A Little Jab Will Do Ya, Part II
Getting a COVID-19 Shot Locally
Dan Onion, MD, MPH
Mt. Vernon/Vienna/Fayette Health Officer
Last edition, I wrote about why and how to get vaccinated to protect yourself, those you love and the whole community. Then, the single shot Johnson and Johnson (J+J) vaccine had just come out, Covid variants were just being found, and shots were just becoming available for those under 60.
A lot has changed for the better since then. The Pfizer vaccine now is approved to be used down to age 12, and it looks like the Moderna one will be soon too. Both those take 2 shots, 3 or 4 weeks apart respectively. The nation, led by Maine, is now over 50% vaccinated and climbing, even counting the ineligible kids under 12. As of the 3rd week in May, 57% of eligible Maine residents had had at least one dose of vaccine and 54% were fully vaccinated. I’m sure those numbers will be close to or over 60% by June 1. This last week in May has seen average daily rates drop under 100 new cases/day, the lowest since a full year ago. Just the week before those numbers, I had a brief meeting with Maine CDC director, Dr Nirav Shah, who was ecstatic they had just dropped under 200. Things are getting rapidly better. So, with fingers crossed, we can hope that the surge in hospitalizations and deaths will also drop, as they should with a several week delay. And newest data suggest that is indeed happening. The elderly population, now vaccinated at rates over 75% in Maine, has seen a huge drop in COVID hospitalizations and deaths. Unfortunately, the younger age groups in their 20s and 30s now represent nearly 50% of Covid deaths in Maine. Nearly all the mortality is in the unvaccinated. And all the states are experiencing a similar decline, correlated with vaccination rates.
Now, the Maine and Federal CDCs as well as Governor Mills are relaxing most restrictions including in- and outdoor distancing, masking, and handwashing, because vaccinated people appear to be enjoying the promised 90+% protection from symptomatic illness. Subsequent follow up of mass vaccinations now show that the vaccinated are also very rare transmitters of Covid to others. The usual precautions like masking will remain in place in medical settings, public transportation and a few at risks groups.
Many of unvaccinated residents remain hesitant about the vaccine, worrying that it is “too new”, not fully studied, not effective enough, or responsible for intolerable side-effects. But those concerns are proving unwarranted when compared to the risks of the disease itself including hospitalizations,mortality, and “long Covid”, the chronic fatigue and various organ impairments seen after acute Covid and causing months and maybe years of impairments. The scare about J+J causing brain clots has diminished, appearing to be very, very rare, barely a dozen cases among millions of shots. Vaccines do often make recipients sick with body aches, pains and a low-grade fever in the first 24 hours or so afterward; be encouraged by that, it means the shot is helping your body develop strong immunity to the virus.
Given that level of protection, as good as or better than vaccines for any other disease, the relaxation of restrictions make sense for the fully immunized. There still are and will be the few (under 8%) who still get the disease, but usually mild cases, despite being vaccinated. In the trials with 70,000 people, none suffered severe illness or death. Those outcomes are proving proving fewer than 1 in 100 thousand. There have been a few in Maine, mostly in people with impaired immunity, though some not. Don’t be discouraged that this represents vaccine failure. Like most things in medicine, vaccines are never 100% protection but they always reduce the risk of severe infection, like the flu shots do.
So, my hope now is that we can get the rest of the population vaccinated ASAP, in order to reduce the rate of illness and death as well as decrease the viral population in our communities. The fewer people the virus infects, the less likely it is to mutate/change into a more resistant bug. The new variants have already mutated into more transmissible strains, though so far remaining sensitive to present vaccines. The pharmaceutical industry is also gearing up to modify vaccines quickly to meet any such transformations.
The Maine CDC just last week posted vaccination rates by zip code and ranked by those over or under 60% (https://www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/dashboard/rates-by-zip). They show that Fayette/Kent’s Hill is doing the best by far with 78% of its eligible population fully vaccinated, followed by Mt Vernon (63%), Belgrade (61%), Rome/Oakland (57%) and Vienna (53%)). How surprised I, from Vienna, was by that!! COME ON VIENNA, CATCH UP!!
One way to help people in our towns who aren’t yet vaccinated, is to provide free shots locally. The Mt Vernon Rescue service is organizing a local vaccine clinic to administer either the PFIZER or J+J vaccines to all comers, at a Mt Vernon Community Center clinic on Sunday, June 13, 11 am-5:30 pm. We are also arranging transportation to the clinic or even home visits if needed.
There are still cases popping up in the unvaccinated in our towns. Please get vaccinated, if you haven’t already, and urge family and friends to do the same if not for themselves, then for their unvaccinated older friends and family. The jury is in, the definitive data is there now, it is far better to be vaccinated than sick or dead from COVID!
MT VERNON RESCUE COVID-19
COMING TO MT. VERNON!
SUNDAY, JUNE 13th
11 am to 5:30 pm
Mount Vernon Community Center
By town beach, across from fire station
PFIZER + J&J VACCINES!
(More of the former, 2nd clinic 3-weeks later; J&J one shots mostly for the homebound)
WALK-INS OK, APPOINTMENTS PREFERRED
CHILDREN 12 AND OVER WELCOME
FREE NDN RIDES TO/FROM CLINIC(860-0677)
WE CAN BRING VACCINE TO HOMEBOUND
NOT RESTRICTED TO RESIDENTS OF MT. VERNON
FOR SIGN UP OR MORE INFORMATION:
Dan Onion, 293-2076 or 242-6224
Or Tom Ward, 293-1016
REGISTRATION PORTAL TO BE AVAILABLE SOON