[What follows is for educational purposes only, and as a reminder, is not a substitute for discussing your own unique situation with your own physician, and cannot constitute medical advice. – pbk]
I hope you and yours are having a quiet and restorative Thanksgiving weekend.
Three updates — but first, Omicron:
The newest COVID-19 variant is already in several countries outside of South Africa where it was first identified, and the U.S. has instituted a quarantine on travelers arriving from that area (though without a travel ban as yet).
Omicron has numerous variations from the original spike protein, and early numbers suggest a greater contagiousness as well.
How does Omicron complicate the booster question?
Both the CDC and California Department of Public Health recently gave the green light for getting boosters, regardless of which primary series you received: any time 2 months or later after a J&J dose, and any time 6 months or later after the 2nd Pfizer or Moderna dose, without a requirement to be 65 or older, or to have an at-risk health condition.
We’ll know how well the current vaccines protect against Omicron within the next 2 weeks; Pfizer has committed to shipping an updated vaccine within 100 days, if necessary.
This implies a best-case scenario of having an updated vaccination, if Omicron necessitates it, by Spring 2022.
According to the CDC, those who have recently been fully vaccinated/received a booster (or recovered from active COVID-19) have “a low risk of subsequent infection for at least 6 months.” It should be pretty clear how concerning Omicron will be within the next few weeks.
For those more than 6 months out from their last Pfizer or Moderna shot (or 2 months from a J&J jab), the vaccine protections have lessened, mostly but not entirely for so-called mild to moderate disease.
These folks have 3 options:
- Sit tight and wait until mid-December. It will be clearer in a few weeks how the current vaccinations fare against Omicron. If poorly, the earliest that an Omicron-covering shot will become available is the 2nd quarter of 2022, so the question then becomes “Wait until then, or get a booster now AND get an Omicron-covering shot then?”
- Get a booster now. This covers against the predominant current Delta strain, during what’s traditionally the highest risk time of the year for catching a respiratory virus: the Winter flu season, when folks cluster indoors for the holidays, coughing and sniffling with “allergies,” ahem. If Omicron becomes the dominant strain and dodges the current vaccines, getting a booster now still means getting another jab in 2022.
- Wait for Spring/Summer 2022. AKA continuing whatever the balancing act has been (what public outings to attend, which family and friends to hang out with, and when to mask). No booster now means probably getting just one in 2022 — but living with an upped risk of getting COVID-19 this Winter.
Any news about long Covid?
It’s not good.
A recent JAMA article cites more than 50% of patients contracting COVID-19 suffering from lingering symptoms 6 months later. And these are significant symptoms: difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, and generalized anxiety disorder. The death risk may be fractional, but the long-term suck risks are awful.
This article from The Atlantic details a physical therapist’s experience:
At first, Oller didn’t know what to make of her symptoms. Neither did Darren Brown, also a physiotherapist, who tried to exercise his way out of long COVID, until a gentle bike ride left him bedbound for weeks. He and others told me that nothing in their training had prepared them for the total absence of energy they experienced. Fatigue feels flippant, while exhaustion seems euphemistic. “It felt like someone had pulled the plug on me so hard that there was no capacity to think,” Brown said. “Moving in bed was exhausting. All I was doing was surviving.”
Another JAMA article notes that 23% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 reported having exhausted their savings after the hospitalization.
Sobering news also regarding the loss of smell and taste. Although 90% of those who lose their sense of smell will regain it within a few weeks, up to 1.6 million Americans have persistent loss of smell more than 6 months out, and for around 5% of those affected, the loss appears to be permanent.
Finally: booster shot appointments are booking out a bit
Several weeks ago, it was possible to walk-in for a booster at a local pharmacy — where most vaccinations are being distributed. It now appears that COVID-19 vaccinations are by appointment-only, and while you might get lucky and find a same-day appointment online, most slots appear to be booking out 1-2 weeks.
If you are interested in getting a vaccination, the website vaccines.gov allows you to search by zip code and preferred vaccine.