I had a patient ask me why I have had so many Covid vaccine shots and boosters. I thought about my answer and I asked them why they take their blood pressure medication every day? They said that it was prescribed that way.
Well, simply put, the prescription for the vaccine to be most effective is to get it every 6 months, because studies show that after 6 months, the antibodies wane and protection drops off a lot. Blood pressure medications only last for 24 hours so you take them every day. Some meds wear off after 8 hours and they are taken 3 times a day. Ozempic, the latest weight loss/diabetes drug, is injected once a month. That’s the prescription!
If the flu were not a seasonal infection, the prescriptive dose for the vaccine would also be every 6 months. Just like the Covid vaccine, its protection wears off after 6 months which is why we recommend getting it around now, so that you are protected the whole flu season, which can last into April. The shingles vaccine is lifelong, as is the hepatitis B and papillomavirus vaccine. That’s the most effective dose for those vaccines.
Sadly, only 3.5% of Americans have received the most recent Covid booster as of last week. The percentage is a bit better with those over 65 but a bit worse in kids, both age categories which are more vulnerable.
It seems like so many people are coming down with Covid, and that’s just the people we know of. Reporting systems remain offline so we really don’t know how many people are getting it. We are seeing a significant uptick in hospitalizations. Not deaths yet, however the daily death rate remains ~ 200/day in the US. There is also an increase in viral load in municipal wastewater all over the country, an indicator of increased viral activity.
In Europe, hospitalizations are on the rise, in some places doubling every week.
The main variant is the HV1 variant, which comes from the Xbb 1.1/Omicron lineage. Its mutations include a more robust attachment to cells, making it more virulent. Severity of disease however has not been seen fortunately.
All of this is to say that Covid is still alive, well and propagating. It expands more rapidly in a population that is not properly vaccinated. Although T and B immune memory cells are very long-lived and severity of infection is reduced by these cells, they don’t prevent actual infection as well. Spread of the disease is increased, unless antibodies identify the virus sooner and help eliminate it before infection sets in in the first place.
With more spread, there is greater risk of a variant mutation which really is concerning.
As far as other infections go, RSV has started to increase with hospitalizations quadrupling in the last few weeks. Numbers are still low but increasing. If over 65, a child or if you have some immune compromising illness or medication, consider vaccination.
The flu numbers remain low, but cases are already appearing so please get your flu shot as well.
Please be careful, get vaccinated, mask where and when appropriate, and stay away from people if you do get sick.
For the majority of people, it is perfectly fine to get both the flu and Covid booster simultaneously. If you are over 80, split them up to minimize the already pretty low risk of a clotting issue.
Enjoy the weekend.
Stay safe and be well.