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Opinion: Vaccines still most effective way to protect yourself and loved ones against COVID-19

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By Dr. Micah Dickey

The Centers for Disease Control now recommends COVID-19 booster vaccines for everyone 18 and older, two months or longer after receiving their initial Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and six months or longer after completing their initial Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series. 

This is the strongest recommendation for COVID-19 booster vaccines by the CDC yet, and the message for Ventura County residents is clear: Vaccines are still the most effective tool we have in protecting against COVID-19, including the Delta and Omicron variants, and they help prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death. 

Since the start of immunization deployment, the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to millions of Americans, and worldwide, 3.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated. While there are some data that show vaccine effectiveness may decrease over time, there is solid evidence that the vaccines remain effective in reducing the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19.

Each COVID-19 vaccine approved for use here in the United States went through a rigorous three-phase process of drug development. Also, the vaccine-safety monitoring system for these vaccines has been the most intense and comprehensive in U.S. history. The science continues to show that COVID-19 vaccinations — including recommended boosters — save lives and help protect others.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 protects those who are not vaccinated, including those who are not eligible, such as children under the age of 5. 

As a family-medicine physician, I know many of my patients are excited to engage in holiday celebrations they missed out on last year. With many in our communities planning to gather and travel, this is an important time of year for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. Those who are already vaccinated should consider a booster vaccine and talk to their doctor about which is right for them. 

The CDC strongly recommends everyone wear a well-fitting mask over their nose and mouth when in a public, indoor setting. This is especially important for those who are not fully vaccinated. 

To provide further peace of mind when visiting family this holiday season, it is a good idea to take either a PCR or antigen COVID-19 test before gathering. Research shows COVID-19 antigen self tests are a reliable method for detecting the COVID-19 virus. These tests can be purchased at most pharmacies, give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab. 

Ultimately, the best defense we have against COVID-19 and its variants remains getting vaccinated. Everyone eligible for the initial vaccine series or booster should get it as soon as possible. Visit myturn.ca.gov to schedule an appointment near you. I encourage individuals who are hesitant or have questions to speak with their physician or review the detailed information available on the CDC website. 

— Dr. Micah Dickey, D.O., is a family medicine physician with Dignity Health Medical Group — Ventura/Identity Medical Group.