Nurse Jessica Answers COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, August 12, 2022

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison

As the situation with COVID-19 continues, I want to keep you updated on how to access the care, resources and any support you may need. Here’s a list of frequently asked questions.

Do I need a COVID-19 booster?
Yes. Recent data suggest COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness at preventing infection or severe illness wanes over time, especially for certain groups of people, such as people ages 65 years and older and people who are immunocompromised.

The emergence of COVID-19 variants further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19.

Data show that an mRNA booster increases the immune response, which improves protection against getting a serious COVID-19 infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible.
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, including those for moderately or severely immunocompromised people. Use CDC’s COVID-19 Booster Tool to learn if and when you can get boosters to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.

Am I still “fully vaccinated” if I don’t get a booster?
Yes, the definition of fully vaccinated does not include a booster. Everyone, except those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, is still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines or two weeks after the single-dose J&J/Janssen vaccine. Fully vaccinated, however, is not the same as having the best protection. People are best protected when they stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes getting boosters when eligible.

When am I considered “up to date” on my COVID vaccine?
You are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines when you have received all doses in the primary series and all boosters recommended for you, when eligible.

Now that flu season is coming, do I need to wait after getting a flu vaccine or another vaccine before getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
There is no recommended waiting period between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including a flu vaccine, at the same visit.

I just tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do now?
Much has changed since the beginning of the pandemic, including the emergence of more contagious variantswaning immunity from previous infection and initial vaccine doses, and the need for booster shots (or second booster shots).

What hasn’t changed? The need to isolate immediately if you test positive for COVID-19 — regardless of whether you have symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Exactly how long you isolate depends on whether you have symptoms and how long they last. According to the CDC:

  • You can end isolation after five full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. (But the loss of taste and smell might last for weeks or months and shouldn’t delay the end of isolation).
  • If you still have a fever — or your other symptoms haven’t improved after five days of isolation — you should wait until you’re fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.
  • People who are moderately sick from COVID-19, very sick from COVID-19, and those with weakened immune systems should isolate for at least 10 days.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 but never get symptoms even after five days, you can leave isolation after five full days. But if you develop symptoms during those five days, “your five-day isolation period should start over,” the CDC said.

I’m confused: Do I still have to wear a mask on planes or other public transportation?
Passengers on domestic flights don’t have to wear masks on planes anymore — though some doctors say it’s a good idea to mask up on public transportation anyway.

With the holidays coming we will be seeing out of town relatives, but we don’t have enough at-home rapid tests for everyone. Who should we test for COVID-19?
Ideally, everybody should get tested right before that gathering. If you have very limited tests available, test those who are at the highest risk of recent COVID-19 exposure — not those at the highest risk of illness.

For example, don’t test grandma, who’s been hunkering down and being very careful. She’s unlikely to be spreading COVID to everybody else. Test the college student who just came home who may have been in bars and restaurants last week.

Do COVID-19 vaccines affect your menstrual cycle?
Results from recent research studies show that people who menstruate may observe small, temporary changes in menstruation after COVID-19 vaccination, including:

  • Longer duration of menstrual periods
  • Shorter intervals between periods
  • Heavier bleeding than usual

Despite these temporary changes in menstruation, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.

If I am pregnant or planning to become pregnant, can I get a COVID vaccine?
Yes, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant now, as well as people who might become pregnant in the future. People with COVID-19 during pregnancy are more likely to deliver a preterm (earlier than 37 weeks) or stillborn infant and may also be more likely to have other pregnancy complications.

COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy helps:

Learn more about vaccination considerations and the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pets or other animals?
The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low.

How long does coronavirus stay “alive” on surfaces?
The coronavirus stays alive on surfaces up to three days, depending on the surface:

  • The novel coronavirus is viable up to 72 hours after being placed on stainless steel and plastic.
  • It was viable up to four hours after being placed on copper and up to 24 hours after being put on cardboard.
  • In aerosols, it is viable for three hours.

Are smokers or vapers at higher risk? What if I only smoke weed?
This is not a good time to be vaping or smoking anything, including weed. Tobacco smokers are at especially high risk. Even occasionally smoking marijuana can put you at greater risk.

When you smoke cannabis, it causes some degree of inflammation in your airways, very similar to bronchitis, very similar to the type of inflammation that cigarette smoking can cause. This inflammation increases your chances of getting more complications.

Where can I receive the free over-the-counter (OTC) at-home tests?
The federal government has launched a national website where each household can receive three shipments of four free OTC at-home COVID-19 tests shipped directly from covidtests.gov.

For questions regarding COVID-19 or any other health concerns, please feel free to contact me at jessica_r_johnson@uhc.com or 407- 866-8134.

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