. You cannot be denied a vaccine because you cannot pay the fee.

Q: I received a phone call or email saying I can pay to move up in line, or I must pay at the provider I chose. Is this possible?

A: No. Scammers are calling and now emailing people claiming they can get someone a vaccine for a fee. Do not give any personal information such as bank account, credit card, social security number or detailed medical information to anyone over the phone or through an email. You will never be charged for a vaccine, but again, your provider can bill your insurance company for the service fee. Take care of this at the time of your appointment.

If you have been scammed, immediately report it to your bank or health insurance provider. Health care information is valuable to criminals who are trying to steal identities. If you think your identity has been compromised, you can file a report through identitytheft.gov.

Q: How long do I have to wait to get the vaccine if I’ve already been infected with COVID-19?

A: You need to wait a minimum of 14 days since symptom onset, and you must be symptom free. If you were infected, you will carry natural antibodies. Those antibodies will wane but depending on the severity of your illness, you will likely have at least three months of protection. However, that doesn’t mean you can stop following the guidelines. There are other variants still circulating which could potentially put you at risk of getting and transmitting the virus to others.

You should still get a vaccine whether you’ve had COVID-19 or not. The vaccines only prevent you from getting severely sick, they don’t protect you from getting the virus again and we’re still learning if those vaccinated can still transmit virus to the unprotected. Preliminary studies, including one from Israel, show promise that the vaccine is preventing disease spread, but we need more people vaccinated to know for sure.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from food?

A: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC, there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with, or as a likely source, of viral transmission of COVID-19.

Q: I heard the AstraZeneca vaccine gives people blood clots and these other vaccines really aren’t safe, is this true?

A: Out of 17 million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, there have been 37 reports of people developing blood clots. What is not clear is whether these blood clots are a direct result from the vaccine. That is currently being investigated. However, the World Health Organization said based on the numbers, the benefit of the vaccine outweighs the risk.

There is no perfectly safe vaccine, medicine or treatment for anything. There is always a chance someone will have an adverse reaction or event. These vaccines may have come to market quickly, but that’s not because the science was done quickly. Never in our history have we seen governments invest billions of dollars into potential treatments for a pandemic virus. While the bureaucratic red tape may have been removed in some cases, the science was not sacrificed.

The process was faster because the trial phases were run concurrently and the long waiting periods for document review was eliminated. Messenger RNA (mRNA), used by Pfizer and Moderna, has been studied for decades.

The FDA, as well as independent medical experts, watched over every detail of the COVID-19 vaccines before they were granted emergency use approval. This is not total FDA approval mind you; this approval was given because we’re in a crisis situation and something was needed. Still, for the millions of people who have received vaccines by this point, data keeps indicating they are safe. But continued research is necessary.

Q: Will vaccines become mandatory?

A: That depends. It is possible your employer could make the vaccine mandatory in order for you to work there. But more likely, the smart business owner will offer incentives for people to become vaccinated. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a mandatory measure could be legal. However, do not think it wouldn’t be challenged. These vaccines are not fully approved by the FDA, and some could argue that an Emergency Use Authorization is not the same thing.

Q: Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine made with tissue from an aborted fetus?

A: Yes and no. Tissues are groups of organized cells. Tissues are not used to make vaccines. Fetal tissue was not used to make J&J’s nor any other COVID-19 vaccine. In developing its vaccine, J&J used a fetal cell line, which no longer contains the original donor cells.

Cell lines have been used thousands of times and yes, they were originally recovered from an aborted fetus, likely in the 1970s, and scientists used them to engineer several of these cell lines.

There’s no fetal tissue remaining in any of those cell lines today and we’re decades and many thousands of generations of the cell removed from that actual event. That said, these cell lines are used to make several of our standard vaccines as well, such as chicken pox and hepatitis.


Monica Robins is the Senior Health Correspondent at 3News. The information provided in this column is for educational and informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this column or on our website.

Watch Monica Robins nightly on 3News

Disclaimer

Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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