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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Townhall: Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe

Expert answers on COVID-19 prevention and care

Vaccines, Stimulus and Staying Safe

Bill Walsh:  Hello. I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh. And I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. I think we’re all grateful that 2020 is in our rearview mirror. COVID, of course, is still with us and will be for some time, but 2021 holds the promise of broad vaccine distribution across the country and a renewed sense of hope for return to normalcy. Yet, just a week into the new year, major challenges remain. The virus has mutated, and continued outbreaks nationwide show just how difficult prevention efforts can be. And while new relief checks are on the way, many Americans continue to feel financial hardship from the pandemic and fears about what is to come. And, of course, as our country goes through this trying time with COVID, we’re all grappling with the chaotic events that we saw at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

Today, we’re looking ahead, and we’ll hear from experts about how we can combat COVID together, the latest news about the vaccine distribution, and what Americans need to know about the latest economic relief law. If you’ve participated in one of our tele-town halls before, you know, this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining on the phone, if you’d like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, please press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments section.

Hello, if you’re just joining, I’m Bill Walsh with AARP and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We’re talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. If you’re joining on Facebook and YouTube, you can post your question in the comments section.

Joining us today are Krystina L. Woods, M.D., hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West and senior assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Also joining us is Jean Chatzky, best-selling author and CEO of HerMoney.com. We’ll also be joined by my AARP colleague, Jean Setzfand, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at AARP.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, or if you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

Now I’d like to welcome our guests. Krystina Woods, M.D., is the hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West. She is also senior assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Welcome to the show, Dr. Woods.

Krystina Woods: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

Bill Walsh:  All right. We’re happy to have you. We’d also like to welcome Jean Chatzky. She is an award-winning personal finance journalist and best-selling author with more than two decades of experience helping people manage their money, including serving as AARP’s Financial Ambassador. Welcome back to the program, Jean.

Jean Chatzky: Thank you so much. It’s great to be with you.

 Bill Walsh:  All right. Well let’s get started with the discussion, and just a reminder to our listeners: To ask your question press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube.

Dr. Woods, let’s start with you. There have been reports about a mutation of the virus that originated in England and is now in the United States. What’s different about this mutation and what do we know about how well the vaccines work against it?

Krystina Woods: So it’s true that the virus has mutated, and this is something that we expect from viruses, it’s what they do to ensure their own survival. So it’s not anything unusual. With this particular mutation what we do know is that unfortunately it’s developed an ability to spread more easily, and so it’s more contagious. So far, we have no indication that it’s making anybody any more sick than the virus has been making people sick, but we do know that it is more transmissible. And so we are concerned about it because it means it has the potential to spread around and be in our midst in a much more effective way. As far as the vaccines go, we have no indication that the vaccine won’t work for the current virus. And so we’re very excited about the fact that we do have the vaccine available and are looking forward to making it available to the larger public this year.

Bill Walsh:  Okay. And let’s talk about vaccine distribution. We’ve all seen the images of doctors, nurses and health professionals receiving the vaccine. And we understand that it’s being distributed to nursing homes as well. A federal panel recently recommended that essential workers and people over the age of 75 be vaccinated next. What should our listeners who fall into these groups expect, and what should they do if they want to get the vaccine?

Krystina Woods: So, because everybody’s coming from diverse states, it’s very difficult for me to generalize this, except to say that we do recognize that people who are over a certain age are more susceptible to possibly becoming more sick from the virus, and so the distribution is going to be done in such a way that we’re going to try to reach those groups first. And I would urge anybody who is interested in getting the vaccine to look at the information at their local state department of health website. I actually have looked around at some different state sites, and they do provide some very basic information for how they’re planning on rolling out the vaccination state to state. And it is really different if you look at any of the news reports recently, you know, there are pretty striking pictures from around the country in different states of people lining up outside of community centers to get their vaccine. So I would encourage everyone to look there. And I know that AARP also has a website with information on vaccine availability state to state, and that’s going to continue to be worked on as more information comes out. So I would advise people to go there. And as far as wanting to get the vaccine, I think, you know, a conversation with everyone’s doctor to make sure that the doctor’s aware that they’re interested, and I’m sure once these things become available at the local offices, a lot of offices will start reaching out to patients as well.

Bill Walsh:  Okay. Yes, and thank you for that plug. We are indeed at AARP creating state by state guides. You can find those at AARP.org/coronavirus. I think we’ve got about half the states listed there now, and the rest will be coming online soon. The thing to know there is that the state plans continue to shift and take shape so play close attention to that and check back on progress. Thank you for that, Dr. Woods.

Jean, I’d like to bring you in here and turn to another important topic. A new round of economic stimulus was just approved in the form of $600 checks for people. How is that going to work? And should people automatically expect a check? And what if it took forever or you never received an initial stimulus check, but feel you’ve met the requirements. What should you do?

Jean Chatzky: Yeah, it was definitely confusing and frustrating for a lot of people the last time around. This time, it’s already working better. These $600 checks are a result of the $900 billion pandemic relief bill that was signed into law on December 27th. And it had the same income requirements to receive a stimulus payment , very much as the last time. So individuals who earn up to $75,000, or reported that much on their 2019 tax returns, will be getting the full 600. Couples who earn twice that, and heads of household who earn up to  $112,500 will be getting the first 600. From there, it starts to taper off gradually. So for every additional hundred dollars that you earn, the payment will fall by $5. And by the time an individual earns $99,000, it’s gone completely; double that for married couples. There’s also an additional $600 for every dependent child under the age of 17. That’s a little bit larger than it was in the first round of stimulus. And we’ve already started to hear from people who are getting their payments, which is really, really good news. If you got yours by mail rather than by direct deposit the last time around, you want to keep watching the mail this time around. You may get it as a paper check, you may get it as a debit card. And one thing that we noted last time was that some people thought these debit cards were a form of spam or just didn’t recognize them for what they were, and they actually tossed them. It’ll be a debit card with, that comes in an envelope that clearly identifies it as being from the United States Department of the Treasury. They’ll have a VISA logo on the card, so please don’t throw it away. And if you don’t get it by the end of the month, you’ll be able to claim this stimulus payment in the form of a refundable tax credit when you file your tax returns.

Bill Walsh:  A lot of good information there, Jean. If people don’t get the check by the end of the month, should they assume they’re not going to be getting it?

Jean Chatzky: I wouldn’t say necessarily to assume that you’re not going to be getting it. If you think that you deserve it, you should absolutely file for it as part of your, as, when you file your taxes. The IRS is definitely operating at a faster pace this time around, but we do not expect it to be perfect. And if you’re not sure exactly how much you’re due, AARP also has really great resources on this, including a coronavirus stimulus payment calculator. So you can plug in your income and you can see what should be coming your way.

Bill Walsh:  Yes, thank you very much. And again, you can find that at aarp.org/coronavirus as well. Thanks for that, Jean. You know, furloughs and layoffs have continued and as we know, older workers have a much harder time reentering the workforce. What advice, Jean, do you have for people, especially older workers who are looking for employment in the pandemic?

Jean Chatzky: Yeah, we’ve seen this time around that the job losses have disproportionately impacted both older workers and women, many of whom have stepped back because of caregiving responsibilities. When you are ready to start looking for a new job, I would encourage a couple of things. I would say, first of all, think about your skill set. Think about the skills that you have, that could be applied to those industries that are growing, that are hiring, including health care, including technology. You don’t need to know how to code necessarily to work for a tech company. They have lots of soft skills that they hire for as well. Try to get out of the mindset of replacing your old job, your old career, your old salary. Try to try to think about approaching this as a new opportunity, just taking your transferable skill set and using that to build you a runway into something new. You’re going to have to get with the program when it comes to LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile already, employers are going to go through the process where they just go ahead and they do a search on you, and their first stop is going to be looking at your LinkedIn profile. So you want to make sure it looks really polished, really up to date. It’s your calling card in a lot of ways. And this is one of those times where networking is the most important thing that you can do; making that personal connection, picking up the phone, talking to somebody. It’s okay to reach out beyond your network, but to ask people in your network who they may be able to introduce you to— and just understand that by this point, everybody is Zoom fatigued. If somebody doesn’t want to have a cup of coffee with you on Zoom, they may still be very, very willing to pick up the phone and talk to you without having to get on video. So just sort of watch the landscape, and for now I would also say that if you are thinking that you’re looking to just bring in some temporary income, it’s okay to think “job” rather than career, and to apply for openings that you see with the knowledge that you’ll get back on your career track, whatever that happens to be, when the recovery really takes hold.

Bill Walsh:  All right, Jean Chatzky, thank you very much for that. And as a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question of the experts, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. We’re going to take your questions shortly, but before we do, I wanted to bring in my colleague, AARP’s Bill Sweeney. Bill is AARP senior vice president for government affairs. Welcome to the show, Bill.

Bill Sweeney: Thank you.

Bill Walsh:  Bill, as we kick off a new year, can you talk a little bit about what AARP is doing to fight for our members on COVID-19 vaccines?

Bill Sweeney: Absolutely. Well, Bill, these are such challenging times for our nation, as we saw yesterday for our democracy. Even more so, these are hard times for people and families all across the country. More than 325,000 of our fellow Americans have died. Millions are sick or have lost jobs. And we hear every day from people who are just trying to get by. But there are some glimmers of hope. We are thrilled with the remarkable speed at which vaccines and treatments were developed and continue to be developed. AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has clearly shown that older people are at higher risk of death. We urge public health officials at the state and the local level, as they decide on vaccine allocations, to rely on the evidence and make plans backed by science. With production ramping up, we’re fighting hard to ensure every older American who wants to get the vaccine can get it. And we are encouraging Americans to talk with a medical provider about what’s best for them and their families. It’s also vital that distribution plans for these vaccines are smoothly implemented. There’s no time to waste. It’s time for full-scale mobilization and any delays or early bottlenecks in the distribution systems need to be addressed urgently. With distribution underway, we will redouble our efforts to educate and inform our members with the latest information about the coronavirus and vaccines. For example, we’re summarizing every state’s plan for vaccine distribution on www.aarp.org/coronavirus. We expect to have overviews for every state in the near future. Visit the site to stay up to date, and please continue to ask your questions in events like these.

Bill Walsh:  All right. Thank you so much, Bill, for joining us. We appreciate the update.

Now it’s time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Krystina Woods and Jean Chatzky. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question and ask it live. It’s now time to bring in my AARP colleague, Jean Setzfand, to help facilitate your calls. Welcome, Jean. Hey, Jean Setzfand, are you on the line?

Jean Setzfand: I am. Can you hear me?

Bill Walsh:  I can. Welcome, and who is our first caller today?

Jean Setzfand: Our first caller is Nancy from Virginia.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Nancy. Go ahead with your question.

Nancy: Okay, my question is regarding rheumatoid arthritis and immune suppressants. I am 87 years old, and I have been on an immune suppressant for quite a long time as a need for my RA. However, I have read that the vaccines need the immune system to be working very hard because the RNA that they have developed actually needs the immune system in order to build the antibodies. I’m hoping I’m correct, and I’d like to ask the doctor if I am. Secondly, if I am, when can I go back to using my immune suppressant after the second shot; that is, once the antibodies are built, will they still be preserved even though I might be taking a shot of immune suppressant?

Bill Walsh:  Okay, well, Nancy, thanks for that. Dr. Woods, can you address that question?

Krystina Woods: Of course, Nancy. The answer as of right now is that we’re not telling people to stop their immune suppressants if they’re going to take the vaccine. It is true that you do need to have a functional immune system to do that. And at the worst, what may happen is if you’re on an immunosuppressant, your response to the vaccine may not be as strong as somebody who is not on it, but it’s certainly not a reason to avoid the vaccine. And, as of right now, it is not the recommendation to stop any of your immunosuppressant medication in order to be able to take the vaccine. And we do recognize that people who do have an immune system that isn’t working as well, they’re also at higher risk for complications from the virus, from death from the virus, and so certainly you’d really want to speak to your doctor about getting in line to take that vaccine.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is William from Sheboygan.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, William. Go ahead with your question.

Rita: This is me, it’s Rita. And I would like to know if the $1,200 stimulus check that we got, if that needs to be reported as income on our taxes.

Jean Chatzky: It does not.

Bill Walsh:  Go ahead, Jean.

Jean Chatzky: I just assumed that was for me.

Bill Walsh:  Yep.

Jean Chatzky: I’m sorry to jump the gun there. I just, I just assumed that was for me. No, this is not taxable income. So you do not have to worry that you’re going to be taxed on it.

Bill Walsh:  Okay. Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Dolores from Colorado.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Dolores. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Dolores: Oh, thank you. My question is for the doctor. I’ve already received my first vaccine, and how soon after my second vaccine will I be able to visit my family whom I haven’t seen in months and also, will I still be required to wear a mask?

Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you handle that question from Dolores?

Krystina Woods: Absolutely. So that’s a great question, and one that I’m asked a lot. I’m very happy to hear that you’ve gotten your first vaccine, that’s exciting to hear, to hear that. And as far as behaviors and things going forward: Because we don’t know exactly how the vaccine is going to affect our ability to pass on the virus to others, we are still recommending that everyone continue to wear masks for the time being. Remember there are some people who aren’t going to get complete protection from the vaccine. It’s up to 95 percent effective. So we don’t know if we’re in the 95 percent group, or if we’re in the 5 percent group. So for the time being, we’re asking everyone to continue to mask and to distance and wash hands. As far as visiting family, there are steps that you can take when you do visit to make it safer, including ensuring that you and your family members are masked, that you’re keeping some distance, that you’re washing your hands, and visits outdoors are certainly safer than indoors. I think as of right now, we all have to expect that although it’s, you know, very exciting that we have the vaccine, and we’re all really looking forward to life reverting back to more normal times, we’re going to have to be a little bit patient and wait until more people are vaccinated. So I would imagine most people aren’t going to really be able to safely start visiting and doing the things that they used to do until the summer, when a larger portion of our population is vaccinated.

Bill Walsh:  Thanks for that, Dr. Woods, and I wonder, just to follow up, if there’s a guideline for what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated before we can begin relaxing some of those other safety protocols?

Krystina Woods: So the idea of that is based on some amount of herd protection. Some people call it herd immunity. And the number really has been shifting quite considerably. At one point we thought it might need to be as high as 85 percent. I’ve heard numbers down as low as 70 percent. I think the real answer is that we’re not really sure what that magic number is just yet because this virus is still so relatively new, and the vaccine is even newer. But we know that it is going to have to be at least a significant part of the population. I would imagine probably when we’re at the three-quarters of the population vaccinated, that we’re going to be at a point where we’re going to feel a little bit safer about relaxing some of the rules that we’ve put in place. And then, of course, it’ll still be a little bit of trial and error because we’re going to have to see what effects those relaxation of certain rules is going to have on how the virus does or doesn’t spread.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that. Let’s go back to the line. Who’s our next caller?

 Jean Setzfand: We have some questions coming in from YouTube and Facebook and Kathy on Facebook is asking, “I didn’t file a 2019 tax return due to low income from Social Security, so will I get a stimulus check, and when will I get one?”

Bill Walsh:  Go ahead, Jean Chatzky.

Jean Chatzky: So you may not get one automatically if the IRS does not know that you are there and that you exist. But that doesn’t mean that you are not due the money. It just means that you may have to wait a little longer for it. So when you file your tax return for 2020, you can claim a recovery rebate tax credit. That’s basically what it’s called. And the IRS usually starts to process tax returns for the last year by the end of the first month or two of the year. So sometime the end of this month or the beginning of February, they will start processing tax returns. You can claim the money at that point, and you can get it as a refund.

Bill Walsh:  And is filing for a recovery rebate a difficult process, Jean?

Jean Chatzky: It should be a very, very simple process. You’re basically going to just file a very simple tax return, and I understand that for people who don’t have enough income to file a tax return generally, and that may include a lot of Social Security recipients, it is another step that you have to take, but there’s, you know, potentially a lot of money on the line if you’re a couple, and there may be even more if we get an additional stimulus down the road.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you very much, Jean Chatzky. And a reminder to our listeners, if you’d like to get in the queue to ask your question, please press *3. Who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Robert from Missouri.

Bill Walsh:  Hey Robert, go ahead with your question.

Roberta: If you have, I’m allergic to the flu shot, so I was wondering how it would affect my immune system if I take that?

Bill Walsh:  Did you, I’m sorry, did you take a, get a flu vaccine this year, or you don’t get one normally?

Roberta: I’m allergic to the flu vaccine.

Bill Walsh:  I see, so you’re wondering if there’s any allergic reaction to the COVID vaccine.

Roberta: Yes.

Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you address that?

Krystina Woods: Yes. So with your specific allergy to the flu vaccine, if anybody is allergic to a vaccine, the recommendation right now is to speak to your allergist or your doctor to see if it would be safe for you to get the COVID vaccine. There are some vaccines that have similar components and so the recommendation is to either not take them or maybe to take certain medications so that you don’t get an allergic reaction. Sometimes the advice is to take it under certain types of medical care to make sure if you have a severe reaction — like there’s some people who have difficulty breathing and that’s their allergic reaction after a vaccine — in that situation, you want to make sure that you’re in a monitored setting. So while we don’t normally think of there being specific vaccine-related allergies from one type to another, in this case, we’re asking anybody who does have an allergy to a vaccine that they’ve taken previously to talk to their doctor and see if it’s safe for them to take the COVID vaccine.

Bill Walsh:  And correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s some sort of monitoring protocol after you get the shots, particularly for, specifically for this reason, isn’t that right?

Krystina Woods: Yes. So, you know, there have been reports in the media of people who have had some sort of an allergic reaction after the vaccination. Exactly why that is, is still being teased out. But I mean with any type of medication, with any type of injections, there’s always the possibility that there could be something like that. And in this situation, we do monitoring for 15 minutes after someone is injected. Most allergies tend to crop up quite quickly. For people who have a history of very severe allergies, the recommendation from the CDC is that there is a 30-minute period that someone spends waiting after they get vaccinated to make sure that they don’t develop a reaction. And after that, of course, if anyone has any type of a reaction, they should report it back to the center where they were vaccinated so that it can be reported and kept track of. These types of reactions are very rare but obviously we want to know when they’re happening so that we can understand how rare or maybe not rare that they are once it rolls out into the larger group of the public.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Who is next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: We have another question from Facebook about the stimulus, from Stephanie, and she’s asking, “If another stimulus is granted after I do my 2020 taxes, will they use that information to decide if I’m eligible?”

Jean Chatzky: Stephanie, we believe that they should use some of that information, although the details are not quite clear yet. We’re going to have to see they’re, when that comes and whether they have enough information en masse on the population to change the tax return that they’re looking at. They have been looking at the most recent information that they have. So for the first round of stimulus, they looked back a year. Now they’re looking at 2019, and so we’re going to have to wait and see at what point that stimulus payment comes down the pike. Indications, if you’re following the news as I know many of you are, are that the new administration would like to move fairly quickly on this, and if they do that, I imagine that they’ll revert to 2019 data.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you, Jean Chatzky. Who do we have next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Annette from Washington.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Annette, go ahead with your question.

Annette: I’m wondering since they say most of the people who transmit this disease are asymptomatic, suppose you have it, don’t know it and you go ahead and take the vaccine. Would that have an adverse effect on you?

Bill Walsh:  If you have it, but you’re asymptomatic, and you take the vaccine.

Annette: Yes.

Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods?

Krystina Woods: So right now, what we’re telling people is the reason that we don’t want you to go to get vaccinated if you have COVID is because we don’t want you to give it to all the people that are going to be waiting at the vaccine center or the people who are going to be vaccinating you, and that’s the reason that we’re asking people to not do it. There isn’t going to necessarily be any type of a bad thing that’s going to happen to you if you get the vaccine while you have COVID, and for people who had COVID and recovered, we are recommending that they do go up and get vaccinated. So really the biggest danger is actually to all those around you who might be exposed to you, as opposed to any type of danger that you may have from getting the vaccine while being sick.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you. Who do we have next on the line, Jean?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is John from Texas.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, John, go ahead with your question.

John: The first round of the Moderna vaccine about two weeks ago. They did not have any information about when they would be receiving additional doses. Will they automatically be getting a second round of doses sent to them? And, secondly, will they then be calling me back to arrange for the second-round appointment?

Bill Walsh:  Okay, John, just to make sure I heard your question. You got the first round of the Moderna vaccine about two weeks ago. Yeah, you’re wondering if they’re going to be getting additional supplies, and if they’ll reach out and contact you when they, when you’re ready for the next dose?

John: That is correct.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, Dr. Woods, can you address that?

Krystina Woods: Sure, so the interval that you need between the first dose and the second dose is 28 days. So four weeks. I know that most of the areas that have had vaccine distributed to them, the plan is that the distribution center keeps track of how much has been given to certain places and then gives them at least that number. And, in fact, in most cases, more than that number so that they can continue to still give first doses to people while giving other people their second dose. Generally, what will happen is that you should check back with the center about a week before you’re due and just make sure that they have the vaccine there. If not, I’m sure they’ll have some contingencies as to what they would do. They may send you elsewhere, or they may have some idea of when it is coming.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. And thank you for all your questions. We’ll get to more of them shortly. And remember, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad.

Let’s turn back to our experts. Dr. Woods, what can you tell us about the in-home COVID tests we’ve been hearing about? How accurate are they and are they a reliable alternative to a regular COVID test? And are they covered by insurance?

Krystina Woods: So as far as the in-home testing, they really are very variable, and it just depends on what you’re doing. There are some in-home tests that give you a result inside your house. They look kind of similar to pregnancy tests, for lack of a better way of having something to compare it to, where there’s a line that shows up if you’re positive or it doesn’t show up if you’re negative, depending on which test it is. The problem with a lot of those types of test kits is that it can miss over 50 percent of cases, especially if you’re asymptomatic and so they’re really problematic. There are other test kits that are being supported by certain labs, like Quest and  like LabCorp, where they send you a kit home and then you swab your nose and you pack the kit back up and then you have to get the kit back to the lab. And those are actually run in the lab on more traditional machines. Of course, there’s always a little bit of a danger of maybe the test coming back negative because if you don’t take care of the sample properly, if you don’t seal it properly, the sample can get damaged, and then they can’t process it or, if they do, it might not come back with an accurate result. But even with that, they’re performing much better than the tests that people do at home and get an instant answer for.

As far as coverage by insurance, a lot of insurers are working to make sure that the coverage for the tests themselves are covered. There’s a recognition, or they’ve recognized that because this is so widespread and because it’s affecting public health on a broad scale, it’s important to make sure that people have access to this and know their status. And so most insurers are actually covering it. And there are some insurers that actually, if you contact them, they will send you one of those kits to your home free of charge. And you do have to send it back to one of these labs, but they are working with some of these labs to make that available so that if you can’t get out to a testing center, or if you don’t feel comfortable waiting in the testing center, you do have that option as well.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Let me turn back to you, Jean Chatzky. Congress just extended the moratorium on evictions of renters until the end of January. Still, we’ve been, we’ve been hearing a lot about evictions and foreclosures and the impact it’s having on Americans across the country. If someone’s facing eviction or foreclosure, what can they do?

Jean Chatzky: The very first thing to do is to talk to your landlord and particularly because the end of January, although it’s an extension, is not very far away at all. What we know from the data that has come in so far is that landlords have been very willing to put tenants on payment plans, to let them pay less, to offer concessions until people can get back on their feet. So that should absolutely, without question, be your first call. There’s some resources out there that you may want to look into as well when it comes to localized and statewide sources of rent relief. Two places I’d like to point people to: One is called Eviction Lab. It’s evictionlab.org. The other is the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and its website, which is also a .org, is its initials. So it’s NLIHC.org. The good news is that just today, the Treasury Department announced that the legislative package that was agreed to in December is now in the process of being disseminated. So there was $25 billion to be distributed of that $900 billion specifically for rent relief. And there’s now a process in place where state, local, tribal governments can now apply for aid, and they can then distribute that aid. And what we know is that eligible families and renters will be able to receive up to 15 months of expenses for their households. There are thresholds that you’re going to need to cross in order to qualify: Your household has to have at least one person who’s eligible for unemployment insurance or who has suffered a coronavirus-related loss, and you’re going to have to have a household income of at or below 80 percent of the median area.

When it comes to mortgages, we are still in the place where if you have a mortgage that is backed by the federal government — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, the Federal Housing [Administration], VA — then you are able to pause those payments, go into a process called forbearance for up to a year that is divided into two six-month periods. If that’s something that you want, you want to reach out to your landlord now. Don’t, don’t wait because the clock will run on that. And finally, if you’re a landlord yourself, we are hearing that landlords — and it’s expected, we’ve got a lot of mom-and-pop landlords in this country — are, of course, suffering, too. And if you’re a landlord who has a mortgage that’s owned by Fannie or Freddie or the FH, or VA, you can use this forbearance process, too, just as long as you don’t evict tenants after you’ve paused your mortgage.

Bill Walsh:  Thank you very much for that, Jean. We appreciate it.

Now I’d like to take a moment for an AARP Fraud Watch Alert. As the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines continues, scammers are looking for ways to take advantage. They’ll call, send emails and texts, and place fake ads to convince people they can jump to the front of the vaccine line for a fee, or providing their Social Security number or other sensitive personal information. Know that any offer to skip the vaccine line is a scam. Always turn to trusted sources such as your doctor or local health department for guidance regarding distribution of the vaccine. You can also visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork to learn more about these and other scams. Or, call the Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.

It’s now time to address more of your questions with Dr. Krystina Woods and Jean Chatzky. As a reminder, please press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time to be connected with an AARP staff member. Jean Setzfand, who do we have on the line now?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Nancy from Illinois.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Nancy. Welcome to the show. Go ahead with your question.

Nancy: My question is, I’m currently on unemployment. Hopefully, that will end soon. But I want to know if the stimulus check and the unemployment check are two separate items, or if one’s included with the other.

Bill Walsh:  Jean Chatzky, can you take that?

Jean Chatzky: I can. They are two separate payments, and the $900 pandemic relief —  $900 billion, rather — pandemic relief bill, built an additional $300 a week in unemployment that will start flowing from the federal government. The states have to facilitate that, so depending on where you are, you may not be receiving that money yet, but it is a separate payment from the stimulus. And if you are looking for additional information on when the additional $300 will start showing up in your unemployment check, I’d look at your state’s unemployment website for additional answers. You can also, with all of these stimulus questions, go to aarp.org/coronavirus and there is always up-to-date stimulus information there.

Bill Walsh:  Okay. Thank you very much for that. Let’s go back to the lines. Who is, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Denise from Washington.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Denise, go ahead with your question. Denise?

Denise: Hello?

Bill Walsh:  Hi, Denise, go ahead with your question.

Denise: Yeah, I wondered if you had to be vaccinated every year, number one, and number two, if the vaccination helps against the new coronavirus?

Bill Walsh:  Hmm. Dr. Woods, can you address that?

Krystina Woods: So we don’t know yet if we’re going to need to get vaccinated every year like we do with the flu, whether or not this is going to be one of these where we have to get a booster at certain intervals, like every 10 years, for example, for the tetanus vaccine. Or if, you know, if it might even need to be more frequently that we need to get vaccinated, hopefully not more frequently than every year. You know, the virus is still new. The vaccine is still new and we’re still in need of a little bit more data before we can tell you definitively whether or not you’ll need any more vaccines. As far as the new variant, we do think that the vaccine is effective against it. We don’t have any evidence to believe that it is not.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you very much for that, Dr. Woods. Who do we have next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Doris from Ohio.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Doris. Welcome to the show. Go ahead with your question.

Doris: Yeah. My question is, if you are on Social Security disability and do not file taxes, will you still be getting a stimulus check?

Bill Walsh:  Okay, Jean Chatzky, go ahead.

Jean Chatzky: You may need to file a tax return in order to get that stimulus payment if you don’t get it as part of your Social Security disability, if it doesn’t get deposited into the account where you get your Social Security disability. If you got it direct-deposited the last time, the same thing should happen this time around. And if you got it in the mail the last time, the same thing should happen this time around.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thanks very much for that, Jean Chatzky. Who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: We have some YouTube questions coming through, and here’s an interesting one from Mark who’s asking, “How do you respond to people who refuse the vaccine because they don’t trust it, or have religious convictions against vaccines?”

Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you address the issue of vaccine skepticism?

Krystina Woods: How much time have I got? It’s just a really, really big topic and, you know, unfortunately, I think the difficult thing is that as human beings we’re programmed to be skeptical of something that we don’t know, and that was part of an evolutionary mechanism. I mean, if you ever think about having, if you’ve ever fed a young child, you know, you put something in front of them that they haven’t eaten and they kind of, their initial reaction is “no.” And that’s part of, you know, what we evolutionarily were programmed to do, is be skeptical, and that’s part of our ability to survive. What we do have to understand, though, is that there is science in these vaccines, there are decades of research in it and even the new vaccine, I know people are out there saying, well, how can you say that with something that’s new? But even with the mRNA vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, they’re based on research that has been in place for over a decade. We know that they’re safe. They use versions of that vaccine in cancer therapy and, true, they have never applied it to a virus in, and rolled it out in the larger population like this. We do know that the platform itself has safety data that is at least a decade long. And so, as a physician and as a scientist, I believe in the science behind it. We also have to remember that around the world there are a lot of people who suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases. We’re very fortunate to live in a place where we don’t know anybody who has polio. We don’t know anybody who’s, you know, died of the measles. Those who are of the older generation, who do remember their friends, who, you know, were paralyzed from this, they’re terrible diseases that have been eradicated by vaccines. And the reason that we’re able to live long and healthy lives in this country and in other countries where they have robust vaccine programs is because those vaccines enable that.

So I do talk to people about that and I do try to reassure people, you know, and I also lead by example. Waiting for my turn to get vaccinated amongst my hospital peers, you know, we have a system in New York where it’s really based on the frequency of interaction with these patients and, you know, everybody’s waiting their turn and when it is my turn, I will be more than happy to roll my sleeve up and get my vaccine. I’m trying to advocate for the right information to be out there. You know, just as there are scammers that are trying to take advantage of people, there are also people who like to spread misinformation and unfortunately that can impact people’s health. And so, my only argument is that I believe in the science. There are very concrete examples of how that science has worked to keep us living healthier and longer already with other illnesses, and I don’t think it’s going to be any different for this.

Bill Walsh:  And, as it relates to the COVID vaccine, the science continues, right? I mean, once they hit the market, there’s monitoring of how people react to it and are affected, is that correct?

Krystina Woods: That’s correct. And that’s not just for that vaccine. It’s for other vaccines, even vaccines that have been around for decades. We still collect information if there are ever any, you know, adverse effects, they’re reported and people keep track of them and, you know, if we find that something is not right, there’s a regulatory body that steps in and, you know, puts a pause on distribution, and we try to understand what’s happening. This, this was not approved in a way that is going to be dangerous to people. You know, we recognize that we have a responsibility to make sure that these vaccines are rolled out in a safe way. We don’t want people to be skeptical of vaccines. We don’t want people to be afraid of them. And part of that is, you know, we have to be thoughtful about how we design them and how safe they are when we give the okay for it to be distributed to a larger population. So that’s taken very seriously.

Bill Walsh:  Thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Let’s go back to our lines. Who’s our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Jane from New York.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Jane, go ahead with your question.

Jane: Okay. I have a question. Is the deadline for the stimulus checks, January 15th?

Jean Chatzky: “Deadline” is a funny word when it comes to the stimulus checks because if you’ll remember, the last time around, they really pushed the deadline as it took them a while to get them out. We do expect that they will get out by December, by January 15th. That is what we’re being told. And so, if you have not received your money by that point, or by the point when you file your taxes, then you’re going to want to make sure that you claim your stimulus payment, whatever you’re due, on your tax return as a refundable tax credit. It’ll just, it’ll either lower the amount of your tax bill if you were going to have one, or it will make your tax refund larger. And if you’re wondering, again, how much that should be, there is a stimulus payment calculator online at aarp.org, and you can find it there.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you, Jean. Who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: The next caller is Anne from Connecticut.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Anne, go ahead with your question.

Anne: Yes, I wonder if I have a choice of the vaccine that I would like to receive but, of course, that would follow the question, is one better than the other? Does it depend on the individual’s particular health situation?

Bill Walsh:  It may also depend on availability. Can you tell me just like your age and general health condition?

Anne: Yes, I’m 75 and I have giant cell arteritis.

Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you address that question about choice in vaccinations. Is one better for certain things than another?

Krystina Woods: So, as of right now, there is no indication that we have a preference for one over the other in terms of one being better or worse. You know, the efficacy for the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine is, you know, is fairly equivalent, around 95 percent for each of them. The efficacy for the AstraZeneca-Oxford one is lower, or at least it’s been reported lower. And there’s still some, they’re doing some digging to find out what happened there because it looked like one group that actually got the vaccine at a different dose might have had a better response. So, in terms of that, as a doctor, if I’m giving my patients advice I’m not necessarily picking one over the other and, you know, I’m not picking one over the other for myself. I’m happy to take whichever is available. As far as whether or not you’re going to have a choice, most of the individuals who are going to get the, who are not working in a health care system or aren’t going to get it from like a large university medical center, are probably going to only have access to the Moderna vaccine because of the way that it is stored. And eventually, potentially the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine requires that super cold storage that I’m sure many of you have read about in these freezers that just don’t exist in a lot of places and only, you know, certain hospitals have them. So I’m going to venture a guess that anybody who’s going to get this, who’s going to have the opportunity to be vaccinated in like a community center or somewhere will probably have the Moderna vaccine, and anyone who’s vaccinated in a university medical center is probably going to be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, Dr. Woods, thank you for that. Jean Setzfand, let’s take one more question.

Jean Setzfand: Sure. The next caller is Lily from South Carolina.

Bill Walsh:  Hey, Lily, go ahead with your question.

Lily: I forgot what it was now. Oh yes, I do remember. The $600 unemployment that we got when this first started, is that taxable?

Jean Chatzky: The, I assume that you’re talking, Lily, about the additional $600 in unemployment payments.

Lily: Right.

Jean Chatzky: Right. So that money, unemployment benefits are taxable. The stimulus payments are not taxable. And it’s a little confusing because that unemployment bolster that we got the first time around from the federal government for a number of weeks was $600, and the stimulus payment this time around is $600. But unemployment taxable; stimulus not taxable.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, thanks for that clarification. We are coming up to the top of the hour. Dr. Woods and Jean Chatzky, any closing thoughts or recommendations that our listeners should understand from the conversation today? Dr. Woods?

Krystina Woods: The only thing I would urge everybody is to please think about, you know, whether or not you need to take that extra trip that you’re planning on taking to, you know, a grocery store. Try to be thoughtful in the ways that you’re going about your daily life. I know it hasn’t been easy for everybody and I can tell you that those of us who work in health care are massively appreciative of everyone who’s doing what they can to try to keep the numbers down in our hospitals. You know, and when the vaccine does come available to you, please consider strongly taking it.

Bill Walsh:  Okay. Thank you very much, Dr. Woods. Jean Chatzky, any closing thoughts?

Jean Chatzky: Absolutely. I would just say to try to be equally thoughtful about how you’re using your resources at this point. We started saving a lot of money during the first part of the pandemic because we were not going out, because we were not going to restaurants. The savings rate went way up, and it’s really started to fall back, and in some cases that’s because we need to be spending. But in other cases, it’s because COVID fatigue has really set in. And so as you look out into 2021 and as you think about the financial goals that you want to accomplish for the year, try to be mindful that, that we will emerge from this, and that you’re going to want to be plan-ful in terms of what you want to happen this year. If you’re looking for a way to get your finances back on track, AARP has a new tool. It’s called Money Map. You can find it at aarp.org/moneymap, and it’s aimed at helping people just get your finances back on track, whether you have unplanned expenses or you have debts to pay off. So I would direct people there.

Bill Walsh:  Okay, and that is a free tool for people to use.

Jean Chatzky: Yes.

Bill Walsh:  Thanks to both of you for answering our questions today. It’s been a really informative discussion, and thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in the session. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we’re providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today’s Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, January 8th. Again, that web address is aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you will find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy.

Please tune in for two events on January 14th. At 1 p.m., we’ll address the topics of vaccines, staying safe and coping during the pandemic. And at 7 p.m., we’ll discuss COVID-19 vaccines and the Black community. Thank you very much and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Tele-Town Hall 10721 Vaccines, Stimulus and Staying Safe with Timings

Bill Walsh:  Hello. I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh. And I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. I think we’re all grateful that 2020 is in our rearview mirror. COVID, of course, is still with us and will be for some time, but 2021 holds the promise of broad vaccine distribution across the country and a renewed sense of hope for return to normalcy. Yet, just a week into the new year, major challenges remain. The virus has mutated, and continued outbreaks nationwide show just how difficult prevention efforts can be. And while new relief checks are on the way, many Americans continue to feel financial hardship from the pandemic and fears about what is to come. And, of course, as our country goes through this trying time with COVID, we’re all grappling with the chaotic events that we saw at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

[00:01:17] Today, we’re looking ahead, and we’ll hear from experts about how we can combat COVID together, the latest news about the vaccine distribution, and what Americans need to know about the latest economic relief law. If you’ve participated in one of our tele-town halls before, you know, this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining on the phone, if you’d like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, please press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments section.

[00:02:01] Hello, if you’re just joining, I’m Bill Walsh with AARP and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We’re talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. If you’re joining on Facebook and YouTube, you can post your question in the comments section.

[00:02:23] Joining us today are Krystina L. Woods, M.D., hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West and senior assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Also joining us is Jean Chatzky, best-selling author and CEO of HerMoney.com. We’ll also be joined by my AARP colleague, Jean Setzfand, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at AARP.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, or if you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

[00:03:17] Now I’d like to welcome our guests. Krystina Woods, M.D., is the hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West. She is also senior assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Welcome to the show, Dr. Woods.

[00:03:39]Krystina Woods:  Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

[00:03:40]Bill Walsh:  All right. We’re happy to have you. We’d also like to welcome Jean Chatzky. She is an award-winning personal finance journalist and best-selling author with more than two decades of experience helping people manage their money, including serving as AARP’s Financial Ambassador. Welcome back to the program, Jean.

[00:03:59]Jean Chatzky:  Thank you so much. It’s great to be with you.

[00:04:01] Bill Walsh: All right. Well let’s get started with the discussion, and just a reminder to our listeners: To ask your question press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube.

[00:04:15] Dr. Woods, let’s start with you. There have been reports about a mutation of the virus that originated in England and is now in the United States. What’s different about this mutation and what do we know about how well the vaccines work against it?

[00:04:29]Krystina Woods:  So it’s true that the virus has mutated, and this is something that we expect from viruses, it’s what they do to ensure their own survival. So it’s not anything unusual. With this particular mutation what we do know is that unfortunately it’s developed an ability to spread more easily, and so it’s more contagious. So far, we have no indication that it’s making anybody any more sick than the virus has been making people sick, but we do know that it is more transmissible. And so we are concerned about it because it means it has the potential to spread around and be in our midst in a much more effective way. As far as the vaccines go, we have no indication that the vaccine won’t work for the current virus. And so we’re very excited about the fact that we do have the vaccine available and are looking forward to making it available to the larger public this year.

[00:05:24]Bill Walsh:  Okay. And let’s talk about vaccine distribution. We’ve all seen the images of doctors, nurses and health professionals receiving the vaccine. And we understand that it’s being distributed to nursing homes as well. A federal panel recently recommended that essential workers and people over the age of 75 be vaccinated next. What should our listeners who fall into these groups expect, and what should they do if they want to get the vaccine?

[00:05:55]Krystina Woods:  So, because everybody’s coming from diverse states, it’s very difficult for me to generalize this, except to say that we do recognize that people who are over a certain age are more susceptible to possibly becoming more sick from the virus, and so the distribution is going to be done in such a way that we’re going to try to reach those groups first. And I would urge anybody who is interested in getting the vaccine to look at the information at their local state department of health website. I actually have looked around at some different state sites, and they do provide some very basic information for how they’re planning on rolling out the vaccination state to state. And it is really different if you look at any of the news reports recently, you know, there are pretty striking pictures from around the country in different states of people lining up outside of community centers to get their vaccine. So I would encourage everyone to look there. And I know that AARP also has a website with information on vaccine availability state to state, and that’s going to continue to be worked on as more information comes out. So I would advise people to go there. And as far as wanting to get the vaccine, I think, you know, a conversation with everyone’s doctor to make sure that the doctor’s aware that they’re interested, and I’m sure once these things become available at the local offices, a lot of offices will start reaching out to patients as well.

[00:07:11]Bill Walsh:  Okay. Yes, and thank you for that plug. We are indeed at AARP creating state by state guides. You can find those at AARP.org/coronavirus. I think we’ve got about half the states listed there now, and the rest will be coming online soon. The thing to know there is that the state plans continue to shift and take shape so play close attention to that and check back on progress. Thank you for that, Dr. Woods.

[00:07:41] Jean, I’d like to bring you in here and turn to another important topic. A new round of economic stimulus was just approved in the form of $600 checks for people. How is that going to work? And should people automatically expect a check? And what if it took forever or you never received an initial stimulus check, but feel you’ve met the requirements. What should you do?

[00:08:03]Jean Chatzky:  Yeah, it was definitely confusing and frustrating for a lot of people the last time around. This time, it’s already working better. These $600 checks are a result of the $900 billion pandemic relief bill that was signed into law on December 27th. And it had the same income requirements to receive a stimulus payment , very much as the last time. So individuals who earn up to $75,000, or reported that much on their 2019 tax returns, will be getting the full 600. Couples who earn twice that, and heads of household who earn up to $112,500 will be getting the first 600. From there, it starts to taper off gradually. So for every additional hundred dollars that you earn, the payment will fall by $5. And by the time an individual earns $99,000, it’s gone completely; double that for married couples. There’s also an additional $600 for every dependent child under the age of 17. That’s a little bit larger than it was in the first round of stimulus. And we’ve already started to hear from people who are getting their payments, which is really, really good news. If you got yours by mail rather than by direct deposit the last time around, you want to keep watching the mail this time around. You may get it as a paper check, you may get it as a debit card. And one thing that we noted last time was that some people thought these debit cards were a form of spam or just didn’t recognize them for what they were, and they actually tossed them. It’ll be a debit card with, that comes in an envelope that clearly identifies it as being from the United States Department of the Treasury. They’ll have a VISA logo on the card, so please don’t throw it away. And if you don’t get it by the end of the month, you’ll be able to claim this stimulus payment in the form of a refundable tax credit when you file your tax returns.

[00:10:36]Bill Walsh:  A lot of good information there, Jean. If people don’t get the check by the end of the month, should they assume they’re not going to be getting it?

[00:10:44]Jean Chatzky:  I wouldn’t say necessarily to assume that you’re not going to be getting it. If you think that you deserve it, you should absolutely file for it as part of your, as, when you file your taxes. The IRS is definitely operating at a faster pace this time around, but we do not expect it to be perfect. And if you’re not sure exactly how much you’re due, AARP also has really great resources on this, including a coronavirus stimulus payment calculator. So you can plug in your income and you can see what should be coming your way.

[00:11:26]Bill Walsh:  Yes, thank you very much. And again, you can find that at aarp.org/coronavirus as well. Thanks for that, Jean. You know, furloughs and layoffs have continued and as we know, older workers have a much harder time reentering the workforce. What advice, Jean, do you have for people, especially older workers who are looking for employment in the pandemic?

[00:11:50]Jean Chatzky:  Yeah, we’ve seen this time around that the job losses have disproportionately impacted both older workers and women, many of whom have stepped back because of caregiving responsibilities. When you are ready to start looking for a new job, I would encourage a couple of things. I would say, first of all, think about your skill set. Think about the skills that you have, that could be applied to those industries that are growing, that are hiring, including health care, including technology. You don’t need to know how to code necessarily to work for a tech company. They have lots of soft skills that they hire for as well. Try to get out of the mindset of replacing your old job, your old career, your old salary. Try to try to think about approaching this as a new opportunity, just taking your transferable skill set and using that to build you a runway into something new. You’re going to have to get with the program when it comes to LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile already, employers are going to go through the process where they just go ahead and they do a search on you, and their first stop is going to be looking at your LinkedIn profile. So you want to make sure it looks really polished, really up to date. It’s your calling card in a lot of ways. And this is one of those times where networking is the most important thing that you can do; making that personal connection, picking up the phone, talking to somebody. It’s okay to reach out beyond your network, but to ask people in your network who they may be able to introduce you to— and just understand that by this point, everybody is Zoom fatigued. If somebody doesn’t want to have a cup of coffee with you on Zoom, they may still be very, very willing to pick up the phone and talk to you without having to get on video. So just sort of watch the landscape, and for now I would also say that if you are thinking that you’re looking to just bring in some temporary income, it’s okay to think “job” rather than career, and to apply for openings that you see with the knowledge that you’ll get back on your career track, whatever that happens to be, when the recovery really takes hold.

[00:14:50]Bill Walsh:  All right, Jean Chatzky, thank you very much for that. And as a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question of the experts, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. We’re going to take your questions shortly, but before we do, I wanted to bring in my colleague, AARP’s Bill Sweeney. Bill is AARP senior vice president for government affairs. Welcome to the show, Bill.

[00:15:14]Bill Sweeney:  Thank you.

[00:15:15]Bill Walsh:  Bill, as we kick off a new year, can you talk a little bit about what AARP is doing to fight for our members on COVID-19 vaccines?

[00:15:24]Bill Sweeney:  Absolutely. Well, Bill, these are such challenging times for our nation, as we saw yesterday for our democracy. Even more so, these are hard times for people and families all across the country. More than 325,000 of our fellow Americans have died. Millions are sick or have lost jobs. And we hear every day from people who are just trying to get by. But there are some glimmers of hope. We are thrilled with the remarkable speed at which vaccines and treatments were developed and continue to be developed. AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has clearly shown that older people are at higher risk of death. We urge public health officials at the state and the local level, as they decide on vaccine allocations, to rely on the evidence and make plans backed by science. With production ramping up, we’re fighting hard to ensure every older American who wants to get the vaccine can get it. And we are encouraging Americans to talk with a medical provider about what’s best for them and their families. It’s also vital that distribution plans for these vaccines are smoothly implemented. There’s no time to waste. It’s time for full-scale mobilization and any delays or early bottlenecks in the distribution systems need to be addressed urgently. With distribution underway, we will redouble our efforts to educate and inform our members with the latest information about the coronavirus and vaccines. For example, we’re summarizing every state’s plan for vaccine distribution on www.aarp.org/coronavirus. We expect to have overviews for every state in the near future. Visit the site to stay up to date, and please continue to ask your questions in events like these.

[00:17:18]Bill Walsh:  All right. Thank you so much, Bill, for joining us. We appreciate the update.

[00:17:23] Now it’s time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Krystina Woods and Jean Chatzky. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question and ask it live. It’s now time to bring in my AARP colleague, Jean Setzfand, to help facilitate your calls. Welcome, Jean. Hey, Jean Setzfand, are you on the line?

[00:17:53]Jean Setzfand:  I am. Can you hear me?

[00:17:54]Bill Walsh:  I can. Welcome, and who is our first caller today?

[00:18:00]Jean Setzfand:  Our first caller is Nancy from Virginia.

[00:18:02]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Nancy. Go ahead with your question.

[00:18:07]Nancy:  Okay, my question is regarding rheumatoid arthritis and immune suppressants. I am 87 years old, and I have been on an immune suppressant for quite a long time as a need for my RA. However, I have read that the vaccines need the immune system to be working very hard because the RNA that they have developed actually needs the immune system in order to build the antibodies. I’m hoping I’m correct, and I’d like to ask the doctor if I am. Secondly, if I am, when can I go back to using my immune suppressant after the second shot; that is, once the antibodies are built, will they still be preserved even though I might be taking a shot of immune suppressant?

[00:18:58]Bill Walsh:  Okay, well, Nancy, thanks for that. Dr. Woods, can you address that question?

[00:19:03]Krystina Woods:  Of course, Nancy. The answer as of right now is that we’re not telling people to stop their immune suppressants if they’re going to take the vaccine. It is true that you do need to have a functional immune system to do that. And at the worst, what may happen is if you’re on an immunosuppressant, your response to the vaccine may not be as strong as somebody who is not on it, but it’s certainly not a reason to avoid the vaccine. And, as of right now, it is not the recommendation to stop any of your immunosuppressant medication in order to be able to take the vaccine. And we do recognize that people who do have an immune system that isn’t working as well, they’re also at higher risk for complications from the virus, from death from the virus, and so certainly you’d really want to speak to your doctor about getting in line to take that vaccine.

[00:19:48]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Jean, who is our next caller?

[00:19:54]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is William from Sheboygan.

[00:19:57]Bill Walsh:  Hey, William. Go ahead with your question.

[00:20:05]Rita:  This is me, it’s Rita. And I would like to know if the $1,200 stimulus check that we got, if that needs to be reported as income on our taxes.

[00:20:16]Jean Chatzky:  It does not.

[00:20:18]Bill Walsh:  Go ahead, Jean.

[00:20:18]Jean Chatzky:  I just assumed that was for me.

[00:20:20]Bill Walsh:  Yep.

[00:20:20]Jean Chatzky:  I’m sorry to jump the gun there. I just, I just assumed that was for me. No, this is not taxable income. So you do not have to worry that you’re going to be taxed on it.

[00:20:33]Bill Walsh:  Okay. Jean, who is our next caller?

[00:20:38]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Dolores from Colorado.

[00:20:40]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Dolores. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:20:44]Dolores:  Oh, thank you. My question is for the doctor. I’ve already received my first vaccine, and how soon after my second vaccine will I be able to visit my family whom I haven’t seen in months and also, will I still be required to wear a mask?

[00:21:05]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you handle that question from Dolores?

[00:21:09]Krystina Woods:  Absolutely. So that’s a great question, and one that I’m asked a lot. I’m very happy to hear that you’ve gotten your first vaccine, that’s exciting to hear, to hear that. And as far as behaviors and things going forward: Because we don’t know exactly how the vaccine is going to affect our ability to pass on the virus to others, we are still recommending that everyone continue to wear masks for the time being. Remember there are some people who aren’t going to get complete protection from the vaccine. It’s up to 95 percent effective. So we don’t know if we’re in the 95 percent group, or if we’re in the 5 percent group. So for the time being, we’re asking everyone to continue to mask and to distance and wash hands. As far as visiting family, there are steps that you can take when you do visit to make it safer, including ensuring that you and your family members are masked, that you’re keeping some distance, that you’re washing your hands, and visits outdoors are certainly safer than indoors. I think as of right now, we all have to expect that although it’s, you know, very exciting that we have the vaccine, and we’re all really looking forward to life reverting back to more normal times, we’re going to have to be a little bit patient and wait until more people are vaccinated. So I would imagine most people aren’t going to really be able to safely start visiting and doing the things that they used to do until the summer, when a larger portion of our population is vaccinated.

[00:22:32]Bill Walsh:  Thanks for that, Dr. Woods, and I wonder, just to follow up, if there’s a guideline for what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated before we can begin relaxing some of those other safety protocols?

[00:22:45]Krystina Woods:  So the idea of that is based on some amount of herd protection. Some people call it herd immunity. And the number really has been shifting quite considerably. At one point we thought it might need to be as high as 85 percent. I’ve heard numbers down as low as 70 percent. I think the real answer is that we’re not really sure what that magic number is just yet because this virus is still so relatively new, and the vaccine is even newer. But we know that it is going to have to be at least a significant part of the population. I would imagine probably when we’re at the three-quarters of the population vaccinated, that we’re going to be at a point where we’re going to feel a little bit safer about relaxing some of the rules that we’ve put in place. And then, of course, it’ll still be a little bit of trial and error because we’re going to have to see what effects those relaxation of certain rules is going to have on how the virus does or doesn’t spread.

[00:23:37]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that. Let’s go back to the line. Who’s our next caller?

[00:23:43] Jean Setzfand: We have some questions coming in from YouTube and Facebook and Kathy on Facebook is asking, “I didn’t file a 2019 tax return due to low income from Social Security, so will I get a stimulus check, and when will I get one?”

[00:23:59] Go ahead, Jean Chatzky.

[00:24:02]Jean Chatzky:  So you may not get one automatically if the IRS does not know that you are there and that you exist. But that doesn’t mean that you are not due the money. It just means that you may have to wait a little longer for it. So when you file your tax return for 2020, you can claim a recovery rebate tax credit. That’s basically what it’s called. And the IRS usually starts to process tax returns for the last year by the end of the first month or two of the year. So sometime the end of this month or the beginning of February, they will start processing tax returns. You can claim the money at that point, and you can get it as a refund.

[00:24:59]Bill Walsh:  And is filing for a recovery rebate a difficult process, Jean?

[00:25:04]Jean Chatzky:  It should be a very, very simple process. You’re basically going to just file a very simple tax return, and I understand that for people who don’t have enough income to file a tax return generally, and that may include a lot of Social Security recipients, it is another step that you have to take, but there’s, you know, potentially a lot of money on the line if you’re a couple, and there may be even more if we get an additional stimulus down the road.

[00:25:37]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you very much, Jean Chatzky. And a reminder to our listeners, if you’d like to get in the queue to ask your question, please press *3. Who is our next caller?

[00:25:49]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Robert from Missouri.

[00:25:52]Bill Walsh:  Hey Robert, go ahead with your question.

[00:25:58]Roberta:  If you have, I’m allergic to the flu shot, so I was wondering how it would affect my immune system if I take that?

[00:26:10]Bill Walsh:  Did you, I’m sorry, did you take a, get a flu vaccine this year, or you don’t get one normally?

[00:26:17]Roberta:  I’m allergic to the flu vaccine.

[00:26:20]Bill Walsh:  I see, so you’re wondering if there’s any allergic reaction to the COVID vaccine.

[00:26:27]Roberta:  Yes.

[00:26:28]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you address that?

[00:26:32]Krystina Woods:  Yes. So with your specific allergy to the flu vaccine, if anybody is allergic to a vaccine, the recommendation right now is to speak to your allergist or your doctor to see if it would be safe for you to get the COVID vaccine. There are some vaccines that have similar components and so the recommendation is to either not take them or maybe to take certain medications so that you don’t get an allergic reaction. Sometimes the advice is to take it under certain types of medical care to make sure if you have a severe reaction — like there’s some people who have difficulty breathing and that’s their allergic reaction after a vaccine — in that situation, you want to make sure that you’re in a monitored setting. So while we don’t normally think of there being specific vaccine-related allergies from one type to another, in this case, we’re asking anybody who does have an allergy to a vaccine that they’ve taken previously to talk to their doctor and see if it’s safe for them to take the COVID vaccine.

[00:27:30]Bill Walsh:  And correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s some sort of monitoring protocol after you get the shots, particularly for, specifically for this reason, isn’t that right?

[00:27:42]Krystina Woods:  Yes. So, you know, there have been reports in the media of people who have had some sort of an allergic reaction after the vaccination. Exactly why that is, is still being teased out. But I mean with any type of medication, with any type of injections, there’s always the possibility that there could be something like that. And in this situation, we do monitoring for 15 minutes after someone is injected. Most allergies tend to crop up quite quickly. For people who have a history of very severe allergies, the recommendation from the CDC is that there is a 30-minute period that someone spends waiting after they get vaccinated to make sure that they don’t develop a reaction. And after that, of course, if anyone has any type of a reaction, they should report it back to the center where they were vaccinated so that it can be reported and kept track of. These types of reactions are very rare but obviously we want to know when they’re happening so that we can understand how rare or maybe not rare that they are once it rolls out into the larger group of the public.

[00:28:42]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Who is next on the line?

[00:28:48]Jean Setzfand:  We have another question from Facebook about the stimulus, from Stephanie, and she’s asking, “If another stimulus is granted after I do my 2020 taxes, will they use that information to decide if I’m eligible?”

[00:29:01]Jean Chatzky:  Stephanie, we believe that they should use some of that information, although the details are not quite clear yet. We’re going to have to see they’re, when that comes and whether they have enough information en masse on the population to change the tax return that they’re looking at. They have been looking at the most recent information that they have. So for the first round of stimulus, they looked back a year. Now they’re looking at 2019, and so we’re going to have to wait and see at what point that stimulus payment comes down the pike. Indications, if you’re following the news as I know many of you are, are that the new administration would like to move fairly quickly on this, and if they do that, I imagine that they’ll revert to 2019 data.

[00:29:57]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you, Jean Chatzky. Who do we have next on the line?

[00:30:02]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Annette from Washington.

[00:30:05]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Annette, go ahead with your question.

[00:30:09]Annette:  I’m wondering since they say most of the people who transmit this disease are asymptomatic, suppose you have it, don’t know it and you go ahead and take the vaccine. Would that have an adverse effect on you?

[00:30:23]Bill Walsh:  If you have it, but you’re asymptomatic, and you take the vaccine.

[00:30:27]Annette:  Yes.

[00:30:29]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods?

[00:30:33]Krystina Woods:  So right now, what we’re telling people is the reason that we don’t want you to go to get vaccinated if you have COVID is because we don’t want you to give it to all the people that are going to be waiting at the vaccine center or the people who are going to be vaccinating you, and that’s the reason that we’re asking people to not do it. There isn’t going to necessarily be any type of a bad thing that’s going to happen to you if you get the vaccine while you have COVID, and for people who had COVID and recovered, we are recommending that they do go up and get vaccinated. So really the biggest danger is actually to all those around you who might be exposed to you, as opposed to any type of danger that you may have from getting the vaccine while being sick.

[00:31:14]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you. Who do we have next on the line, Jean?

[00:31:19]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is John from Texas.

[00:31:23]Bill Walsh:  Hey, John, go ahead with your question.

[00:31:29]John:  The first round of the Moderna vaccine about two weeks ago. They did not have any information about when they would be receiving additional doses. Will they automatically be getting a second round of doses sent to them? And, secondly, will they then be calling me back to arrange for the second-round appointment?

[00:31:58]Bill Walsh:  Okay, John, just to make sure I heard your question. You got the first round of the Moderna vaccine about two weeks ago. Yeah, you’re wondering if they’re going to be getting additional supplies, and if they’ll reach out and contact you when they, when you’re ready for the next dose?

[00:32:14]John:  That is correct.

[00:32:15]Bill Walsh:  Okay, Dr. Woods, can you address that?

[00:32:19]Krystina Woods:  Sure, so the interval that you need between the first dose and the second dose is 28 days. So four weeks. I know that most of the areas that have had vaccine distributed to them, the plan is that the distribution center keeps track of how much has been given to certain places and then gives them at least that number. And, in fact, in most cases, more than that number so that they can continue to still give first doses to people while giving other people their second dose. Generally, what will happen is that you should check back with the center about a week before you’re due and just make sure that they have the vaccine there. If not, I’m sure they’ll have some contingencies as to what they would do. They may send you elsewhere, or they may have some idea of when it is coming.

[00:33:08]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. And thank you for all your questions. We’ll get to more of them shortly. And remember, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad.

[00:33:21] Let’s turn back to our experts. Dr. Woods, what can you tell us about the in-home COVID tests we’ve been hearing about? How accurate are they and are they a reliable alternative to a regular COVID test? And are they covered by insurance?

[00:33:36]Krystina Woods:  So as far as the in-home testing, they really are very variable, and it just depends on what you’re doing. There are some in-home tests that give you a result inside your house. They look kind of similar to pregnancy tests, for lack of a better way of having something to compare it to, where there’s a line that shows up if you’re positive or it doesn’t show up if you’re negative, depending on which test it is. The problem with a lot of those types of test kits is that it can miss over 50 percent of cases, especially if you’re asymptomatic and so they’re really problematic. There are other test kits that are being supported by certain labs, like Quest and like LabCorp, where they send you a kit home and then you swab your nose and you pack the kit back up and then you have to get the kit back to the lab. And those are actually run in the lab on more traditional machines. Of course, there’s always a little bit of a danger of maybe the test coming back negative because if you don’t take care of the sample properly, if you don’t seal it properly, the sample can get damaged, and then they can’t process it or, if they do, it might not come back with an accurate result. But even with that, they’re performing much better than the tests that people do at home and get an instant answer for.

[00:34:53] As far as coverage by insurance, a lot of insurers are working to make sure that the coverage for the tests themselves are covered. There’s a recognition, or they’ve recognized that because this is so widespread and because it’s affecting public health on a broad scale, it’s important to make sure that people have access to this and know their status. And so most insurers are actually covering it. And there are some insurers that actually, if you contact them, they will send you one of those kits to your home free of charge. And you do have to send it back to one of these labs, but they are working with some of these labs to make that available so that if you can’t get out to a testing center, or if you don’t feel comfortable waiting in the testing center, you do have that option as well.

[00:35:37]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Let me turn back to you, Jean Chatzky. Congress just extended the moratorium on evictions of renters until the end of January. Still, we’ve been, we’ve been hearing a lot about evictions and foreclosures and the impact it’s having on Americans across the country. If someone’s facing eviction or foreclosure, what can they do?

[00:36:01]Jean Chatzky:  The very first thing to do is to talk to your landlord and particularly because the end of January, although it’s an extension, is not very far away at all. What we know from the data that has come in so far is that landlords have been very willing to put tenants on payment plans, to let them pay less, to offer concessions until people can get back on their feet. So that should absolutely, without question, be your first call. There’s some resources out there that you may want to look into as well when it comes to localized and statewide sources of rent relief. Two places I’d like to point people to: One is called Eviction Lab. It’s evictionlab.org. The other is the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and its website, which is also a .org, is its initials. So it’s NLIHC.org. The good news is that just today, the Treasury Department announced that the legislative package that was agreed to in December is now in the process of being disseminated. So there was $25 billion to be distributed of that $900 billion specifically for rent relief. And there’s now a process in place where state, local, tribal governments can now apply for aid, and they can then distribute that aid. And what we know is that eligible families and renters will be able to receive up to 15 months of expenses for their households. There are thresholds that you’re going to need to cross in order to qualify: Your household has to have at least one person who’s eligible for unemployment insurance or who has suffered a coronavirus-related loss, and you’re going to have to have a household income of at or below 80 percent of the median area.

[00:38:29] When it comes to mortgages, we are still in the place where if you have a mortgage that is backed by the federal government — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, the Federal Housing [Administration] , VA — then you are able to pause those payments, go into a process called forbearance for up to a year that is divided into two six-month periods. If that’s something that you want, you want to reach out to your landlord now. Don’t, don’t wait because the clock will run on that. And finally, if you’re a landlord yourself, we are hearing that landlords — and it’s expected, we’ve got a lot of mom-and-pop landlords in this country — are, of course, suffering, too. And if you’re a landlord who has a mortgage that’s owned by Fannie or Freddie or the FH, or VA, you can use this forbearance process, too, just as long as you don’t evict tenants after you’ve paused your mortgage.

[00:39:43]Bill Walsh:  Thank you very much for that, Jean. We appreciate it.

[00:39:47] Now I’d like to take a moment for an AARP Fraud Watch Alert. As the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines continues, scammers are looking for ways to take advantage. They’ll call, send emails and texts, and place fake ads to convince people they can jump to the front of the vaccine line for a fee, or providing their Social Security number or other sensitive personal information. Know that any offer to skip the vaccine line is a scam. Always turn to trusted sources such as your doctor or local health department for guidance regarding distribution of the vaccine. You can also visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork to learn more about these and other scams. Or, call the Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.

[00:40:42] It’s now time to address more of your questions with Dr. Krystina Woods and Jean Chatzky. As a reminder, please press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time to be connected with an AARP staff member. Jean Setzfand, who do we have on the line now?

[00:40:59]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Nancy from Illinois.

[00:41:02]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Nancy. Welcome to the show. Go ahead with your question.

[00:41:08]Nancy:  My question is, I’m currently on unemployment. Hopefully, that will end soon. But I want to know if the stimulus check and the unemployment check are two separate items, or if one’s included with the other.

[00:41:24]Bill Walsh:  Jean Chatzky, can you take that?

[00:41:27]Jean Chatzky:  I can. They are two separate payments, and the $900 pandemic relief — $900 billion, rather — pandemic relief bill, built an additional $300 a week in unemployment that will start flowing from the federal government. The states have to facilitate that, so depending on where you are, you may not be receiving that money yet, but it is a separate payment from the stimulus. And if you are looking for additional information on when the additional $300 will start showing up in your unemployment check, I’d look at your state’s unemployment website for additional answers. You can also, with all of these stimulus questions, go to aarp.org/coronavirus and there is always up-to-date stimulus information there.

[00:42:29]Bill Walsh:  Okay. Thank you very much for that. Let’s go back to the lines. Who is, who is our next caller?

[00:42:37]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Denise from Washington.

[00:42:39]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Denise, go ahead with your question. Denise?

[00:42:48]Denise:  Hello?

[00:42:49]Bill Walsh:  Hi, Denise, go ahead with your question.

[00:42:52]Denise:  Yeah, I wondered if you had to be vaccinated every year, number one, and number two, if the vaccination helps against the new coronavirus?

[00:43:03]Bill Walsh:  Hmm. Dr. Woods, can you address that?

[00:43:07]Krystina Woods:  So we don’t know yet if we’re going to need to get vaccinated every year like we do with the flu, whether or not this is going to be one of these where we have to get a booster at certain intervals, like every 10 years, for example, for the tetanus vaccine. Or if, you know, if it might even need to be more frequently that we need to get vaccinated, hopefully not more frequently than every year. You know, the virus is still new. The vaccine is still new and we’re still in need of a little bit more data before we can tell you definitively whether or not you’ll need any more vaccines. As far as the new variant, we do think that the vaccine is effective against it. We don’t have any evidence to believe that it is not.

[00:43:48]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you very much for that, Dr. Woods. Who do we have next on the line?

[00:43:55]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Doris from Ohio.

[00:43:59]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Doris. Welcome to the show. Go ahead with your question.

[00:44:05]Doris:  Yeah. My question is, if you are on Social Security disability and do not file taxes, will you still be getting a stimulus check?

[00:44:18]Bill Walsh:  Okay, Jean Chatzky, go ahead.

[00:44:21]Jean Chatzky:  You may need to file a tax return in order to get that stimulus payment if you don’t get it as part of your Social Security disability, if it doesn’t get deposited into the account where you get your Social Security disability. If you got it direct-deposited the last time, the same thing should happen this time around. And if you got it in the mail the last time, the same thing should happen this time around.

[00:44:51]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thanks very much for that, Jean Chatzky. Who is our next caller?

[00:44:57]Jean Setzfand:  We have some YouTube questions coming through, and here’s an interesting one from Mark who’s asking, “How do you respond to people who refuse the vaccine because they don’t trust it, or have religious convictions against vaccines?”

[00:45:09]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you address the issue of vaccine skepticism?

[00:45:16]Krystina Woods:  How much time have I got? It’s just a really, really big topic and, you know, unfortunately, I think the difficult thing is that as human beings we’re programmed to be skeptical of something that we don’t know, and that was part of an evolutionary mechanism. I mean, if you ever think about having, if you’ve ever fed a young child, you know, you put something in front of them that they haven’t eaten and they kind of, their initial reaction is “no.” And that’s part of, you know, what we evolutionarily were programmed to do, is be skeptical, and that’s part of our ability to survive. What we do have to understand, though, is that there is science in these vaccines, there are decades of research in it and even the new vaccine, I know people are out there saying, well, how can you say that with something that’s new? But even with the mRNA vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, they’re based on research that has been in place for over a decade. We know that they’re safe. They use versions of that vaccine in cancer therapy and, true, they have never applied it to a virus in, and rolled it out in the larger population like this. We do know that the platform itself has safety data that is at least a decade long. And so, as a physician and as a scientist, I believe in the science behind it. We also have to remember that around the world there are a lot of people who suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases. We’re very fortunate to live in a place where we don’t know anybody who has polio. We don’t know anybody who’s, you know, died of the measles. Those who are of the older generation, who do remember their friends, who, you know, were paralyzed from this, they’re terrible diseases that have been eradicated by vaccines. And the reason that we’re able to live long and healthy lives in this country and in other countries where they have robust vaccine programs is because those vaccines enable that.

[00:47:10] So I do talk to people about that and I do try to reassure people, you know, and I also lead by example. Waiting for my turn to get vaccinated amongst my hospital peers, you know, we have a system in New York where it’s really based on the frequency of interaction with these patients and, you know, everybody’s waiting their turn and when it is my turn, I will be more than happy to roll my sleeve up and get my vaccine. I’m trying to advocate for the right information to be out there. You know, just as there are scammers that are trying to take advantage of people, there are also people who like to spread misinformation and unfortunately that can impact people’s health. And so, my only argument is that I believe in the science. There are very concrete examples of how that science has worked to keep us living healthier and longer already with other illnesses, and I don’t think it’s going to be any different for this.

[00:48:04]Bill Walsh:  And, as it relates to the COVID vaccine, the science continues, right? I mean, once they hit the market, there’s monitoring of how people react to it and are affected, is that correct?

[00:48:15]Krystina Woods:  That’s correct. And that’s not just for that vaccine. It’s for other vaccines, even vaccines that have been around for decades. We still collect information if there are ever any, you know, adverse effects, they’re reported and people keep track of them and, you know, if we find that something is not right, there’s a regulatory body that steps in and, you know, puts a pause on distribution, and we try to understand what’s happening. This, this was not approved in a way that is going to be dangerous to people. You know, we recognize that we have a responsibility to make sure that these vaccines are rolled out in a safe way. We don’t want people to be skeptical of vaccines. We don’t want people to be afraid of them. And part of that is, you know, we have to be thoughtful about how we design them and how safe they are when we give the okay for it to be distributed to a larger population. So that’s taken very seriously.

[00:49:09]Bill Walsh:  Thank you for that, Dr. Woods. Let’s go back to our lines. Who’s our next caller?

[00:49:15]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Jane from New York.

[00:49:18]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Jane, go ahead with your question.

[00:49:21]Jane:  Okay. I have a question. Is the deadline for the stimulus checks, January 15th?

[00:49:30]Jean Chatzky:  “Deadline” is a funny word when it comes to the stimulus checks because if you’ll remember, the last time around, they really pushed the deadline as it took them a while to get them out. We do expect that they will get out by December, by January 15th. That is what we’re being told. And so, if you have not received your money by that point, or by the point when you file your taxes, then you’re going to want to make sure that you claim your stimulus payment, whatever you’re due, on your tax return as a refundable tax credit. It’ll just, it’ll either lower the amount of your tax bill if you were going to have one, or it will make your tax refund larger. And if you’re wondering, again, how much that should be, there is a stimulus payment calculator online at aarp.org, and you can find it there.

[00:50:35]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thank you, Jean. Who is our next caller?

[00:50:41]Jean Setzfand:  The next caller is Anne from Connecticut.

[00:50:44]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Anne, go ahead with your question.

[00:50:47]Anne:  Yes, I wonder if I have a choice of the vaccine that I would like to receive but, of course, that would follow the question, is one better than the other? Does it depend on the individual’s particular health situation?

[00:51:04]Bill Walsh:  It may also depend on availability. Can you tell me just like your age and general health condition?

[00:51:10]Anne:  Yes, I’m 75 and I have giant cell arteritis.

[00:51:17]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Woods, can you address that question about choice in vaccinations. Is one better for certain things than another?

[00:51:25]Krystina Woods:  So, as of right now, there is no indication that we have a preference for one over the other in terms of one being better or worse. You know, the efficacy for the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine is, you know, is fairly equivalent, around 95 percent for each of them. The efficacy for the AstraZeneca-Oxford one is lower, or at least it’s been reported lower. And there’s still some, they’re doing some digging to find out what happened there because it looked like one group that actually got the vaccine at a different dose might have had a better response. So, in terms of that, as a doctor, if I’m giving my patients advice I’m not necessarily picking one over the other and, you know, I’m not picking one over the other for myself. I’m happy to take whichever is available. As far as whether or not you’re going to have a choice, most of the individuals who are going to get the, who are not working in a health care system or aren’t going to get it from like a large university medical center, are probably going to only have access to the Moderna vaccine because of the way that it is stored. And eventually, potentially the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine requires that super cold storage that I’m sure many of you have read about in these freezers that just don’t exist in a lot of places and only, you know, certain hospitals have them. So I’m going to venture a guess that anybody who’s going to get this, who’s going to have the opportunity to be vaccinated in like a community center or somewhere will probably have the Moderna vaccine, and anyone who’s vaccinated in a university medical center is probably going to be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

[00:53:04]Bill Walsh:  Okay, Dr. Woods, thank you for that. Jean Setzfand, let’s take one more question.

[00:53:11]Jean Setzfand:  Sure. The next caller is Lily from South Carolina.

[00:53:15]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Lily, go ahead with your question.

[00:53:21]Lily:  I forgot what it was now. Oh yes, I do remember. The $600 unemployment that we got when this first started, is that taxable?

[00:53:32]Jean Chatzky:  The, I assume that you’re talking, Lily, about the additional $600 in unemployment payments.

[00:53:44]Lily:  Right.

[00:53:44]Jean Chatzky:  Right. So that money, unemployment benefits are taxable. The stimulus payments are not taxable. And it’s a little confusing because that unemployment bolster that we got the first time around from the federal government for a number of weeks was $600, and the stimulus payment this time around is $600. But unemployment taxable; stimulus not taxable.

[00:54:14]Bill Walsh:  Okay, thanks for that clarification. We are coming up to the top of the hour. Dr. Woods and Jean Chatzky, any closing thoughts or recommendations that our listeners should understand from the conversation today? Dr. Woods?

[00:54:30]Krystina Woods:  The only thing I would urge everybody is to please think about, you know, whether or not you need to take that extra trip that you’re planning on taking to, you know, a grocery store. Try to be thoughtful in the ways that you’re going about your daily life. I know it hasn’t been easy for everybody and I can tell you that those of us who work in health care are massively appreciative of everyone who’s doing what they can to try to keep the numbers down in our hospitals. You know, and when the vaccine does come available to you, please consider strongly taking it.

[00:55:02]Bill Walsh:  Okay. Thank you very much, Dr. Woods. Jean Chatzky, any closing thoughts?

[00:55:07]Jean Chatzky:  Absolutely. I would just say to try to be equally thoughtful about how you’re using your resources at this point. We started saving a lot of money during the first part of the pandemic because we were not going out, because we were not going to restaurants. The savings rate went way up, and it’s really started to fall back, and in some cases that’s because we need to be spending. But in other cases, it’s because COVID fatigue has really set in. And so as you look out into 2021 and as you think about the financial goals that you want to accomplish for the year, try to be mindful that, that we will emerge from this, and that you’re going to want to be plan-ful in terms of what you want to happen this year. If you’re looking for a way to get your finances back on track, AARP has a new tool. It’s called Money Map. You can find it at aarp.org/moneymap, and it’s aimed at helping people just get your finances back on track, whether you have unplanned expenses or you have debts to pay off. So I would direct people there.

[00:56:26]Bill Walsh:  Okay, and that is a free tool for people to use.

[00:56:31]Jean Chatzky:  Yes.

[00:56:31]Bill Walsh:  Thanks to both of you for answering our questions today. It’s been a really informative discussion, and thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in the session. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we’re providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today’s Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, January 8th. Again, that web address is aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you will find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy.

[00:57:38] Please tune in for two events on January 14th. At 1 p.m., we’ll address the topics of vaccines, staying safe and coping during the pandemic. And at 7 p.m., we’ll discuss COVID-19 vaccines and the Black community. Thank you very much and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[00:58:00]

Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall
Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe

Thursday, Jan. 7, at 1 p.m. ET

 Listen to a replay of live event above.

This first live event of the new year addressed the latest information on vaccine development and distribution, questions about the stimulus package, and the best ways to stay safe and protected from the coronavirus.

The experts: 

  • Jean Chatzky
    CEO of HerMoney.com

  • Krystina L. Woods, M.D.
    Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Mount Sinai West,
    Sr. Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases,
    Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


Replay previous AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • February 11 - Coronavirus Vaccines: Your Questions Answered
  • January 7 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe
  • January 14 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying Safe & Coping and Prevention, Vaccines & the Black Community
  • January 28 - Coronavirus: Vaccine Distribution and Protecting Yourself
    & A Virtual World Awaits: Finding Fun, Community and Connections
  • Dec 3 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe & Coping This Winter
  • Nov 19 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying and A Caregiver's Thanksgiving
  • Nov 12 - Coronavirus: Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being
  • Oct 1 - Coronavirus: Vaccines & Coping During the Pandemic
  • Sept 17 - Coronavirus: Prevention, Treatments, Vaccines & Avoiding Scams
  • Sept 3 - Coronavirus: Your Finances, Health & Family (6 months in)
  • Aug 20 - Your Health and Staying Protected
  • Aug 6 - Coronavirus: Answering Your Most Frequent Questions
  • July 23 - Coronavirus: Navigating the New Normal
  • July 16 - The Health and Financial Security of Latinos
  • July 9 - Coronavirus: Your Most Frequently Asked Questions
  • June 18 and 20 - Strengthening Relationships Over Time and  LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Protections
  • June 11 – Coronavirus: Personal Resilience in the New Normal