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Heading into Fall: COVID-19 and Flu Season

  • Category: COVID-19
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Heading into Fall: COVID-19 and Flu Season

As we head into the autumn season (and flu season), Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare’s Infectious Disease specialist, Dr. Mahendra Poudel, shares important updates for community members.

To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System’s Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Mahendra Poudel, click here.

Pediatric Patients and Vaccine Safety

Children age 12 and older are currently eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. However, many parents and other caregivers have concerns about the potential long-term effects of the vaccine and some are delaying vaccination as a result.

Meanwhile, the pediatric intensive care units across the country are filling up.

“We're getting reports of hundreds of kids being hospitalized among low-vaccinated states. [Hospitals] need to transfer kids out of state. These numbers are shocking and alarming as a parent,” says Dr. Poudel.

Are the Vaccines Truly Safe?

Research data has shown the vaccines to be both safe and effective. Dr. Poudel also notes that the studies being conducted are accurately representative of the 12 and older sector. “They’re not extrapolating data from adults and saying, ‘Okay, we can just use the adult data on kids.’ That is not true.”

The way the mRNA vaccine technology works also supports the argument against long-term effects. “When you get to the basics, mRNA is a protein that just helps your body code a spike protein antibody. Once that is done, the protein gets destroyed in your body,” adds Dr. Poudel. “And, your body has a mechanism to completely wipe the mRNA out.”

“We have a very powerful tool to get this pandemic under control and that is the vaccine,” continues Dr. Poudel. “Please, if you have not been vaccinated, I urge you to get vaccinated so you can stay safe, stay out of the hospital, and keep your family members, your community, and your coworkers safe. I can't emphasize how important it is to get vaccinated.”

Why Do Mask Recommendations Change So Much?

Another confusing element of the pandemic has been the CDC’s changing recommendations surrounding masking. Being that COVID-19 was a “novel” virus, it’s understandable that guidance would change as new data emerged.

“Science is really dynamic. From the beginning of the pandemic, we were learning new evidence and making recommendations based on that. This is exactly what the CDC is doing too. As we get more evidence down the road, these recommendations may change. I know it's confusing and sometimes frustrating, but that's the world we live in. It's a really liquid situation,” shares Dr. Poudel. “I would consider putting your trust in the CDC and the trusted people in the community; leaders like your primary care physician, your doctors. Listen to them, listen to your public health officials, and follow recommendations provided by them.”

Getting Ready for Flu Season

As flu season approaches, it’s important for individuals to lessen risk of influenza infection by getting the flu shot and practicing good self-hygiene habits. Due to the precautions people were taking last flu season with masking, social distancing and frequent hand washing, the impact of influenza was lessened. While many won’t be quite as “strict” with their behaviors this year, they can still take steps to avoid coming down with the flu.

“We are going to be prepared for this flu season, especially with flu vaccines. We're going to run flu vaccine clinics for our community. We're going to make sure our employees get vaccinated as soon as flu vaccines are available. We will keep our employees informed in terms of the time and the place to get vaccinated,” assures Dr. Poudel. “And, as the indoor masking guidance is in effect, that should not only help with COVID, but also help prevent flu and other respiratory viruses.”

Need Non-COVID Care? Don’t Wait

While the hospitals aren’t quite as overwhelmed as this past winter, some individuals continue to delay care out of fear of infection. Dr. Poudel warns against waiting to address mild, moderate, or severe health conditions. All of the primary care offices and hospital departments at SVMH are equipped to take care of non-COVID patients in a safe and effective manner.

“Waiting at home to delay your care can often have deleterious effect, meaning we have seen patients who have come here with extremely complicated gallbladder infections, heart attack, gangrene, that we needed to do more than we would have done if they had shown up earlier,” cautions Dr. Poudel. “We have enough capacity to take care of you at the hospital, in our clinic, in our emergency room. Please seek medical care if you need to.”

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