What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

December 17, 2020

As part of the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, health care workers and people at the highest risk of complications from the disease will begin receiving the vaccine. This is due to an incredible effort by pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective in protecting adults against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with state and local health departments and other partners to develop plans to get the vaccine out. Other vaccines are in the approval process, so there is not just one COVID-19 vaccine.

 

What was the COVID-19 vaccine approval process?

Image 1Many thousands of patients were given the COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials. These trials are closely monitored research programs conducted with volunteers to see if a new drug or medical treatment is effective. The FDA approved the current vaccines because the research findings in the COVID-19 vaccine trials were proven to have minimal side effects and be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in adults.

 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Image 2Vaccines approved by the FDA have been tested in more than 40 thousand volunteers. Side-effects were very mild and similar to the flu vaccine. The FDA is working with the health care community to monitor closely the reaction of those who have been vaccinated. With the information that we have currently, the vaccines have been evaluated as safe and can start protecting us and our community against COVID-19.

 

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently there is a limited supply available of the vaccines, and the first doses will go to health care workers and those with the most vulnerable immune systems. It will then be rolled out to different portions of the population in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. AltaMed is working closely with state and local health officials to ensure our patients have access to the vaccines as soon as possible.

 

How many shots will I need for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Most COVID-19 vaccines available in the first phase require a “booster” shot, or second shot, to get the entire benefit.


How much will it cost?

We don’t anticipate our AltaMed patients will need to pay for the vaccine. Administration of the vaccine may be charged to your health plan.

 

Where do I go to get the vaccine?

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Once the vaccine is more widely available, AltaMed will offer the vaccine to those who meet the priority criteria during each phase of the distribution process. 


Will the vaccines give you COVID-19?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. Any response to the vaccine is a sign that the body is building immunity and learning how to fight the virus. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination, so it is possible that a person who was recently immunized could still get sick with COVID-19.

 

Do I need to get vaccinated if I have already had COVID-19?

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Re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, so people may be advised to get vaccinated even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.
The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well it works.

 

How soon after getting vaccinated can I stop wearing a mask and staying physically distant?

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There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. 


AltaMed is Here for You

AltaMed doctors recommend getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to protect you and your family from getting sick. Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for many people, it can cause severe illness or death.

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Even after there has been widespread vaccination, for a while longer, we’ll still need to:
⦁    Wear a face covering
⦁    Wash our hands frequently
⦁    Maintain physical distance

As the situation changes, AltaMed will keep you informed

 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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Spotting the Difference Between Flu and COVID-19 in Kids

December 03, 2020

Before news broke of two potential vaccines, most of what we heard about COVID-19 was bad. The only bright spot is that young children are less likely to get infected from the virus. They can still catch it and spread it, but at a greatly reduced rate. 

Because kids are still susceptible, parents and caregivers need to stay vigilant whenever children start to show signs of illness. Runny noses, sore throats, coughs, and fever are common symptoms with colds, flu, and COVID-19 so it’s important to be able to spot the differences.

The flu can still be a deadly threat, particularly in the age of COVID-19. A compromised immune system resulting from a cold or the flu can increase the chances of contracting COVID-19 for kids and adults. While younger children have shown greater resilience to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they are much more susceptible to colds and flu. 

 

What to Look For

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There are some general symptoms shared with cold, flu and COVID-19 you should be aware of. Higher-risk symptoms should lead you to have your child tested for COVID-19.

The general symptoms include:
⦁    Fever over 100.4oF
⦁    Sore throat
⦁    Congestion or runny nose
⦁    Headache
⦁    Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
⦁    Fatigue, muscle, or body aches

Red-flag symptoms include:
⦁    Coughing
⦁    Difficulty breathing
⦁    Loss of taste or smell

Loss of taste or smell is more often a symptom of COVID-19. Difficulty breathing is a more serious symptom, though it is associated with other illnesses. Coughing, which could be a symptom of multiple illnesses, increases the risk of passing the disease to others.

 

What to Do

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Children experiencing just one of the general symptoms should be monitored and kept away from others. They can return to regular activities once they have been symptom-free for 24 hours without  taking fever-reducing medication.

Children experiencing two or more general symptoms, or one red-flag symptom, should be seen by a health care provider. Your provider will tell you whether or not a COVID-19 test is necessary. If no test is needed,, the child can return to regular activities once symptoms improve and they have been symptom-free for 24 hours. If a test is needed, and the result is negative, the same rules apply.

If the test is positive, or they do not see a doctor to receive a test, they must be monitored for 10 days and CANNOT return to regular activities until after that period and they have gone 24 hours without a fever. 

If your child has been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19, then your child MUST quarantine and see a health care provider. They can only return to regular activities after 14 days from last contact with the infected person. If they start showing symptoms, they must get a COVID-19 test.

 

What’s Happening Now

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While there has been positive news about effective COVID-19 vaccines, they may not be available to the general public for six months or longer. It is important to remain vigilant to protect everyone in your family.

Have frank conversations with your children, not only about the physical effects of COVID-19, but about any sadness or anxiety they may be experiencing as a result of schools being closed and their routines being disrupted. Find out what they know, let them guide the conversation, and make sure you’re honest about what’s happening and how they can protect themselves.

 

We’re Here for You

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AltaMed has reliable resources about coronavirus and can help you separate fact from fiction. We also provide testing and information on how to care for patients at home, and instructions on how to quarantine at home. For more information or to schedule a COVID-19 test, call (888) 499-9303.

 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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

March 17, 2020

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 at the moment, 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.

 

Are Coronavirus and COVID-19 the Same?

Coronavirus

Not exactly. Coronavirus refers to a large family of viruses. Some of these viruses make people sick with the common cold. COVID-19 is the name of the disease we’ve all heard about. The type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is so new, we still don’t know very much about it.

 

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.

Symptoms in common: 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.

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

AND: Experts believe that COVID-19 is powerful enough to live on surfaces long after the infected person is no longer present.

Be proactive: Vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the flu. That’s why we strongly recommend everyone in your family get their shots every year.

Unfortunately, there still isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19 yet. Your best bet for preventing it is proper handwashing, staying home if you’re sick, and social isolation.

Treatment: Because both diseases are caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t do any good. Instead, doctors aim to treat symptoms, such as reducing fever and suppressing a cough. However, both can be serious and require hospitalization.

 

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.

Symptoms: 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.

Transmission: Allergies aren’t contagious like a 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.

Prevention: 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.

Treatment: 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.

Symptoms in common: 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.

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

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

 

When Should I Go to the Doctor?

uncomfortable throat

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 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 Coronavirus resource page. And for the time being, AltaMed is waiving the cost-sharing and co-pays for medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19.

 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.