Keep those masks handy: It’s not over yet

January 16, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY LAUREN HANA MD, BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC – Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

Now that Florida’s seniors and healthcare workers are being inoculated against COVID-19, how soon can we get back to normal? While I appreciate the optimism that comes with the vaccine rolling out across the nation, it’s far too soon to put away the mask and throw open the doors just yet.

As of Jan. 11, just 597,119 people have been vaccinated in Florida, a tiny portion of the nearly 22 million living here. And only 51,000 or so have completed the full course of the two doses needed to achieve 95 percent effectiveness. It’s a long road to get to the point of at least 70 percent of people vaccinated that scientists call herd immunity. Transmission of the virus remains high, and deaths related to COVID-19 continue.

It’s important to remember that vaccination is not a guarantee or a cure. The new vaccines are expected to prevent people from getting severely sick with COVID-19. Even people who are themselves immune to the virus might be exposed to it and transmit it to others. And while the effectiveness rate of the current vaccines available is high, it’s not 100 percent. That’s why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people not assume they are completely immune to infection after having been vaccinated. Also, it takes times for the body to build up immunity, so someone who was exposed to coronavirus right before being vaccinated, or right after, could still become ill.

The good news is that the vaccine is available, and it is making its way (slowly but surely) to us. The Boca Grande Health Clinic has received an initial supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and has begun the process of administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older with certain high-risk medical conditions that make them at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. More vaccine supply is hopefully arriving but meeting community demand for the COVID-19 vaccine will take some time to complete.

Given these unanswered questions, the CDC says vaccinated people should still use “all the tools available to us” to stop the pandemic, including wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

So until then, the Clinic urges everyone to continue practicing ways to reduce the risk of infection:

• Avoid large events and mass gatherings.

• Avoid close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone outside your household.

• Stay home as much as possible.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Wear a face mask in public spaces.

• Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.

• Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily.

• Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, unless you’re going to get medical care.

The Boca Grande Health Clinic has received an initial supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and has begun the process of administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older with certain high-risk medical conditions that make them at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The Clinic will schedule patients based on vaccine supply and will continue to schedule more individuals as more supply is received. At this time, the Clinic is focused on the over-65, high-risk population. If you are age 65 or older and are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or would like to become a patient, please contact the Clinic by phone at (941) 964-2276. There is no need to place more than one phone call to the Clinic; doing so may prevent others from being able to reach the Clinic.