UIHC Covid-19 Q&A: Omicron and Vaccines

Here’s a recently published YouTube by University of Iowa Health Care on the Covid-19 virus, the Omicron variant, and vaccines (actually there are two, see update below). Points that grabbed our attention were:

Omicron is more transmissible, but overall seems to cause less severe disease.

Current vaccines, especially with the booster, protect against getting severe disease, although may not protect against infection.

It’s not a great idea to just get it over with by getting infected with Omicron. Getting the disease can lead to severe medical complications (including myocarditis) leading to hospital admission. The vaccines rarely cause myocarditis as a side effect and it generally resolves without treatment.

Vaccines make getting Covid-19 long haul syndrome less likely.

Avoiding getting together in groups of 10 or larger decreases the risk of infection with Omicron. The Swiss Cheese method of protecting yourself against Covid-19 still works best:

Include a slice getting the vaccine with booster: image credit Univ Iowa Health Care

There are medical treatments for Covid-19 disease if you get infected and have to be hospitalized. The treatments are not without side effects. One of them is dexamethasone, a corticosteroid. It can be used to reduce the immune system reaction that Covid-19 infection can eventually cause. Corticosteroids can cause neuropsychiatric side effects that can range from anxiety to frank delirium marked by psychosis. Fortunately, the duration of steroid treatment is relatively short. Vaccines don’t cause side effects of this type. Over the course of my career before I retired, as a psychiatric consultant in the general hospital, I was not infrequently called to assist in the management of extreme psychiatric side effects from high dose steroids (reference: García CAC, Sánchez EBA, Huerta DH, Gómez-Arnau J. Covid-19 treatment-induced neuropsychiatric adverse effects. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2020;67:163-164. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2020.06.001: quote : “Short course high-dose corticosteroid treatment, as occurs in COVID-19, may cause delirium and changes in mood (with a frequency of up to 52% of patients treated with more than 20 mg a day of prednisone during 3 months) [5], being mania and hypomania more frequently observed than depression.”)

Wearing a mask is protective. Recently the CDC recommended preferring medical grade or surgical masks over cloth masks. The guidance has a link to a YouTube on how to make the 3 layer disposable surgical mask fit closer to the face to provide a more effective barrier (and tends to reduce fogging on eyeglasses). N95 masks may be more widely available soon.

It takes a little practice

The vaccines are very safe and effective. We had minimal side effects, mainly sore arms.

Update: We watched the UIHC Covid-19 Family Forum last night which ran from 6:30-7:30 PM. I just noticed that it was recorded. It’s similar to the presentation above. It also contains helpful slides with graphs. There were great questions from the audience, which the experts answered and which are helpful to all of us. Many thanks to Dr. Dan Diekema, MD and Dr. Patricia Winokur, MD for this outstanding forum.

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