Page 6 - Healthcare News Nov/Dec 2021
P. 6

What You Need to Know
AIbout COVID-19 Boosters By DR. ARMANDO PAEZ
f you haven’t received your COVID-19 booster shot yet, now is the time. There are many reasons to support getting a booster shot — or your initial vaccination if you haven’t already done so.
The emergence of the new Omicron variant, which is now in Massachusetts and several states, is an important reason why everyone eligible should be fully vaccinated with their booster shot. While at this time we do not know for sure how effective the current vaccines are against the new variant, including its transmissibility and potency, scientists are optimistic that current vaccines will offer some level of protection against Omicron.
We also know that, while the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against severe disease and hospitalization, new data shows that, similar to some other vaccines, such as for tetanus, their ef- fectiveness wanes over time, requiring a booster shot. This is especially true for people age 65 and older and for individuals with weak immune systems.
We know that the vaccine is safe and effective, and that is the plain and simple truth. Do not be- lieve the many myths and misinformation you may hear being perpetuated by some media outlets and on social media, which may be shared with you by friends or relatives who believe they are hearing them from a credible source.
This is a very contagious and potentially deadly virus, and you will not only be protecting yourself from becoming seriously ill or dying, but those around you as well. Most importantly, your choice to be vaccinated will help put an end to the pandemic by keeping it from spreading and, even worse, breeding to a variant that is even more transmissible and resistant to current vaccines.
Here are some answers to common questions about the COVID-19 booster:
When do I need to get my booster, and why should I get it sooner than later?
If you received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, you should get your booster at least six
months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series. If you received the Johnson
& Johnson vaccine, you need only wait two months after getting your primary COVID-19 vaccina- tion. You do not need to get the same COVID-19 booster as your original vaccination. In fact, a recent study suggests ‘mix and match’ (heterologous boosting) can lead to a higher level of antibody response.
Will I be getting the same dose as my original vaccination?
The booster shots are the same formulation as the current COVID-19 vaccines, with the excep- tion of the Moderna vaccine booster, which is half of the original dose.
What if I never got my second dose?
If you have received Johnson & Johnson, a second dose (given after two months) will be consid- ered your booster dose. However, if you have not received the second dose of the primary series of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, you should get this at the recommended schedule of three weeks (Pfizer-BioNtech) or four weeks (Moderna), or as soon as possible if you are past the recom- mended date.
Will I experience any side effects from my booster shot?
Some adults may have minor side effects, but most people will not experience any discomfort
as a result of the booster. Common side effects include pain, redness, and swelling on the arm where you received your shot. You may also experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea, which should go away in a few days or less. You can reduce pain and discomfort where the shot is given by applying a clean, cool, wet washcloth to the area. Also, do not favor your arm; instead, use or exercise it. You can also take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines to reduce your discomfort, as well as drinking plenty of fluids.
I’ve heard some people say they take over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil just before receiving their booster in order to prevent side effects, while others say not to. Who is right?
It is not recommended to take anti-fever or anti-inflammatory medications such as Tylenol or Advil beforehand because, based on other vaccine studies, it can potentially lessen your immune response from the vaccine. However, you can take these after the vaccination to manage symptoms.
What is causing a lower effectiveness of the vaccines, requiring a booster shot?
It is a known fact that immunity to infection can wane over time. A booster shot will stimulate
and remind the immune system to prepare for infection. -
Dr. Armando Paez is chief of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Health.
Let’s Address
  YMouth Homelessness By OLIVIA BERNSTEIN
ore than 4 million youth and young adults experience homeless- ness annually in this country. It is estimated that at least 700,000 are not part of a family or accompanied by a parent or guard-
ian. Risk factors include family conflict, a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity, substance use, and school problems.
MHA is among the organizations that recently launched initiatives to ad- dress this issue in Massachusetts, where it is said that, on any given day, nearly 500 unaccompanied young people, ages 18 to 24, experience homelessness.
Federal grant money received through our work with the Continuums
of Care in Hampden County and the Three County Continuum of Care administered by Community Action of Pioneer Valley (CAPV), which serves Hampshire, Berkshire, and Franklin counties, is funding two MHA projects over a 24-month period that support the needs of homeless youth.
One provides permanent supportive housing for eight beds annually in Springfield, as well as eight in Greenfield, and includes subsidies so partici- pants pay only one-third of their income for rent.
The other, referred to as a Housing Navigation and Rapid Re-housing program, helps youth and young adults navigate services to obtain housing. The program covers rental and related expenses for up to two years for six beds annually.
These projects represent a more comprehensive approach to youth home- lessness that provides ongoing rental and individualized case-management support.
In its pioneering report, “More Than Housing, Give Us Homes,” CAPV called youth homelessness a “crisis in our region,” and through $1.96 million in federal funds, it and its partners received a jump start toward ending the crisis. Guiding principles include prioritizing “evidence-based, low-barrier practices, such as housing first, trauma-informed care, and positive youth development.”
As one of CAPV’s partners, MHA couldn’t agree more. This is a population just starting out in life and in need of support, including subsidized housing that is in short supply in the area; services tailored to individualized needs, which may include access to behavioral-health resources; learning life skills such as budgeting; and pursuing employment or educational opportunities.
These youth and young adults, 18 to 24, have experienced more than anyone should have to in their young lives. Some of them have been out on the street or in shelters or exited foster care at 18 with no place to go. Some of them are in unsafe situations and at risk of harm. They may be living with a family member or couch surfing in an unsafe place, and many we serve iden- tify as LGBTQ+. They may not feel accepted by their family or have family relationships that they don’t feel are safe.
MHA is seeing early success in its work with youth involved in both proj- ects. It is, for some, their first time involved with social services, but all are eager to move into the next stage of their lives, which includes more inde- pendence and access to housing. Some are continuing a college education, others are seeking employment in their chosen field, and some are in recovery programs.
These young people have shown they are resilient and, like all of us, deserv- ing of a place to call home. We see homelessness all over this country, but it
is a huge systemic injustice that anyone should have to live out on the street. MHA is both grateful and excited to be part of the Youth Homeless Demon- stration Program funded through the Hampden County and Three County Continuum of Care to help erase, along with other area agencies, homeless- ness among our youth, guiding them on their path to a better future. -
Olivia Bernstein is clinical director of Homeless Services at MHA.

   4   5   6   7   8