The holiday season is meant to bring cheer all around, not viruses. Dr. Zeba Yamin with Dignity Health Group Spoke with Kern Sol News about the importance of getting vaccinated, especially before the holidays.
Some people still do not see the need for a vaccine. While it was strongly suggested to get vaccinated when the vaccine first came out, the conversation has died down with each booster. Can you discuss the importance of getting vaccinated? How does it help reduce the chances of getting sick or the severity?
- Yes, so the thing with most viruses is that they mutate. So, when we had the original vaccine for COVID, it was covering the original virus, but since that time, it has mutated. We had the Omicron variant and the new vaccine. The new booster has the new variant covered, too. So, if it was just the original virus, even that, your immunity rains after a year. So you need a booster for that. But this new booster has both the Omicron and the original, so I think it is needed. Flu vaccine is the same thing. Every year, it mutates, so we try to get the best vaccine that we can possibly by looking at last year’s Flu virus. And I think that it is important for us to get a vaccine every year just because of the mutations.
- A lot of people say that, you know, we got the flu vaccine, we still got sick, and the purpose of the vaccine is not completely prevented because that is impossible. What we are trying to prevent is the severity of the disease. What we are trying to prevent is the hospitalization. What we are trying to prevent is death. So I think if you’re vaccinated, you might still get sick. But it there is a very big chance that we are going to prevent the hospitalizations and the more severe outcomes.
One reason for the hesitancy behind vaccines is that they can sometimes make you feel sick for a couple of days afterward. Can you explain why this happens and if people should be concerned?
- So most of the time, when you feel sick afterward, it’s because your body has been introduced to a foreign agent, and the symptoms are very, very mild as compared to the real disease, and they usually last for 48 hours. Most of the patients won’t even have any symptoms, and the symptoms are never severe enough to require a doctor’s visit, or going to the urgent care, or going to the ER versus if you don’t get the vaccine, that’s where you’re going to end up.
The holidays typically come with lots of sickness. Are there any specific trends you’re seeing amongst your patients regarding illnesses?
- So in Kern County, historically, we do see a surge of flu and, well, not COVID, but flu and other viruses COVID is throughout the year. But for the other viruses we do see a surge in December and January. It’s because after Thanksgiving, you know…the people start gathering more inside before that, like for Halloween, people are, we do see a small surge, but it’s usually because the people are gathering more outside trick or treating outside. Thanksgiving and Christmas, people gather inside, and they’re more exposed to viruses. People also travel a lot. So if there is a surge going on in Ohio, and grandkid is traveling from Ohio to visit his grandparents here in California, he’s going to bring the viruses that are searching there in Ohio. So I think and the main reason for people getting more sick is indoor gatherings and all the travel that’s happening.
What steps do you recommend people take during the holiday season to avoid spreading viruses?
- Okay, so the most basic step is, if you’re going to be traveling and if you have symptoms, please test yourself before you travel. I know this is not a very popular one, but if you’re going to be traveling in the plane, maybe wear masks. The most basic one is, of course, washing your hands, and if you have symptoms, stay away from older people, younger siblings, or you know people who are immunocompromised, outdoor gatherings, if you have any. It takes at least two weeks for you to develop immunity. So, two weeks before Thanksgiving would be the best time to get the vaccines. But if you can’t, at least you know two weeks before Christmas.
Is there any recent data that has stuck out to you lately that you think the community should be aware of?
- Recently, this year, they have introduced a new vaccine, the RSV vaccine. There has been some data suggesting that if you get all three vaccines, you can prevent more hospitalizations, and that’s a vaccine that is recommended for mostly 60-plus patients. But recently, the CDC has also recommended that it be given to patients who are pregnant from 32 to 36 weeks because RSV is one of the biases that does affect younger babies or babies who are born prematurely. So, it is recommended for pregnant females and in the older population. So when you are recommending that you get the flu vaccine, the COVID vaccine, you should also try to get the RSV vaccine.
What would you say to someone who was still hesitant to get vaccinated?
- I would say, look at the data, you know. Just don’t go on your gut feeling; don’t go online and look at all the stories that people without any basic knowledge are, you know, putting online. Do your research, look at the data, and if you see how much these vaccines have prevented hospitalizations and fatalities, you are going to make the right decision. You will realize that vaccines do prevent problems.