Federal Health Officials Provide Guidance on Third Dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine

August 30, 2021

Public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or a booster shot, is recommended to maximize protection against the virus and its variants.

A third dose of the vaccine will begin the week of September 20 for all those who received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine eight months ago. It was January of 2021 when the earliest doses were administered to health care workers, nursing home residents, and other seniors. They will be among the first eligible for a third shot.

Third shots have already been administered to those who have received both doses but are still at risk due to a compromised immune system. That includes those receiving certain types of cancer treatments, organ transplant recipients, or those diagnosed with a similar level of compromised immunity.

A third dose is limited to those who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. It is anticipated booster shots will be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Administration of that vaccine did not begin until March 2021.

“Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective, and long-lasting vaccines especially in the context of a constantly changing virus and epidemiologic landscape. We will continue to follow the science on a daily basis, and we are prepared to modify this plan should new data emerge that requires it,” according to a joint statement issued by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC; Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner, FDA; Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); Dr. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health; Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer for the COVID-19 Response; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

While there have been a few “breakthrough” cases affecting fully vaccinated people, most of those cases have been minor.

“Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death continue to occur among those not yet vaccinated at all,” the statement continued. “We will continue to ramp up efforts to increase vaccinations here at home and to ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources.”

Booster

Stop the spread

The rise of Delta and other variants makes it crucial to get fully vaccinated. AltaMed has free vaccine events for anyone 12 years old and up. You can also contact our vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232 if you are eligible for a third COVID-19 shot.

In the meantime, regardless of your vaccination status:

  • You need to follow local and state safety guidelines.
  • Wear a face mask when indoors or in crowds to protect yourself and others.
  • Maintain hand hygiene — use hand sanitizer to clean hands frequently, and wash hands for 20 seconds at a time.
  • Practice physical distancing — stay six feet apart from others whether inside or outside.
  • Wipe down any surfaces you touch.

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COVID-19, Flu, Allergies or a Cold? A Helpful Guide to Knowing the Difference

August 26, 2021

In Southern California, flu season seems to last longer and longer each year. Thanks to drier winters and less rain, allergy season starts earlier every year. And now, our nation is justifiably worried about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.

If you’ve got a sniffly nose, a sore throat, and a fever, you may not be 100% sure what you have. We’re here with information that will hopefully put your worries at ease, and help you determine what kind of care you need.

Cold

COVID-19 vs. the Flu (influenza)

When we started to learn about COVID-19, many people compared it to influenza, most commonly known as the flu, in terms of symptoms and how it spreads. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by entirely different viruses.

Both illnesses cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, body aches, fatigue, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can be mild or severe and turn into pneumonia. Both can be fatal.

It may be possible for a sick person to have symptoms so mild, they don’t realize they have the disease, and so they may walk around spreading the virus to healthy people.

Both can be spread from person to person from the droplets that come from sneezing, coughing or even talking.

Vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the flu and COVID-19. That’s why we strongly recommend everyone in your family get their shots every year. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. It is free and available for everyone age twelve and older. If you have already received your COVID-19 vaccination, check with your physician or primary care provider about a potential booster shot. The Center for Disease Control is currently recommending a booster vaccination for moderate to severely immunosuppressed individuals.

Coronavirus vs. Allergies

Allergy symptoms are usually quite different from COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike COVID-19, which is a virus, allergies are your immune system’s response to a foreign substance. Allergy symptoms include itchy or runny nose, rashes or itchy skin, and watery eyes. In extreme cases of anaphylactic shock, your air passage shuts down, and it rapidly becomes difficult to breathe. Difficulty breathing is also a symptom of COVID-19, but with allergies, the onset is almost immediately after encountering a specific trigger.

Allergies aren’t contagious like a COVID-19, cold or flu, so there’s no chance of spreading it from one person to the next. Allergies do have a genetic component, which is why it may seem like other people in your family have them at the same time you do. Unless you do allergy testing and shots, your best method for preventing allergic reactions is to keep an allergy diary and then stay away from your triggers.

You can usually treat allergy symptoms with common, over-the-counter remedies, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and medicated lotions to help relieve itchy rashes and hives.

COVID-19 vs. the Common Cold

Mild cases of COVID-19 may be mistaken for a cold. Because many of the symptoms are the same, it can be tough to tell the difference. Experts say that if your first symptoms included a sore throat and runny nose, it’s likely just a cold. A fever could be a sign that it’s something more than a cold.

The common cold is famously difficult to prevent. But following the same protocol for COVID-19 should help protect you. 

  • Follow local and state safety guidelines.
  • Wear a face mask when indoors or in crowds to protect yourself and others.
  • Maintain hand hygiene — use hand sanitizer to clean hands frequently, and wash hands for 20 seconds at a time. 
  • Practice physical distancing — stay six feet apart from others whether inside or outside. 
  • Wipe down any surfaces you touch.

There’s not much you can do for a cold. Time-tested advice includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and taking age-appropriate over-the-counter remedies.

Cold

When Should I Go to the Doctor?

First off, the good news is that about 80% of COVID-19 cases resolve quickly on their own when the person stays home, gets rest, and treats the symptoms.

Unless your symptoms get dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, you may not need to seek treatment (though it's OK to call your doctor and ask). AltaMed is advising our patients to treat mild symptoms just like you would treat a cold by staying home, taking over-the-counter cold treatments like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or Nyquil. Avoid other people until your symptoms go away for at least 72 hours without having to take these medications.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please confirm with your doctor the timing of when you are no longer contagious.

To learn more about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and news, bookmark our FAQ page.

Stay on Guard as Deadly Delta Variant Cases Rise

July 12, 2021

Millions of residents in Los Angeles and Orange County have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. Now a more contagious, deadlier strain of the virus —Delta — is spreading across the country and affecting those who have not been fully vaccinated.

Having at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provides limited protection, but only fully vaccinated individuals are well protected from the Delta variant.

The alarming number of new infections from this highly contagious version of the coronavirus has prompted the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to strongly recommend wearing a mask indoors to stay protected. Now is not the time for communities to lower their guard as the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 continues.

Microscope Delta

What is a variant?

Viruses are always mutating. Think about the flu virus. There is a different strain to fight each year because it is constantly changing.

The same is happening with the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently tracking four variants in the United States:

  • Alpha — This was first discovered in the United Kingdom. It was detected in the U.S. in December 2020.
  • Beta — This first appeared in South Africa in December. It appeared in the U.S. in January 2021.
  • Gamma — This was discovered in Japan in early January, carried by travelers from Brazil. It showed up in the U.S. later that month.
  • Delta — This was identified in India in December of last year. The first U.S. case appeared in March 2021.

These variants are the most contagious and, left unchecked, can put a remarkable strain on the health care system which may ultimately lead to more deaths.

Delta

Stopping the spread

No matter how much we would like to, we can’t go back to how our lives were before the pandemic yet. The Delta variant has the potential to spark new outbreaks across the United States and around the world.

  • Get vaccinated — Vaccines are the fastest and most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Give vaccines time to work — It takes about two weeks for your immune system to be protected.
  • Use caution in group gatherings — The safest social gatherings are those where all participants have been fully vaccinated.
  • Masks protect against new strains — The coronavirus needs new hosts in order to mutate. Masks help prevent infections and therefore lower the risk of new variants developing.

Delta

Don’t ease up

For now, if you have been fully vaccinated:

  • You still need to follow local and state safety guidelines.
  • Wear a face mask when indoors or in crowds to protect yourself and others.
  • Maintain hand hygiene — use hand sanitizer to clean hands frequently, and wash hands for 20 seconds at a time.
  • Practice physical distancing — stay six feet apart from others whether inside or outside.
  • Wipe down any surfaces you touch.

For more information about the vaccine or testing, please visit AltaMed.org or call our vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232. Find a vaccine event happening in your community here.