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Focus On… MythBusters—Exposing Common Misconceptions Surrounding COVID and Other Vaccines with Dr. Vanessa Fernandez, Associate Medical Director at Ryan Health | Wadsworth
It’s been four years, but COVID-19 is still with us. And it is still a threat to nearly everyone. Like other viruses, COVID-19 mutates frequently into new strains, which require new vaccines to keep you safe and healthy. Despite the vaccine hesitancy that exists, it’s important to get your COVID vaccination!
“People don’t see as much COVID disease as they used to. They don’t feel people are getting sick anymore,” says Vanessa Fernandez, MD, Family Medical Physician and Associate Medical Director at Ryan Health | Wadsworth. “Unless it affects someone close to them, they don’t see the severity of the disease.”
The reality is that COVID — and the flu and RSV — are circulating throughout New York City this winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists New York City with a High hospital admission rate for COVID for the week ending January 13, 2024.
People still die from COVID. But having the vaccine lessens that chance. And while the vaccine may not prevent you from contracting COVID, it lessens your symptoms if you get it.
“You can still get infected if you’ve been vaccinated but your symptoms may feel like a bad cold,” Dr. Fernandez says. “You won’t have severe body aches or a fever, and you won’t need to be admitted to the hospital.”
Dr. Fernandez has heard all the excuses for not getting vaccinated.
“Some people say they’re traveling and they don’t want adverse effects. Or they don’t want to miss a day of work from pain in their arm or from being tired. I still hear the old rumor that the vaccine contains a tracking microchip, or that it’s a trap from the government. Some people think the vaccine gives them COVID.
“The reality is that the vaccine imitates the virus so your body learns how to defend itself when you’re exposed. You may be a little tired or sore, but that response is how you create antibodies. Even today, some people say the vaccines don’t work. I explain that they do and we can see the numbers in hospitalizations and decreasing infections.”
If you do get sick with COVID, it is important to reach out to your provider right away. There are antiviral medications that can treat COVID, but they must be taken within 5 days of COVID symptoms.
Flu, RSV, and Shingles Vaccines
But COVID isn’t the only vaccine some people hesitate getting. The flu, RSV, and even shingles are important vaccines that keep you from getting severely ill.
“I talk to all my patients about vaccines,” Dr. Fernandez says. “Because RSV was a new vaccine, we had to offer the vaccine multiple times for some people. That may have meant an extra phone call. For shingles, when a patient sees someone they know get that painful disease, that’s when they come in for the vaccine.”
Dr. Fernandez asks older people to think back before vaccines were as readily available as they are today. “I just found out about someone who would be my older cousin who died from the flu in the early 1970’s. We really are so lucky in the US that we have vaccines available and they’re so accessible.”
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