COVID Vaccines, Boosters, Masks & More
At the latest HeartBrothers Patient Support Group, Massachusetts General Hospital Dr. Camille Kotton announced late-breaking updates on COVID vaccines and heart failure patients.
Kotton is the Clinical Director for Transplant and Immunocompromised Host Infectious Diseases at MGH. She also sits on the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
She reported that the CDC was revising its recommendation to heart failure patients—to now wait only three (rather than five) months to get their booster after receiving their first three vaccines.
Why the change?
“We were seeing a lot of breakthrough infections with Omicron, so we wanted to give people an earlier booster to avoid those,” Kotton explained.
She also encouraged transplant patients to get the antibody injection Evusheld, which she said provides “passive immunity” and is very well tolerated.
“My recommendation is that everybody get a booster dose then get Evusheld two or more weeks later.”
She predicted that a fifth vaccine shot will likely be recommended down the road, but the timing isn’t clear yet.
Kotton urged people to reject claims that vaccines can cause heart problems.
“People propagating that messaging have blood on their hands,” she said. “Don’t worry that vaccines will hurt your heart. These vaccines are a medical miracle. We have saved millions of lives. We are awesome! Every month, we’re going to get better and better. Hallelujah!”
Kotton suggested that heart failure patients stay masked up, even as COVID restrictions are being lifted. She pointed out that cloth masks cut the risk of getting COVID by 66% and N95s or KN95s reduce the risk by 86%.
“It’s going to be harder moving forward because people are still going to be at risk,” she said. “It will be lower risk but there will still be a risk. So, I don’t know when transplant patients will feel safe unmasking in public. I don’t know when I’ll feel safe unmasking in public. We’re just not there yet.”
Kotton said she is not eating in restaurants yet because it requires unmasking indoors with people she doesn’t know.
During a Q&A portion, one person asked if having COVID provides significant immunity.
“Having been infected gives you some level of protection, but we don’t know a lot,” Kotton answered. “We do see people getting COVID again and again.”
What About Travel?
Kotton offered advice on travel, now that COVID rates are declining.
“Maybe now’s the time to live a little more… safely. Maybe think about getting out a little more. Maybe go on a day trip.
“You can travel, you can stay in a hotel room. I don’t want you hanging out in the lobby. No indoor dining.”
If you’re flying, wear an N95 and eat before you leave the house so you don’t have to take off your mask, she said.
Kotton warned against relying on COVID home tests before traveling. “Home tests are not very good. They give you a false sense of security and that makes me nervous.”
“Good News Ahead”
She also encouraged people to take care of their mental health, as the pandemic enters its third year.
“Get out of the house and go on little outings. Make sure you’re going on walks outdoors. See a friend.”
And she reminded everyone that there is good news ahead. “I’m really optimistic that things are getting better every day,” she said about case numbers dropping. “Just take good care of yourselves and your community.”
The HeartBrothers’ Patient Support Group meets virtually the second Thursday of each month at 6 pm ET. MORE INFORMATION.
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