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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls: April 8, 2021 Q&A Events

Experts answer your questions related to COVID-19

Yvette Pena: Hello. I am AARP Vice President Yvette Pena and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you would like to listen to this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership, 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. Today, we’re going to discuss the latest on the impact of the pandemic on Latinos in the U.S. and share critical information on staying safe, prevention and vaccine distribution. We will also talk about how and why the pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color, particularly the Latino community, and what is being done about it.

We have distinguished experts on hand to answer your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you would like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone 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. And if you would like to listen to this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. If you are joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

Hello. If you’re just joining us, I am Yvette Pena of AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion on the global coronavirus pandemic. We are talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments. We have some outstanding guests joining us today from President Biden’s COVID-19 Task Force, Univision, the Hispanic Federation and Justice for Migrant Women. We will also be joined by my AARP colleague, Veronica Segovia Bedon, who will help facilitate your call. This event is being recorded, and you can access a 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 AARP staff, or if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

Now, I would like to welcome our guests. Cameron Webb, M.D., is a senior policy adviser, COVID-19 equity, White House COVID-19 Response Team. Dr. Webb is a practicing physician at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Welcome, Dr. Webb.

Cameron Webb: Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.

Yvette Pena: And next we have Dr. Juan Rivera, M.D., who is the chief medical correspondent at Univision. Welcome, Dr. Juan.

Juan Rivera: Thank you for this great opportunity, Yvette and AARP.

Yvette Pena: Next, we have Frankie Miranda, who is the president of the Hispanic Federation. Welcome, Frankie.

Frankie Miranda: Thank you, Yvette, for having me. Saying hi to everybody from New York City.

Yvette Pena: And next we have Mónica Ramirez, who is the founder and president of the organization Justice for Migrant Women. Welcome, Mónica.

Mónica Ramirez: Thank you, Yvette, it’s really wonderful to be here with all of you for this conversation.

Yvette Pena: So let’s begin. I’m looking forward to our conversations and our listener questions. Just a reminder: To ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on YouTube or Facebook. This conversation is happening today.

As we continue to see that COVID-19 is hitting Latinos particularly hard, one study in California shows that working-age Latinos were dying at 5½ times the rate of non-Hispanic white people the same age. This is a serious issue for the community and we have the experts here today to answer your questions.

So with that, Dr. Webb, let’s begin with you. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our community. Why have Black and brown people been impacted so unequally? And what is being done to address it?

Cameron Webb: It’s a really important question, and I think the simplest answer is that while this virus itself doesn’t target people based on their race or ethnicity, it does take full advantage of this idea of social disadvantage. And the virus has been able to spread in certain communities because of a lack of investment ,  a lack of support, a lack of health care access, and a lack of resources in a lot of communities. And I think that’s part of why we’ve seen such a devastating impact in Black and brown communities. And I think it’s easy for people to think through the health care access component, and Black and brown communities disproportionately are more likely to be uninsured, and so that’s part of it. They’re also more likely to have chronic medical conditions, and we know those medical conditions are, put you at greater risk for severe outcomes with COVID. But that doesn’t explain the full story.

The thing is, Black and brown communities also are more likely to be frontline essential workers, whether that’s in health care settings, whether that’s in transportation settings or in food services, you know, really running the gamut in terms of the folks who weren’t able to have the privilege to sit at home and quarantine or isolate during this pandemic. A lot of those folks were Black and brown individuals. They literally kept our country running during this pandemic and paid a steep price for the lack of protection in terms of personal protective equipment, lack of protection in terms of access to other resources along the way. And so that’s why it’s so important that when we talk about COVID-19 equity, we have to think about addressing those dynamics. You know, people will talk about housing as being one of those dynamics and transportation as being one of those dynamics. But we have to incorporate all of that into our concept of COVID-19 equity. And that’s why the vaccination effort is so important. Recognizing these communities have been the hardest hit in so many ways, it’s not at all acceptable for them to lag behind in vaccination rates because of the same systemic and structural issue.

And so, I think, you know, it’s deep-seated; it goes back as long as this nation has existed. It has, you know, continued to perpetuate inequality. But I think this is one of those moments where we’re all shining a light on it in real time and saying, We have to step up.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Dr. Webb. Very important information. And if you’re listening today and want to learn more about this, you can visit aarp.org/coronavirus to learn more.

Dr. Juan Rivera, let’s turn to you. While cases and hospitalizations have fallen from highs in January and the pace of vaccination is picking up, we’re seeing another rise in hospitalizations and cases in several states. What is driving this?

Juan Rivera: I think, Yvette, that there are several factors that are driving that increase in cases and hospitalizations that we’re seeing recently. One element is the new variants, but in particular of the B.1.1.7 variant, which is becoming the more predominant now in the United States. This is the U.K. variant that we know it’s more transmissible, and there is a little bit of evidence that suggests that it could be more lethal as well. So that, in combination with the fact that we are seeing a loosening of some of the preventative measures in certain states and in certain cities, I think can explain why we’re seeing this increase in cases. I think that it’s also important to state that the increase in cases that we are seeing, and we will probably continue to see, it’s mainly younger individuals. This is because you have a significant percentage of the population above the age of 65 that are already vaccinated. So we are seeing that the new cases are in people, let’s say, younger than 40 years of age, or much more than what we are seeing in older populations. So I’ve always told my audience that we are in this race and it’s very simple. We are in a race between how quickly we can vaccinate people versus how quickly these variants can spread in our communities. And this is the importance of vaccination. Why? Because we know at this point in time that the available vaccines do a decent job in terms of protecting us from this particular variant.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Dr. Juan. We know that vaccine access is critical, and currently Latino communities have a lower rate of vaccination; just 16 percent of Latinos in the U.S. have been vaccinated compared to 28 percent of non-Hispanic white people. This disparity needs to be addressed by improving access to vaccines and providing better access to information.

With that, I’d like to bring you here now, Frankie. What is the impact of misinformation being shared by word of mouth and via social media? And can you share some examples?

Frankie Miranda: Thank you, Yvette. I think that to answer this question properly, I want to just spend a minute to just talk about the difference between misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is an intent to mislead. On the other hand, disinformation is information that is deliberately provided to mislead and knowingly sharing biased information or manipulative narratives. So there is a difference between misinformation and disinformation, and it comes to intent. So when people spread misinformation, they often believe this false information that they are sharing, and then disinformation that is crafted and intended to mislead people can become misinformation. So what I want to emphasize here is that sometimes in our community, people are sharing false information without knowing that it is false information. And it has been created and on purpose targeting our communities by people that want to make sure that we don’t get the right information.

So what we have heard, and it’s basically ideas about that the vaccine is going to change your DNA, that a vaccine is going to make you sick, that it has the virus in it and that is why you’re going to get sick. Also, there have been some stories about microchips that are implanted, or that this is somehow related to some sort of religious or evil plan that, again, it’s against religion. All of this is information crafted to confuse our community. And we know that in Spanish-language specifically, most of these posts on social media have not been properly labeled or have not been targeted and continue to be shared, and people feel that because it is posted online, it is real. Our important advice to everybody is that in order to get the right information, it’s to listen to the news, to go to organizations like AARP’s website, or talk to community-based organizations or your doctor in order to get the right information.

We know that when there is the right person, the right spokespeople, the right ambassadors of information, our community wants to get vaccinated. So we all need to make, we all, we need to do our part and make sure that when we are sharing information about the vaccine, the effectiveness, or the intent, that we do this knowingly, that we have verified these facts; and that is why we’re having these important conversations tonight.

Yvette Pena: Thank you so much, Frankie. Just a reminder, to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube.

Mónica, welcome, and thanks for your time. Almost 4 in 10 Latino workers who are age 50 and older are part of the essential workforce. This includes people who work in health care, grocery stores and in agriculture. What is the experience of these workers in the pandemic, and has the vaccine distribution reflected this?

Mónica Ramirez: Thank you, Yvette. And I want to say that I appreciate everything that has been shared so far. It is so consistent with what we’ve been hearing and experiencing in the community. And I also want to say to everyone who’s listening that it is likely that you probably know someone who’s been impacted by COVID or you yourself may have been, become sick. And I hope that you know that we all are deeply sorry for all that you’ve experienced during this crisis. It’s been traumatic for all of us and particularly those who’ve been coping with the illness and losses from the illness.

For the essential workforce, you know, I think that there’s been a combination of confusion, anxiety — to Frankie’s point, there’s been a lot of misinformation. And for low-paid workers there’s been this reality where workers who had not been considered or called essential, like agricultural workers and others, were all of a sudden deemed essential but not provided any of the benefits or the supports that were needed. In fact, many of the farmworkers who we work with and serve talked about being given these little cards telling them that they could go to work and that they should show those cards to the authorities if they were to be pulled over in a lockdown situation, but not being given much other information, not being given the masks that they needed; there was no possibility for social distancing. So essentially, they were being called upon to keep our country moving and keep food on our tables, but they were not given what they needed to survive or to support themselves and, consequently, we’ve seen high numbers of COVID viruses amongst many of these frontline workers. You know, in the farmworker community there was a study that came out from Purdue University that said there have been over a half million cases of COVID, estimated cases of COVID in the farmworker community, and more than 9,000 deaths. And we know that that’s not probably a true reflection of the reality and that’s only one workforce.

So we have been dealing with trying to get accurate information to the community, trying to address some of the fears that have been mentioned, the concerns around whether or not information would be used by authorities against people, particularly if they were undocumented; concern that information about them getting help, the programs that were being provided, whether that be testing or now vaccination, would somehow be used against them by calling them a public charge and preventing them from one day being able to get immigration relief if and when that comes to pass. So there was, there’s just been so much that people have been dealing with, and fear of getting sick is just one part of that.

I have to say that what we’ve seen on the ground in terms of activism from within the community, from, you know, mutual aid funds that have been created, to grassroots efforts to get information to people about testing and vaccination, and now, you know, efforts to make sure that people are being able to actually access the vaccine, because it actually isn’t so easy for many of the frontline workers that we’re talking about, particularly people in the Latinx community and those who are immigrants and maybe don’t speak English; it’s actually quite challenging. And so, thankfully, I think that we had a learning period during the testing phase where we were able to start figuring out how to do mobile clinics, and how to make sure that we had culturally and linguistically appropriate information available.

But I would say that there’s still quite a bit of an information gap and that is why we all have to continue to speak, speak out together and speak over and over about the resources available, not just from the government but also from the organizations on the ground across the country who want to support community members in need. And I would say for the workers who are 50 and older, the demographic that AARP’s membership is comprised of, you know, there is this additional anxiety around missing work and not being available to work and the possibility of age discrimination against people who fall in that demographic. And that is something that we also need to be sensitive to and responsive to so that the folks are getting the information they need but also the right referrals and supports where those are also needed.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Mónica. Very important information, and your so right, grassroots efforts are so important for our community. We will be getting to questions soon, but I want to remind you, to ask your question please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff. Or, if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, you can place your question in the comments.

Dr. Rivera, we’re delighted to have you back with us. We’ve seen a lot of questions about the different vaccines. Can you explain the difference between the three vaccines in the U.S.? Are they all equally effective?

Juan Rivera: Yes, of course, it will be my pleasure. The first thing I’ll say is the three vaccines are very effective, and we are lucky, really, to have these three vaccines available in this country in an amazing record time, which has been a significant effort and it has been unprecedented. So, we have two vaccines that are what we call mRNA vaccines. Those are the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. They’re very effective 10 days after the second dose; 94, 95 percent effective. After the first dose you get about 50 percent immunity or protection. It is important to note that the Pfizer vaccine, you get two doses three weeks apart; the Moderna vaccine, you get two doses four weeks apart. It is a, both vaccines are safe. You do have people that have the typical side effects of fever, chills, some body aches, and that can happen for 24, usually, maybe up to 48 hours. But that is something that we have seen with other vaccines.

Just to be very clear, nothing suggests that these vaccines, even though they are called mRNA vaccines, there is no evidence that they affect the DNA of an individual. These are vaccines that even though this is the first time that they are used in humans have been studied for quite some time. So, it is important to specify that. It is also important for people to understand that they went through the three different clinical studies or clinical study phases that usually vaccines go through. The data has been reported in peer-reviewed fashion. And, obviously, as we know, they have been approved by the FDA in terms of emergency approval.

We also have a J & J vaccine. For whatever reason, this vaccine has gotten to a certain degree of bad rep, and I think that’s because the media usually just reports on sound bites, and people say, J & J vaccine, Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66 percent effective. Well, it depends how you look at the outcomes. And the important thing to understand here is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a hundred percent effective in terms of protecting individuals from hospitalization or death. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85 percent effective in terms of protecting individuals from severe illness. The J & J vaccine, it’s only one dose. So individuals would be immune 10 days or 10 to 14 days after that initial dose. Immediately, you can see how from a public health standpoint that provides an advantage because at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do here is to get more than 70, 75 percent of the population immunized. That is the definition of herd immunity. That’s how we protect others in the community. So, if you do it with one shot, with one dose, versus waiting the 31 days for Pfizer or the 38 days for Moderna, that is an incredible advantage that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has.

The other thing, touching a little bit into the myths and what you hear from our community, I’ve heard people— I actually had an interview with Eugenio Derbez after he had an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci. And one of the things that Eugenio Derbez was saying was, Well, I worry that these mRNA vaccines are new, the technology is new. And I say, Well, you know what, Eugenio, we can debate that and I can educate you on why we think those are safe but, by the way, then just get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That’s an older technology. It’s an, it’s an adenovirus with a spike protein of the coronavirus that is injected into your body. If you’re worried about that, which by the way, I don’t think you need to be worried about that, but if you are worried about that and you get the opportunity, in terms of given the choice, then do the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

So I think these three vaccines are effective. I think this is the best tool that we have, obviously in combination with all of the preventative measures that we have spoken a lot about. And, you know, what I’ve done in the past six months or so is try to, try to educate the Hispanic community about vaccine safety, about the importance of doing it. And there are a lot of myths out there. A lot of, like the colleagues were saying, misinformation, disinformation.

And the last thing I’ll say is the following: For a long time during the pandemic, there was no information given to the Hispanic community by government officials, in Spanish. It was very difficult to get information in Spanish by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] when it came to what was happening with the pandemic. But Hispanics were dying, and Hispanics were getting hospitalized at increased rates. So no one, except us in this group and others obviously in our community, were talking to them. Now, all of a sudden, the government wants them to get vaccinated. It is difficult, it is difficult to earn the trust of an entire community in such a small period of time when they have been going through what we have described here that we have been going through in the community. So it is my opinion, and I said this to the HHS secretary, that if the government officials want to increase the number of Hispanics that get vaccinated, they need to partner and empower community doctors who already have the trust of those individuals to be able to provide them with the vaccine.

Yvette Pena: Great. Thank you for that thorough response, Dr. Juan. We will be getting to questions very soon. I want to remind everyone to please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff, or if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, you can just place your question in the comments. Before we take the questions from our members, we want to address an important issue.

We know that many of you are having challenges registering for vaccines because many places require sign-ups through online forms. And if you don’t have access to a computer, this can be a challenge. AARP wants to help. We have established an AARP Vaccine Finder Support Team to assist in these cases. So if you’re listening today and don’t have a computer and cannot register for a vaccine in your community because you don’t have access to technology, please press 1 to be added to a list to receive a phone call from AARP staff to assist. Again, if you’re listening today and do not have access to a computer or the internet and cannot register for a vaccine because of that, please press 1 to be added to a list to receive a phone call. When you do, you’ll listen to a brief message, then be returned to the call.

And now it’s time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Webb, Dr. Juan, Frankie Miranda and Mónica Ramirez. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question. And now I’d like to bring in my AARP colleague Veronica Segovia Bedon to help facilitate your call. Welcome, Veronica.

Veronica Segovia Bedon: Hi, Yvette.

Yvette Pena: Hi, Veronica.

Veronica Segovia Bedon: We have our first call, we have our first call from Irene in South Carolina, and I think this would be a great question for Dr. Juan.

Yvette Pena: OK. Hi, Irene, please tell us your question. You are live.

Irene: Good evening, and thank you for taking my call. I am very concerned about all of the vaccines that is out and in the, all the communities, and we are all concerned, and we want, we all want help, but we don’t want, we don’t want other problems to creep up. I’ve been hearing a whole lot of things about if you take the vaccine, sometime if you, they, you get allergic reactions. Those persons that get allergic reactions, the vaccines, I understand, sometimes do them real bad. They have a real bad action. And a lot of times it’s too late after they take the vaccines, and they just have to go through all of this agony and pain. The other thing is that I want to ask is, is this an experimental type that is being used on all humans and not, and they are not too sure, we are not too sure, if it’s going to work or not, because everyone is still being quarantined. Everyone is still wearing masks, and there are deaths occurring from place to place. So I’m just wondering if it, if this is going to help us very much, the vaccines.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, so thank you so much for your question. We’ll let Dr. Juan answer your multiple questions now.

Juan Rivera: Yes. So, there, there are a couple of questions here and the first thing I want to express is that I understand your concerns. I think that, of course, your concerns are important and valid, and it is important that you get the right information so you can make the best decision for you and for your family. The first thing that I want to address is, is this experimental? It is not experimental in the sense that when we are, when the FDA approves a therapy, in this case a vaccine, it goes through different stages. It goes through a stage 1 in which we are trying it in animals, and we are understanding the effectiveness and if there’s any side effects, and if everything goes well, we go to stage 2. And in stage 2, we do a clinic, what’s called a clinical trial, which is another experiment, if you will, with a small group of humans. And we are, again, trying to determine, is it effective in this small group of humans, and is it causing any side effects that should be concerning us?

The answer in these particular vaccines was no. So we go to phase 3 or stage 3. Now this is a clinical trial in which, included 15,000, 20,000 people. And they do it in a randomized way, which means, let’s say it’s 20,000 people, 10,000 people get the vaccine, 10,000 people get what’s called a placebo or, let’s say, a sugar injection. And then they understand how many people who got the vaccine receive or get to immunity or a significant protection, how many side effects, versus the people who got the placebo. All of these vaccines went through these appropriate three phases before the FDA approved them. So it went through the experimental phase, the same way that some of the medications that we take today went through the same phases, and it was only then that it was decided that it was appropriate for the public to receive.

So it went through that experimental phase and now it is appropriate for us to get the vaccine. Just to let you know, I got my second vaccine on January 6. So let me tell, let me ask you, I mean I have a family, I have kids. I went through the data. I studied it because I also had concerns. And I understood that it was safe. Do you think I’m going to get a vaccine myself that I think could potentially harm me or my family or have consequences in the future? Well, the answer is no, I want to live just like you and I want to be safe just like you. So that’s number one.

Number two. Is this something that is effective? Is it the right thing to do? Well, let me ask you the question: When you make this decision, I want you to think about two different elements here. Number one, the risk of the vaccine. I agree, there’s nothing in life that is zero percent risk, nothing. There is a small risk for allergic reactions with the vaccine and so forth — I’ll get into that in a minute — but the risk is very low. Let’s take the risk of coronavirus: more than 500,000 deaths. There are thousands and thousands of people that are suffering from different sequella, meaning some people have cardiovascular issues after they recover from the acute phase of the [virus]. Some people have neurological issues, some people have back pain, chronic fatigue. So it’s not only whether you live or die, it’s how do you end up after the acute illness. So when you take those two risks, in my mind, the risk of the vaccine is significantly, significantly lower than the Russian roulette that is the coronavirus.

And finally, yes, there are some allergic reactions that have been reported. But more than a hundred million people have received this vaccine, and the number of allergic reactions that we have seen is extremely, extremely low. Some allergic reactions have been treated immediately, where they gave you the vaccine, with medication. So that is a process that, even though it can happen, the chances of that happening are very, very low in comparison to what could happen to a patient with coronavirus. So if someone has a history of allergies, whether it’s an allergy to a food or a medication, that is not a contraindication not to get a vaccine. Now, if you had a reaction called an anaphylactic reaction in which you had an allergic reaction in the past that required the use of epinephrine, hospitalization, or you were very, very short of breath because of it, then, yes, you should consult with your doctor before making a decision. Those were multiple questions, but I hope I answered all of them.

Yvette Pena: Great. Very thorough response, Dr. Juan. Thank you so much.

Hi, Veronica, who is our next caller?

Veronica Segovia Bedon: Hey, Yvette, we have Ronald in Florida.

Yvette Pena: Hi, Ronald from Florida. You are live. Please go ahead with your question.

Ronald: Yes, I would like to know what steps are being taken to get the vaccines to the migrant farmworkers in the areas where they live and work.

Yvette Pena: Mónica, this would be a great question for you.

Mónica Ramirez: Thank you. Yes, thanks for this question. So, there are many different plans underway to get the vaccine to farmworkers across our country. There are a lot of organizations that are working closely with state health officials, with the federal government, with county health officials as well, to do mobile vaccinations where, you know, in the case of migrating, migrating farmworkers, like in the state of Ohio, where I live, many farmworkers come here to do the work. There are mobile clinics that are being planned so that the health care professionals can go to the camps where the workers live to administer the vaccine, and then there are also partnerships that are being formed with the health officials and the grassroots organizations who are trusted by the farmworker community to help get people vaccinated either by helping to set up appointments or taking information to workers about how to sign up.

Another effort that’s underway that is really, really important is, we’ve been trying to do more organizing and advocacy directly with farmers. You know, a lot of times the work that we do on the ground is within the community, and we often actually don’t have much contact with the farmers themselves. And I think in order for us to be able to reach as many workers as possible with the vaccine, it’s critically important that farmworker advocates and farmers work together so that workers can have access to the vaccine on the camps or in the workplaces where they are working and, and there are a lot of efforts underway across the country to do just that.

Yvette Pena: Gracias, Mónica. All right, Veronica. Who do we have next?

Veronica Segovia Bedon: I have a question from the online queue, from Elena. And she’s asking, “What can bigger companies do so that they can encourage their employees to get the vaccine and reassure them that they won’t be in any danger, whether that is around their documentation status or side effects. What can large companies and churches do to educate the community?”

Yvette Pena: Great question. Frankie, would you like to answer that question?

Frankie Miranda: Absolutely. Absolutely. And thank you for the question. The important thing is that right now, the new administration is, the Biden administration is asking all states to have the same requirements for everybody starting later this month. It has been a little bit confusing and different parts of the country when it comes to who can get the vaccine, what are the requirements, by when. But once we get everybody above 16 years old being able to get the vaccine, that is going to create a lot of better access to the vaccine, and there’s not going to be any confusion. Many of the states are right now working to have their plans of reopening, although we’re still concerned about the possibility of a fourth wave of the [virus].

So it is important that companies work with their employees to inform them exactly what are the requirements right now for the vaccine and the information that they may need. In certain states, you would need to get some sort of certification from work, depending on the field that you work with, but at the end of the day, what we are hoping is that by the end of this month, before the deadline that was provided by President Biden, that everybody in this country understand that anybody above 16 years old can get the vaccine. That is going to be extremely important.

And, of course, the role of churches. We have seen it in many different churches, where they have mobilized, they have become sites for vaccinations and information. They have worked out very well in black churches across the country, and we continue to encourage that kind of collaboration between the employer, the employees, the parishioners and the churches and, again, another part that we still want to emphasize, as it was mentioned before by Dr. Juan, that the community workers, the community doctors, right?, but also community-based organizations are extremely important for our community. They have been the ones that have been providing the services throughout the pandemic in many cases: food assistance, cash assistance, rental assistance and much more information for our most vulnerable communities. Those are the organizations that people need to continue going to to get more information and to, also, many of them are becoming vaccination sites. So right now the most important thing is that everybody get clear information about, in every single state, that everybody in the United States and the territories can get access to the vaccine, so there is no more confusion.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Frankie. Very, very important information, especially on this vaccine rollout.

Veronica, who is our next caller?

Veronica Segovia Bedon: Next we have Peter in New York.

Yvette Pena: Hi, Peter in New York, you are live. Please go on with your question.

Peter: My question was, how long is this vaccine supposed to last? We were initially told that it was like a measles shot, one shot and you’re done for life. Now it seems they’re telling us it’s only going to last six months, and if it’s only going to last six months and going to be like a flu shot changing every year, or what? And if they don’t know, they should tell us, we just don’t know yet. Thank you.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Peter. Dr. Webb, would you like to address this question?

Cameron Webb: Sure thing. And Peter, that’s a great question. I think that the hope was always that we can design a vaccine that can last as long as possible. And what we know at this point is the researchers who’ve been following this know that the vaccine provides some immunity, some immunoprotection, I guess, for at least six months. So it doesn’t mean that it only lasts six months. It means that that’s the full length of time that they’ve been able to track it, and they can say it still is providing protection at six months. Now they’re continuing to follow that initial group of patients to see how long it does last. Now, the hope is that it lasts for a while and we don’t know exactly how long, but we do know that it, it seems to be somewhat durable. But you heard earlier, and I think it was Dr. Juan who said, you know, the, one of the challenges is that we’ve got these variants as well.

So one of the things we’ll always have to keep in mind is how well does every vaccine that we have in our, in our tool belt, how well does it work against the circulating variant? So far, the vaccines that we have seem to be working pretty well against the circulating variants, particularly that B.1.1.7, which is the most predominant, you know, strain and variant that we have in United States at this point, and the vaccine still works well against that, but we have to keep a close eye.

And so what we don’t want to do is promise the people that vaccine will last you forever. Understand there are a lot of variables, but what we do know is the vaccines that were designed, they do work and they do provide some good protection for at least six months, and we’ll continue to track and see how long it lasts and, and we’ll go from there. It’s different from the flu just by its very nature in that we don’t necessarily expect that, you know, this coronavirus is going to be identical to the flu and that there’s a different strain that’s the dominant strain every year, and you’re kind of guessing to see which one is emerging to be the predominant strain. Here with, with COVID it’s a little bit different. But I think even still where it’s still the novel coronavirus, the new thing. So we are tracking the data every single day. We’re checking to see how long it’s lasting and so far, it’s continuing to last. So, we’re not seeing that immunity waning as of yet.

Yvette Pena: Great. Thank you so much, Dr. Webb, and thank you everyone for all of your questions. Remember if you’d like to ask a question, please press *3. Now let’s turn back to our experts. Dr. Webb, how are people of color, particularly Latinos, represented in the development and trials for the vaccines that are being distributed in the U.S.?

Cameron Webb: Yeah, it’s a really important question and you know, as a, as a Black guy, I hear the same question from the Black community as well. It’s, you know, were we represented in these trials? And, of course, the substance of that question a lot of times is, is the vaccine going to work as well in me? And is it going to achieve the same result? Well, you know, in terms of, as far as vaccine trials go, these were very representative vaccine trials. So, the Moderna trial was about 20 percent Latino, the Pfizer trial was about 26 percent, and the Johnson & Johnson was about 45 percent. And so very good representation in those trials from the Latino community. You know, I think actually in the Black community, it was about 9 percent, almost 10 percent for both Moderna and Pfizer, and about 17 percent for Johnson & Johnson.

But what that tells us is that, you know, we can feel comfortable that the conclusions that were drawn about how this vaccine works, those conclusions apply to Black and brown communities as well. It is very good at preventing hospitalization. It’s very good at preventing death. It’s very safe, and that’s true for people who are persons of color just the same. So it’s useful to see, and remember those trials, you know, those trials were looking at over 75,000 people, between Pfizer and Moderna, no lack of representation there. And then if you look a little bit farther, as of today, about 6.6 million Latino people have received at least one dose of this vaccine, even beyond the trials. Now we have this real-world experience and, you know, 5.2 million Black people have received this vaccine at this point. And when you look at the real-world experience with communities of color in this particular, in these vaccines, we’re seeing the same thing. It’s still effective, it’s still safe and it’s working for all of these communities. So, good information. We have a lot of, a lot of data points at this point. Good representation, and so feel confident that those conclusions apply to everyone.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Dr. Webb. It’s really good to see the representation, especially amongst our Black and brown brothers and sisters.

Dr. Juan, what advice do you have for grandparents who are taking care of grandchildren going back to school, or households with multiple generations of people where people may be leaving the house to go to work. What can they do to stay safe?

Juan Rivera: So I think that the CDC has been very clear on this issue. I think grandparents need to get vaccinated. I think they, they have been getting vaccinated. And if they are visiting a home, let’s say the home of a kid where there’s, or their son or daughter, where there’s a married couple and grandkids and so forth, they can actually, if it’s 10 days after the last dose of their vaccine, they can actually go and spend time with that family, especially if that family’s also vaccinated, but even if the grandkid is not vaccinated, they can spend time without a mask and without social distancing. And that is the guideline by the CDC. So that is why I think that the vaccines are the best tool that we have at the end of the day. And I think this is an important message and I think we need to all focus on, on these aspects, when we talk about vaccines, because we talk a lot about the scientific evidence. We talk a lot about effectiveness. We talk about, a lot about the fact that they’re safe. And all of that is true but, at the end of the day, what everyone in this country and in any other country wants is to go back to normal. A grandfather hugging his, or a grandmother hugging her grandkids, that’s normal. That is normal life. And the way to get to that normal life, to get to that human contact that defines us as a species is by getting a vaccine, getting immunity and doing our part so that we get to herd immunity and protect the community as a whole.

Now, I do want to mention something that I think is very important as well. When we talk about people getting vaccinated, we should be very clear. We are not only talking about the United States. We’re talking about the entire world because we can get vaccinated here in the United States but if there are developing countries that are not getting the vaccines and are not getting vaccinated, coronavirus will continue, new variants will arise, and they’ll make it to the U.S. eventually. And the vaccines might or might not work. So vaccination is for the entire world. The entire world wants to go back to normal. It’s not only us.

Yvette Pena: You are so right; the entire world is affected, and they all want to get back to normal. Thank you for this great information.

Mónica, women, particularly Latinas, have been hit hard from the pandemic. They’ve had a harder time in the economy and have, many have had to take on extra family caregiving duties. What has the pandemic revealed about the policy changes we need to better support family caregivers, particularly women?

Mónica Ramirez: Well, definitely this pandemic has revealed that we should have passed policies that were supportive of caregivers a long time ago, because we did not have the safety net and support in place to really sustain and support caregivers during this crisis. So we need policies where people are entitled to paid leave, where people do have leave to be able to care for their family, where they don’t have to worry about having to choose between work and caring for their family. We’ve seen, you know, over 2 million women have been pushed out of the labor market. Over a million of the women who’ve been pushed out of the labor market since the pandemic started have been Latina. And we, we understand that the reason that it’s been difficult for many of these caregivers and women to stay in their positions as the, has been because of what Dr. Webb said at the beginning, is they didn’t have the right protection going into this crisis.

So it isn’t just about having policies that provide paid leave, paid sick leave and ability to care for your family if someone else becomes sick, et cetera. But it’s also some of the very basic protections that people need. You know, not all of the workers in our country have the same basic rights and that needs to change so people can have a safety net. It’s going to be very important going forward that the policies are enacted that are going to help bring women back to work because you have more than 2 million women who left the workforce because of this crisis in order to care for their families. We understand that there’s going to be a lot that will be required to get women back to work in positions that are equal to where they were working before, if not better, because on top of the other issues women are contending with, we also have to deal with the gaps that exist in terms of the pay gap and the wealth gap, which were already persistent problems.

So this pandemic has revealed a lot, and what it has told us is that we have to keep insisting on the policies that we always knew needed to be passed. And now we’re going to have to be very creative about the other kinds of policies and programs that are going to be supportive to help on-ramp women back into the workforce.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Mónica. And now it’s time to address more of your questions. But before we do that, we want to make sure that you press *3 at any time during this telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff.

Okay. We do have questions in the queue. Veronica, who do we have on the line?

Veronica Segovia Bedon: Hi, Yvette, so we have a question from our online queue, and this is, “Many residents in rural communities have had a hard time accessing vaccines. What more needs to be done to ensure that rural communities have access to the vaccine?”

Yvette Pena: How about Frankie and Mónica for this question?

Frankie Miranda: Thank you, Yvette. And Mónica alluded to this before, the importance of continuing working with local authorities on making sure that there is not one-size-fits-all solution for vaccination. In different communities, in different regions, different approaches are needed and multiple approaches are needed. So, right now, when it comes to rural communities, it is really important to work with either the local authorities, the community health clinics, the federally qualified health clinics, nonprofit organizations, but also mobile units. We need to make sure that people don’t need to drive miles, too many miles, to get to a vaccination center. The vaccination centers need to come to many of these rural communities, and it’s happening already with mobile units. And the way that Mónica also described working with the farmers and also to get to the farmworkers, it is really important to have a multi-prong approach to this. At some point, the problem was that we did not have enough vaccines. Now that this quantity, the quantity of vaccines, is not an issue anymore, it is about collaborative and innovative ways to get to those communities that need it the most. Mónica.

Mónica Ramirez: Yeah, I totally agree, Frankie. The other thing is making sure that the community health centers, which are the main health care providers that many folks in rural America rely on, have sufficient supply. You know, one of the things that we don’t talk about enough when it comes to rural America is, you know, we don’t have the same kind of broadband access in lots of places across our communities. And so getting the basic information to people about how to sign up, where to sign up, the ability to sign up, those are actually real challenges in rural America. And so we have to be thinking creatively about how outreach is happening and how signing people up to get the vaccine appointments is taking place. I would also encourage beyond the mobile clinics, there probably have to be transportation dollars that are actually invested in the community so where it is impossible to set up a mobile clinic, there can be small grants given to grassroots and local groups to help drive people to the vaccination site or to come up with some system where, you know, the trip services, the Dora services or whatever they’re called in that particular locality, are available to actually transport people to where the vaccinations are happening.

Yvette Pena: Great. Thank you, Mónica.

Before we continue with a couple more questions, I just wanted to go back very quickly to the topic of family caregiving. I also want to add that AARP was pleased that the new economic relief law, the American Rescue Plan Act, includes an increase in the child tax credit. This is important for parents with children, and grandparents who may be raising their grandchildren. And most importantly, the credit is now fully refundable and can be received as a monthly refund beginning in July. This means that more families will get money more quickly.

And so, Frankie, I want to shift gears just one sec. How has civic engagement changed in Latino communities last year as a result of the pandemic?

Frankie Miranda: Civic engagement was transformational for the year 2020, and our community played an incredible role in the mobilization, thanks in great part to the role of the community-based organizations. We saw the largest single increase in Latino voter participation, a 30 percent increase in participation. It is clear that for any political party, that our community matters and it actually makes a difference in many of these races across the country. What we need to keep in mind is that we need to continue, as Latinos, to continue to work together to get informed, to get mobilized and to really play a big part in the American society, that we are part of the American society, but then we also need to take action. And in the, in the purpose of this forum tonight, we need to take action, get the information that we need and get vaccinated. We matter, and everybody noticed it in the last election cycle, but that’s the start. We need to continue. And for that, we all need to get vaccinated and get, put this virus into the past and make sure that our community continues to be as strong as it has been as of right now.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Frankie. Very powerful, very powerful, all of this outreach that’s been happening in our communities. And Veronica, who is our next caller?

Veronica Segovia Bedon: Next we have Anthony from New York.

Yvette Pena: Hi, Anthony from New York. You are now live. Please ask your question.

Anthony: Hi, how are you? Thanks for taking my call. My question is, I was always on the understanding that once you take a vaccine that you are protected. I don’t understand why we’re still wearing masks, and if we do still have to wear a mask, when does it end? Is it always going to be the same cycle that we always have to wear masks? If this vaccine lasts six months, then what do we do after it’s over?

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Anthony. I will ask Dr. Webb and Dr. Juan to please respond to this question.

Cameron Webb: Sure, I’ll start, and then Dr. Juan can, can give some additional information. But it’s a good question because I think a lot of people were asking early on, what’s the value of getting vaccinated if you still need to wear a mask? And I remind people of a couple of things. One is that the vaccines are really good, but they’re not perfect. And so even though, you know, a small percentage of people are still, you know, are still not going to get the full benefit of the vaccine, you don’t want to run that risk with a virus that can cause the kind of damage that COVID causes. So that’s the first reason, to protect you, but also a big reason is to protect other people, and early on, there was a question in the data, whether or not these vaccines were preventing people from getting an asymptomatic infection. We know that they’re very effective at preventing symptomatic infection but it was, you know, it wasn’t one of the data endpoints of the trial to figure out if they prevented asymptomatic infection. Now we really have a lot of indicators at this point that make us feel like they’re very, very effective at preventing asymptomatic infections but even still— And that was the other reason why we encourage folks to still wear masks is because if you had an asymptomatic infection, you could potentially spread that to someone else.

Another reason is the variants and the fact that those are in circulation. Now, I’ll tell you this, I don’t believe that we’re going to be wearing masks forever. I think that what we’re going to have to track is the rate of community spread all over the country. And the idea is when we beat this virus when we get the rate of spread back to low levels in our communities, that’s when you’ll see masks go away, but we still have some work to do, and that’s, you know, everybody wearing masks for now, maintaining their physical distance, washing your hands and getting the vaccine when it’s your turn. If we all do that, we get back to that scenario where the, the rate of cases is lower in our communities to get back to that faster, then that’s when we’ll see things like masks, you know, go away. But Dr. Juan, I’m not sure if you had anything else you wanted to add to that.

Juan Rivera: Thank you, Dr. Webb. I think that that was a great explanation. The other perspective that I will add is the following. This is not a simple situation. And I think a lot of people think about this in terms of black or white. They think that one day we have a pandemic and the next day we might not have a pandemic. And the transition is not from one day to the next. This is an evolution, and this is a process. And, and there are multiple things that have to be in place for us to be able to go from peak pandemic to normal life.

I think that, at a point in which we have a lot of cases in the country, and we have been obviously worse, we’re now above 60,000, I think it’s between 60,000 and 70,000 cases a day. The first thing that has to happen is we need to bring those cases down. We need to make sure that the positivity rate, in other words, the number of cases that, the number of tests that test positive of coronavirus are less than 5 percent. Let’s use that 5 percent. So to be able to decrease those cases, especially when they’re very high, we need measurements like masks, we need measurements like quarantines, because we don’t want to overwhelm the health care system. We don’t want to overwhelm hospitals. We want to make sure that if someone gets sick and needs to use a ventilator, an ICU, that those resources are going to be available.

Now, let’s say that we get to a, to a point in which we have done that, and now the cases are low, and now we have a positivity rate of less than 5 percent. Well, one thing that we need at that level that I quite frankly don’t think that we have established in a robust way, it’s a way to do very effective contact tracing, right? Because if we have contact tracing, if we can identify where the pockets of cases are appearing once we are at a very low positivity rate, then that is when we can start getting a little bit more flexible in terms of opening society, perhaps in combination with vaccination, not using masks, depending on how the variants are developing.

So we need some process and some of the elements that we need to go from a pandemic to a normal life, some of the elements that are important we have, like vaccines, but then some of the elements like a robust contact tracing system like we have in other countries in the world, we don’t. So the transition is not going to be from one day to the next, but I want to highlight the fact that by CDC criteria, if someone is already vaccinated and visiting with let’s say another family who was vaccinated, you don’t need masks and you don’t need social distancing. So that is obviously progress from we have to wear masks, we have to stay inside. So, this is progress that is going to come with time, it’s going to come with some of these tools working and put in place. And I understand this is difficult.

Listen, I know that we don’t have time to talk about this, but this has caused a significant problem when it comes to mental health, not only in health care professionals but everyone, adults, kids. So I understand, I understand that people want to make masks go away from one day to the next. We want to go back to restaurants. We want to go back to theaters. We want to hug people. I want to shake the hands of colleagues. I also want that, but it’s going to be a transition. It’s not going to be from one day to the next, and I promise you, we are making progress. It is, it is something that statistics show; we can demonstrate it. We need to do better. We need to do better, but we’re already making progress.

There is hope. We are going to get away of the lifestyle that we’ve had for the past, you know, I don’t know, 16 months or so. We will be the society that we were before. But in certain times in history, consequences, circumstances, I’m sorry, arise that require that the population adapt and sacrifices. And this was our time. And we’re going to be victorious, and we’re going to learn hopefully from this. And it’s going to be sad, and it’s going to hurt because a lot of us have lost family members, and a lot of us have gone through very difficult situations, but we will make it out of this.

Yvette Pena: Thank you, Dr. Juan. Thank you, Dr. Webb. This has been a very informative discussion. Thank you to our distinguished panel for answering our questions and being here with us tonight. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership, has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the crisis, we are 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, including a recording of today’s Q&A event can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus on April the 9th. Again, that website is aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there if your question wasn’t answered and if you would like to find the latest updates, as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. Please make sure to tune in on April 22nd for two more live events where we’ll discuss COVID-19 vaccines. At 1 p.m. Eastern we’ll focus on COVID vaccine distribution, and at 7 p.m. Eastern, we will discuss coronavirus vaccines and Asian Americans. Thank you, gracias, and have a good evening. This concludes our call.

Yvette Pena:  Hello. I am AARP Vice President Yvette Pena and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you would like to listen to this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership, 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. Today, we’re going to discuss the latest on the impact of the pandemic on Latinos in the U.S. and share critical information on staying safe, prevention and vaccine distribution. We will also talk about how and why the pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color, particularly the Latino community, and what is being done about it.

[00:01:11] We have distinguished experts on hand to answer your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you would like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone 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. And if you would like to listen to this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. If you are joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

[00:01:56] Hello. If you’re just joining us, I am Yvette Pena of AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion on the global coronavirus pandemic. We are talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments. We have some outstanding guests joining us today from President Biden’s COVID-19 Task Force, Univision, the Hispanic Federation and Justice for Migrant Women. We will also be joined by my AARP colleague, Veronica Segovia Bedon, who will help facilitate your call. This event is being recorded, and you can access a 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 AARP staff, or if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

[00:03:15] Now, I would like to welcome our guests. Cameron Webb, M.D., is a senior policy adviser, COVID-19 equity, White House COVID-19 Response Team. Dr. Webb is a practicing physician at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Welcome, Dr. Webb.

[00:03:37]Cameron Webb:  Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.

[00:03:41]Yvette Pena:  And next we have Dr. Juan Rivera, M.D., who is the chief medical correspondent at Univision. Welcome, Dr. Juan.

[00:03:51]Juan Rivera:  Thank you for this great opportunity, Yvette and AARP.

[00:03:57]Yvette Pena:  Next, we have Frankie Miranda, who is the president of the Hispanic Federation. Welcome, Frankie.

[00:04:04]Frankie Miranda:  Thank you, Yvette, for having me. Saying hi to everybody from New York City.

[00:04:11]Yvette Pena:  And next we have Mónica Ramirez, who is the founder and president of the organization Justice for Migrant Women. Welcome, Mónica.

[00:04:20] Mónica Ramirez: Thank you, Yvette, it’s really wonderful to be here with all of you for this conversation.

[00:04:27] So let’s begin. I’m looking forward to our conversations and our listener questions. Just a reminder: To ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on YouTube or Facebook. This conversation is happening today.

[00:04:49] As we continue to see that COVID-19 is hitting Latinos particularly hard, one study in California shows that working-age Latinos were dying at 5½ times the rate of non-Hispanic white people the same age. This is a serious issue for the community and we have the experts here today to answer your questions.

[00:05:17] So with that, Dr. Webb, let’s begin with you. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our community. Why have Black and brown people been impacted so unequally? And what is being done to address it?

[00:05:36]Cameron Webb:  It’s a really important question, and I think the simplest answer is that while this virus itself doesn’t target people based on their race or ethnicity, it does take full advantage of this idea of social disadvantage. And the virus has been able to spread in certain communities because of a lack of investment , a lack of support, a lack of health care access, and a lack of resources in a lot of communities. And I think that’s part of why we’ve seen such a devastating impact in Black and brown communities. And I think it’s easy for people to think through the health care access component, and Black and brown communities disproportionately are more likely to be uninsured, and so that’s part of it. They’re also more likely to have chronic medical conditions, and we know those medical conditions are, put you at greater risk for severe outcomes with COVID. But that doesn’t explain the full story.

[00:06:31] The thing is, Black and brown communities also are more likely to be frontline essential workers, whether that’s in health care settings, whether that’s in transportation settings or in food services, you know, really running the gamut in terms of the folks who weren’t able to have the privilege to sit at home and quarantine or isolate during this pandemic. A lot of those folks were Black and brown individuals. They literally kept our country running during this pandemic and paid a steep price for the lack of protection in terms of personal protective equipment, lack of protection in terms of access to other resources along the way. And so that’s why it’s so important that when we talk about COVID-19 equity, we have to think about addressing those dynamics. You know, people will talk about housing as being one of those dynamics and transportation as being one of those dynamics. But we have to incorporate all of that into our concept of COVID-19 equity. And that’s why the vaccination effort is so important. Recognizing these communities have been the hardest hit in so many ways, it’s not at all acceptable for them to lag behind in vaccination rates because of the same systemic and structural issue.

[00:07:45] And so, I think, you know, it’s deep-seated; it goes back as long as this nation has existed. It has, you know, continued to perpetuate inequality. But I think this is one of those moments where we’re all shining a light on it in real time and saying, We have to step up.

[00:08:05]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Dr. Webb. Very important information. And if you’re listening today and want to learn more about this, you can visit aarp.org/coronavirus to learn more.

[00:08:25] Dr. Juan Rivera, let’s turn to you. While cases and hospitalizations have fallen from highs in January and the pace of vaccination is picking up, we’re seeing another rise in hospitalizations and cases in several states. What is driving this?

[00:08:46]Juan Rivera:  I think, Yvette, that there are several factors that are driving that increase in cases and hospitalizations that we’re seeing recently. One element is the new variants, but in particular of the B.1.1.7 variant, which is becoming the more predominant now in the United States. This is the U.K. variant that we know it’s more transmissible, and there is a little bit of evidence that suggests that it could be more lethal as well. So that, in combination with the fact that we are seeing a loosening of some of the preventative measures in certain states and in certain cities, I think can explain why we’re seeing this increase in cases. I think that it’s also important to state that the increase in cases that we are seeing, and we will probably continue to see, it’s mainly younger individuals. This is because you have a significant percentage of the population above the age of 65 that are already vaccinated. So we are seeing that the new cases are in people, let’s say, younger than 40 years of age, or much more than what we are seeing in older populations. So I’ve always told my audience that we are in this race and it’s very simple. We are in a race between how quickly we can vaccinate people versus how quickly these variants can spread in our communities. And this is the importance of vaccination. Why? Because we know at this point in time that the available vaccines do a decent job in terms of protecting us from this particular variant.

[00:10:51]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Dr. Juan. We know that vaccine access is critical, and currently Latino communities have a lower rate of vaccination; just 16 percent of Latinos in the U.S. have been vaccinated compared to 28 percent of non-Hispanic white people. This disparity needs to be addressed by improving access to vaccines and providing better access to information.

[00:11:22] With that, I’d like to bring you here now, Frankie. What is the impact of misinformation being shared by word of mouth and via social media? And can you share some examples?

[00:11:37]Frankie Miranda:  Thank you, Yvette. I think that to answer this question properly, I want to just spend a minute to just talk about the difference between misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is an intent to mislead. On the other hand, disinformation is information that is deliberately provided to mislead and knowingly sharing biased information or manipulative narratives. So there is a difference between misinformation and disinformation, and it comes to intent. So when people spread misinformation, they often believe this false information that they are sharing, and then disinformation that is crafted and intended to mislead people can become misinformation. So what I want to emphasize here is that sometimes in our community, people are sharing false information without knowing that it is false information. And it has been created and on purpose targeting our communities by people that want to make sure that we don’t get the right information.

[00:12:49] So what we have heard, and it’s basically ideas about that the vaccine is going to change your DNA, that a vaccine is going to make you sick, that it has the virus in it and that is why you’re going to get sick. Also, there have been some stories about microchips that are implanted, or that this is somehow related to some sort of religious or evil plan that, again, it’s against religion. All of this is information crafted to confuse our community. And we know that in Spanish-language specifically, most of these posts on social media have not been properly labeled or have not been targeted and continue to be shared, and people feel that because it is posted online, it is real. Our important advice to everybody is that in order to get the right information, it’s to listen to the news, to go to organizations like AARP’s website, or talk to community-based organizations or your doctor in order to get the right information.

[00:14:04] We know that when there is the right person, the right spokespeople, the right ambassadors of information, our community wants to get vaccinated. So we all need to make, we all, we need to do our part and make sure that when we are sharing information about the vaccine, the effectiveness, or the intent, that we do this knowingly, that we have verified these facts; and that is why we’re having these important conversations tonight.

[00:14:38]Yvette Pena:  Thank you so much, Frankie. Just a reminder, to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube.

[00:14:53] Mónica, welcome, and thanks for your time. Almost 4 in 10 Latino workers who are age 50 and older are part of the essential workforce. This includes people who work in health care, grocery stores and in agriculture. What is the experience of these workers in the pandemic, and has the vaccine distribution reflected this?

[00:15:18] Mónica Ramirez: Thank you, Yvette. And I want to say that I appreciate everything that has been shared so far. It is so consistent with what we’ve been hearing and experiencing in the community. And I also want to say to everyone who’s listening that it is likely that you probably know someone who’s been impacted by COVID or you yourself may have been, become sick. And I hope that you know that we all are deeply sorry for all that you’ve experienced during this crisis. It’s been traumatic for all of us and particularly those who’ve been coping with the illness and losses from the illness.

[00:15:58] For the essential workforce, you know, I think that there’s been a combination of confusion, anxiety — to Frankie’s point, there’s been a lot of misinformation. And for low-paid workers there’s been this reality where workers who had not been considered or called essential, like agricultural workers and others, were all of a sudden deemed essential but not provided any of the benefits or the supports that were needed. In fact, many of the farmworkers who we work with and serve talked about being given these little cards telling them that they could go to work and that they should show those cards to the authorities if they were to be pulled over in a lockdown situation, but not being given much other information, not being given the masks that they needed; there was no possibility for social distancing. So essentially, they were being called upon to keep our country moving and keep food on our tables, but they were not given what they needed to survive or to support themselves and, consequently, we’ve seen high numbers of COVID viruses amongst many of these frontline workers. You know, in the farmworker community there was a study that came out from Purdue University that said there have been over a half million cases of COVID, estimated cases of COVID in the farmworker community, and more than 9,000 deaths. And we know that that’s not probably a true reflection of the reality and that’s only one workforce.

[00:17:32] So we have been dealing with trying to get accurate information to the community, trying to address some of the fears that have been mentioned, the concerns around whether or not information would be used by authorities against people, particularly if they were undocumented; concern that information about them getting help, the programs that were being provided, whether that be testing or now vaccination, would somehow be used against them by calling them a public charge and preventing them from one day being able to get immigration relief if and when that comes to pass. So there was, there’s just been so much that people have been dealing with, and fear of getting sick is just one part of that.

[00:18:15] I have to say that what we’ve seen on the ground in terms of activism from within the community, from, you know, mutual aid funds that have been created, to grassroots efforts to get information to people about testing and vaccination, and now, you know, efforts to make sure that people are being able to actually access the vaccine, because it actually isn’t so easy for many of the frontline workers that we’re talking about, particularly people in the Latinx community and those who are immigrants and maybe don’t speak English; it’s actually quite challenging. And so, thankfully, I think that we had a learning period during the testing phase where we were able to start figuring out how to do mobile clinics, and how to make sure that we had culturally and linguistically appropriate information available.

[00:19:03] But I would say that there’s still quite a bit of an information gap and that is why we all have to continue to speak, speak out together and speak over and over about the resources available, not just from the government but also from the organizations on the ground across the country who want to support community members in need. And I would say for the workers who are 50 and older, the demographic that AARP’s membership is comprised of, you know, there is this additional anxiety around missing work and not being available to work and the possibility of age discrimination against people who fall in that demographic. And that is something that we also need to be sensitive to and responsive to so that the folks are getting the information they need but also the right referrals and supports where those are also needed.

[00:19:56] Thank you, Mónica. Very important information, and your so right, grassroots efforts are so important for our community. We will be getting to questions soon, but I want to remind you, to ask your question please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff. Or, if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, you can place your question in the comments.

[00:20:27] Dr. Rivera, we’re delighted to have you back with us. We’ve seen a lot of questions about the different vaccines. Can you explain the difference between the three vaccines in the U.S.? Are they all equally effective?

[00:20:43]Juan Rivera:  Yes, of course, it will be my pleasure. The first thing I’ll say is the three vaccines are very effective, and we are lucky, really, to have these three vaccines available in this country in an amazing record time, which has been a significant effort and it has been unprecedented. So, we have two vaccines that are what we call mRNA vaccines. Those are the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. They’re very effective 10 days after the second dose; 94, 95 percent effective. After the first dose you get about 50 percent immunity or protection. It is important to note that the Pfizer vaccine, you get two doses three weeks apart; the Moderna vaccine, you get two doses four weeks apart. It is a, both vaccines are safe. You do have people that have the typical side effects of fever, chills, some body aches, and that can happen for 24, usually, maybe up to 48 hours. But that is something that we have seen with other vaccines.

[00:22:11] Just to be very clear, nothing suggests that these vaccines, even though they are called mRNA vaccines, there is no evidence that they affect the DNA of an individual. These are vaccines that even though this is the first time that they are used in humans have been studied for quite some time. So, it is important to specify that. It is also important for people to understand that they went through the three different clinical studies or clinical study phases that usually vaccines go through. The data has been reported in peer-reviewed fashion. And, obviously, as we know, they have been approved by the FDA in terms of emergency approval.

[00:23:07] We also have a J & J vaccine. For whatever reason, this vaccine has gotten to a certain degree of bad rep, and I think that’s because the media usually just reports on sound bites, and people say, J & J vaccine, Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66 percent effective. Well, it depends how you look at the outcomes. And the important thing to understand here is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a hundred percent effective in terms of protecting individuals from hospitalization or death. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85 percent effective in terms of protecting individuals from severe illness. The J & J vaccine, it’s only one dose. So individuals would be immune 10 days or 10 to 14 days after that initial dose. Immediately, you can see how from a public health standpoint that provides an advantage because at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do here is to get more than 70, 75 percent of the population immunized. That is the definition of herd immunity. That’s how we protect others in the community. So, if you do it with one shot, with one dose, versus waiting the 31 days for Pfizer or the 38 days for Moderna, that is an incredible advantage that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has.

[00:24:51] The other thing, touching a little bit into the myths and what you hear from our community, I’ve heard people— I actually had an interview with Eugenio Derbez after he had an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci. And one of the things that Eugenio Derbez was saying was, Well, I worry that these mRNA vaccines are new, the technology is new. And I say, Well, you know what, Eugenio, we can debate that and I can educate you on why we think those are safe but, by the way, then just get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That’s an older technology. It’s an, it’s an adenovirus with a spike protein of the coronavirus that is injected into your body. If you’re worried about that, which by the way, I don’t think you need to be worried about that, but if you are worried about that and you get the opportunity, in terms of given the choice, then do the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

[00:25:50] So I think these three vaccines are effective. I think this is the best tool that we have, obviously in combination with all of the preventative measures that we have spoken a lot about. And, you know, what I’ve done in the past six months or so is try to, try to educate the Hispanic community about vaccine safety, about the importance of doing it. And there are a lot of myths out there. A lot of, like the colleagues were saying, misinformation, disinformation.

[00:26:25] And the last thing I’ll say is the following: For a long time during the pandemic, there was no information given to the Hispanic community by government officials, in Spanish. It was very difficult to get information in Spanish by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] when it came to what was happening with the pandemic. But Hispanics were dying, and Hispanics were getting hospitalized at increased rates. So no one, except us in this group and others obviously in our community, were talking to them. Now, all of a sudden, the government wants them to get vaccinated. It is difficult, it is difficult to earn the trust of an entire community in such a small period of time when they have been going through what we have described here that we have been going through in the community. So it is my opinion, and I said this to the HHS secretary, that if the government officials want to increase the number of Hispanics that get vaccinated, they need to partner and empower community doctors who already have the trust of those individuals to be able to provide them with the vaccine.

[00:27:42]Yvette Pena:  Great. Thank you for that thorough response, Dr. Juan. We will be getting to questions very soon. I want to remind everyone to please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff, or if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, you can just place your question in the comments. Before we take the questions from our members, we want to address an important issue.

[00:28:08] We know that many of you are having challenges registering for vaccines because many places require sign-ups through online forms. And if you don’t have access to a computer, this can be a challenge. AARP wants to help. We have established an AARP Vaccine Finder Support Team to assist in these cases. So if you’re listening today and don’t have a computer and cannot register for a vaccine in your community because you don’t have access to technology, please press 1 to be added to a list to receive a phone call from AARP staff to assist. Again, if you’re listening today and do not have access to a computer or the internet and cannot register for a vaccine because of that, please press 1 to be added to a list to receive a phone call. When you do, you’ll listen to a brief message, then be returned to the call.

[00:29:17] And now it’s time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Webb, Dr. Juan, Frankie Miranda and Mónica Ramirez. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question. And now I’d like to bring in my AARP colleague Veronica Segovia Bedon to help facilitate your call. Welcome, Veronica.

[00:29:51]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  Hi, Yvette.

[00:29:53]Yvette Pena:  Hi, Veronica.

[00:29:53]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  We have our first call, we have our first call from Irene in South Carolina, and I think this would be a great question for Dr. Juan.

[00:30:03]Yvette Pena:  OK. Hi, Irene, please tell us your question. You are live.

[00:30:11]Irene:  Good evening, and thank you for taking my call. I am very concerned about all of the vaccines that is out and in the, all the communities, and we are all concerned, and we want, we all want help, but we don’t want, we don’t want other problems to creep up. I’ve been hearing a whole lot of things about if you take the vaccine, sometime if you, they, you get allergic reactions. Those persons that get allergic reactions, the vaccines, I understand, sometimes do them real bad. They have a real bad action. And a lot of times it’s too late after they take the vaccines, and they just have to go through all of this agony and pain. The other thing is that I want to ask is, is this an experimental type that is being used on all humans and not, and they are not too sure, we are not too sure, if it’s going to work or not, because everyone is still being quarantined. Everyone is still wearing masks, and there are deaths occurring from place to place. So I’m just wondering if it, if this is going to help us very much, the vaccines.

[00:31:44]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, so thank you so much for your question. We’ll let Dr. Juan answer your multiple questions now.

[00:31:52]Juan Rivera:  Yes. So, there, there are a couple of questions here and the first thing I want to express is that I understand your concerns. I think that, of course, your concerns are important and valid, and it is important that you get the right information so you can make the best decision for you and for your family. The first thing that I want to address is, is this experimental? It is not experimental in the sense that when we are, when the FDA approves a therapy, in this case a vaccine, it goes through different stages. It goes through a stage 1 in which we are trying it in animals, and we are understanding the effectiveness and if there’s any side effects, and if everything goes well, we go to stage 2. And in stage 2, we do a clinic, what’s called a clinical trial, which is another experiment, if you will, with a small group of humans. And we are, again, trying to determine, is it effective in this small group of humans, and is it causing any side effects that should be concerning us?

[00:33:09] The answer in these particular vaccines was no. So we go to phase 3 or stage 3. Now this is a clinical trial in which, included 15,000, 20,000 people. And they do it in a randomized way, which means, let’s say it’s 20,000 people, 10,000 people get the vaccine, 10,000 people get what’s called a placebo or, let’s say, a sugar injection. And then they understand how many people who got the vaccine receive or get to immunity or a significant protection, how many side effects, versus the people who got the placebo. All of these vaccines went through these appropriate three phases before the FDA approved them. So it went through the experimental phase, the same way that some of the medications that we take today went through the same phases, and it was only then that it was decided that it was appropriate for the public to receive.

[00:34:19] So it went through that experimental phase and now it is appropriate for us to get the vaccine. Just to let you know, I got my second vaccine on January 6. So let me tell, let me ask you, I mean I have a family, I have kids. I went through the data. I studied it because I also had concerns. And I understood that it was safe. Do you think I’m going to get a vaccine myself that I think could potentially harm me or my family or have consequences in the future? Well, the answer is no, I want to live just like you and I want to be safe just like you. So that’s number one.

[00:34:56] Number two. Is this something that is effective? Is it the right thing to do? Well, let me ask you the question: When you make this decision, I want you to think about two different elements here. Number one, the risk of the vaccine. I agree, there’s nothing in life that is zero percent risk, nothing. There is a small risk for allergic reactions with the vaccine and so forth — I’ll get into that in a minute — but the risk is very low. Let’s take the risk of coronavirus: more than 500,000 deaths. There are thousands and thousands of people that are suffering from different sequella, meaning some people have cardiovascular issues after they recover from the acute phase of the [virus] . Some people have neurological issues, some people have back pain, chronic fatigue. So it’s not only whether you live or die, it’s how do you end up after the acute illness. So when you take those two risks, in my mind, the risk of the vaccine is significantly, significantly lower than the Russian roulette that is the coronavirus.

[00:36:10] And finally, yes, there are some allergic reactions that have been reported. But more than a hundred million people have received this vaccine, and the number of allergic reactions that we have seen is extremely, extremely low. Some allergic reactions have been treated immediately, where they gave you the vaccine, with medication. So that is a process that, even though it can happen, the chances of that happening are very, very low in comparison to what could happen to a patient with coronavirus. So if someone has a history of allergies, whether it’s an allergy to a food or a medication, that is not a contraindication not to get a vaccine. Now, if you had a reaction called an anaphylactic reaction in which you had an allergic reaction in the past that required the use of epinephrine, hospitalization, or you were very, very short of breath because of it, then, yes, you should consult with your doctor before making a decision. Those were multiple questions, but I hope I answered all of them.

[00:37:27]Yvette Pena:  Great. Very thorough response, Dr. Juan. Thank you so much.

[00:37:31] Hi, Veronica, who is our next caller?

[00:37:36]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  Hey, Yvette, we have Ronald in Florida.

[00:37:40]Yvette Pena:  Hi, Ronald from Florida. You are live. Please go ahead with your question.

[00:37:46]Ronald:  Yes, I would like to know what steps are being taken to get the vaccines to the migrant farmworkers in the areas where they live and work.

[00:38:01]Yvette Pena:  Mónica, this would be a great question for you.

[00:38:03] Mónica Ramirez: Thank you. Yes, thanks for this question. So, there are many different plans underway to get the vaccine to farmworkers across our country. There are a lot of organizations that are working closely with state health officials, with the federal government, with county health officials as well, to do mobile vaccinations where, you know, in the case of migrating, migrating farmworkers, like in the state of Ohio, where I live, many farmworkers come here to do the work. There are mobile clinics that are being planned so that the health care professionals can go to the camps where the workers live to administer the vaccine, and then there are also partnerships that are being formed with the health officials and the grassroots organizations who are trusted by the farmworker community to help get people vaccinated either by helping to set up appointments or taking information to workers about how to sign up.

[00:39:09] Another effort that’s underway that is really, really important is, we’ve been trying to do more organizing and advocacy directly with farmers. You know, a lot of times the work that we do on the ground is within the community, and we often actually don’t have much contact with the farmers themselves. And I think in order for us to be able to reach as many workers as possible with the vaccine, it’s critically important that farmworker advocates and farmers work together so that workers can have access to the vaccine on the camps or in the workplaces where they are working and, and there are a lot of efforts underway across the country to do just that.

[00:39:53] Gracias, Mónica. All right, Veronica. Who do we have next?

[00:39:59]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  I have a question from the online queue, from Elena. And she’s asking, “What can bigger companies do so that they can encourage their employees to get the vaccine and reassure them that they won’t be in any danger, whether that is around their documentation status or side effects. What can large companies and churches do to educate the community?”

[00:40:27]Yvette Pena:  Great question. Frankie, would you like to answer that question?

[00:40:32]Frankie Miranda:  Absolutely. Absolutely. And thank you for the question. The important thing is that right now, the new administration is, the Biden administration is asking all states to have the same requirements for everybody starting later this month. It has been a little bit confusing and different parts of the country when it comes to who can get the vaccine, what are the requirements, by when. But once we get everybody above 16 years old being able to get the vaccine, that is going to create a lot of better access to the vaccine, and there’s not going to be any confusion. Many of the states are right now working to have their plans of reopening, although we’re still concerned about the possibility of a fourth wave of the [virus] .

[00:41:29] So it is important that companies work with their employees to inform them exactly what are the requirements right now for the vaccine and the information that they may need. In certain states, you would need to get some sort of certification from work, depending on the field that you work with, but at the end of the day, what we are hoping is that by the end of this month, before the deadline that was provided by President Biden, that everybody in this country understand that anybody above 16 years old can get the vaccine. That is going to be extremely important.

[00:42:10] And, of course, the role of churches. We have seen it in many different churches, where they have mobilized, they have become sites for vaccinations and information. They have worked out very well in black churches across the country, and we continue to encourage that kind of collaboration between the employer, the employees, the parishioners and the churches and, again, another part that we still want to emphasize, as it was mentioned before by Dr. Juan, that the community workers, the community doctors, right?, but also community-based organizations are extremely important for our community. They have been the ones that have been providing the services throughout the pandemic in many cases: food assistance, cash assistance, rental assistance and much more information for our most vulnerable communities. Those are the organizations that people need to continue going to to get more information and to, also, many of them are becoming vaccination sites. So right now the most important thing is that everybody get clear information about, in every single state, that everybody in the United States and the territories can get access to the vaccine, so there is no more confusion.

[00:43:31]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Frankie. Very, very important information, especially on this vaccine rollout.

[00:43:38] Veronica, who is our next caller?

[00:43:42]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  Next we have Peter in New York.

[00:43:45]Yvette Pena:  Hi, Peter in New York, you are live. Please go on with your question.

[00:43:51]Peter:  My question was, how long is this vaccine supposed to last? We were initially told that it was like a measles shot, one shot and you’re done for life. Now it seems they’re telling us it’s only going to last six months, and if it’s only going to last six months and going to be like a flu shot changing every year, or what? And if they don’t know, they should tell us, we just don’t know yet. Thank you.

[00:44:15]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Peter. Dr. Webb, would you like to address this question?

[00:44:20]Cameron Webb:  Sure thing. And Peter, that’s a great question. I think that the hope was always that we can design a vaccine that can last as long as possible. And what we know at this point is the researchers who’ve been following this know that the vaccine provides some immunity, some immunoprotection, I guess, for at least six months. So it doesn’t mean that it only lasts six months. It means that that’s the full length of time that they’ve been able to track it, and they can say it still is providing protection at six months. Now they’re continuing to follow that initial group of patients to see how long it does last. Now, the hope is that it lasts for a while and we don’t know exactly how long, but we do know that it, it seems to be somewhat durable. But you heard earlier, and I think it was Dr. Juan who said, you know, the, one of the challenges is that we’ve got these variants as well.

[00:45:15] So one of the things we’ll always have to keep in mind is how well does every vaccine that we have in our, in our tool belt, how well does it work against the circulating variant? So far, the vaccines that we have seem to be working pretty well against the circulating variants, particularly that B.1.1.7, which is the most predominant, you know, strain and variant that we have in United States at this point, and the vaccine still works well against that, but we have to keep a close eye.

[00:45:49] And so what we don’t want to do is promise the people that vaccine will last you forever. Understand there are a lot of variables, but what we do know is the vaccines that were designed, they do work and they do provide some good protection for at least six months, and we’ll continue to track and see how long it lasts and, and we’ll go from there. It’s different from the flu just by its very nature in that we don’t necessarily expect that, you know, this coronavirus is going to be identical to the flu and that there’s a different strain that’s the dominant strain every year, and you’re kind of guessing to see which one is emerging to be the predominant strain. Here with, with COVID it’s a little bit different. But I think even still where it’s still the novel coronavirus, the new thing. So we are tracking the data every single day. We’re checking to see how long it’s lasting and so far, it’s continuing to last. So, we’re not seeing that immunity waning as of yet.

[00:46:47]Yvette Pena:  Great. Thank you so much, Dr. Webb, and thank you everyone for all of your questions. Remember if you’d like to ask a question, please press *3. Now let’s turn back to our experts. Dr. Webb, how are people of color, particularly Latinos, represented in the development and trials for the vaccines that are being distributed in the U.S.?

[00:47:17]Cameron Webb:  Yeah, it’s a really important question and you know, as a, as a Black guy, I hear the same question from the Black community as well. It’s, you know, were we represented in these trials? And, of course, the substance of that question a lot of times is, is the vaccine going to work as well in me? And is it going to achieve the same result? Well, you know, in terms of, as far as vaccine trials go, these were very representative vaccine trials. So, the Moderna trial was about 20 percent Latino, the Pfizer trial was about 26 percent, and the Johnson & Johnson was about 45 percent. And so very good representation in those trials from the Latino community. You know, I think actually in the Black community, it was about 9 percent, almost 10 percent for both Moderna and Pfizer, and about 17 percent for Johnson & Johnson.

[00:48:11] But what that tells us is that, you know, we can feel comfortable that the conclusions that were drawn about how this vaccine works, those conclusions apply to Black and brown communities as well. It is very good at preventing hospitalization. It’s very good at preventing death. It’s very safe, and that’s true for people who are persons of color just the same. So it’s useful to see, and remember those trials, you know, those trials were looking at over 75,000 people, between Pfizer and Moderna, no lack of representation there. And then if you look a little bit farther, as of today, about 6.6 million Latino people have received at least one dose of this vaccine, even beyond the trials. Now we have this real-world experience and, you know, 5.2 million Black people have received this vaccine at this point. And when you look at the real-world experience with communities of color in this particular, in these vaccines, we’re seeing the same thing. It’s still effective, it’s still safe and it’s working for all of these communities. So, good information. We have a lot of, a lot of data points at this point. Good representation, and so feel confident that those conclusions apply to everyone.

[00:49:32]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Dr. Webb. It’s really good to see the representation, especially amongst our Black and brown brothers and sisters.

[00:49:41] Dr. Juan, what advice do you have for grandparents who are taking care of grandchildren going back to school, or households with multiple generations of people where people may be leaving the house to go to work. What can they do to stay safe?

[00:50:01]Juan Rivera:  So I think that the CDC has been very clear on this issue. I think grandparents need to get vaccinated. I think they, they have been getting vaccinated. And if they are visiting a home, let’s say the home of a kid where there’s, or their son or daughter, where there’s a married couple and grandkids and so forth, they can actually, if it’s 10 days after the last dose of their vaccine, they can actually go and spend time with that family, especially if that family’s also vaccinated, but even if the grandkid is not vaccinated, they can spend time without a mask and without social distancing. And that is the guideline by the CDC. So that is why I think that the vaccines are the best tool that we have at the end of the day. And I think this is an important message and I think we need to all focus on, on these aspects, when we talk about vaccines, because we talk a lot about the scientific evidence. We talk a lot about effectiveness. We talk about, a lot about the fact that they’re safe. And all of that is true but, at the end of the day, what everyone in this country and in any other country wants is to go back to normal. A grandfather hugging his, or a grandmother hugging her grandkids, that’s normal. That is normal life. And the way to get to that normal life, to get to that human contact that defines us as a species is by getting a vaccine, getting immunity and doing our part so that we get to herd immunity and protect the community as a whole.

[00:51:54] Now, I do want to mention something that I think is very important as well. When we talk about people getting vaccinated, we should be very clear. We are not only talking about the United States. We’re talking about the entire world because we can get vaccinated here in the United States but if there are developing countries that are not getting the vaccines and are not getting vaccinated, coronavirus will continue, new variants will arise, and they’ll make it to the U.S. eventually. And the vaccines might or might not work. So vaccination is for the entire world. The entire world wants to go back to normal. It’s not only us.

[00:52:39]Yvette Pena:  You are so right; the entire world is affected, and they all want to get back to normal. Thank you for this great information.

[00:52:50] Mónica, women, particularly Latinas, have been hit hard from the pandemic. They’ve had a harder time in the economy and have, many have had to take on extra family caregiving duties. What has the pandemic revealed about the policy changes we need to better support family caregivers, particularly women?

[00:53:18] Mónica Ramirez: Well, definitely this pandemic has revealed that we should have passed policies that were supportive of caregivers a long time ago, because we did not have the safety net and support in place to really sustain and support caregivers during this crisis. So we need policies where people are entitled to paid leave, where people do have leave to be able to care for their family, where they don’t have to worry about having to choose between work and caring for their family. We’ve seen, you know, over 2 million women have been pushed out of the labor market. Over a million of the women who’ve been pushed out of the labor market since the pandemic started have been Latina. And we, we understand that the reason that it’s been difficult for many of these caregivers and women to stay in their positions as the, has been because of what Dr. Webb said at the beginning, is they didn’t have the right protection going into this crisis.

[00:54:21] So it isn’t just about having policies that provide paid leave, paid sick leave and ability to care for your family if someone else becomes sick, et cetera. But it’s also some of the very basic protections that people need. You know, not all of the workers in our country have the same basic rights and that needs to change so people can have a safety net. It’s going to be very important going forward that the policies are enacted that are going to help bring women back to work because you have more than 2 million women who left the workforce because of this crisis in order to care for their families. We understand that there’s going to be a lot that will be required to get women back to work in positions that are equal to where they were working before, if not better, because on top of the other issues women are contending with, we also have to deal with the gaps that exist in terms of the pay gap and the wealth gap, which were already persistent problems.

[00:55:17] So this pandemic has revealed a lot, and what it has told us is that we have to keep insisting on the policies that we always knew needed to be passed. And now we’re going to have to be very creative about the other kinds of policies and programs that are going to be supportive to help on-ramp women back into the workforce.

[00:55:37] Thank you, Mónica. And now it’s time to address more of your questions. But before we do that, we want to make sure that you press *3 at any time during this telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff.

[00:55:57] Okay. We do have questions in the queue. Veronica, who do we have on the line?

[00:56:05]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  Hi, Yvette, so we have a question from our online queue, and this is, “Many residents in rural communities have had a hard time accessing vaccines. What more needs to be done to ensure that rural communities have access to the vaccine?”

[00:56:28]Yvette Pena:  How about Frankie and Mónica for this question?

[00:56:34]Frankie Miranda:  Thank you, Yvette. And Mónica alluded to this before, the importance of continuing working with local authorities on making sure that there is not one-size-fits-all solution for vaccination. In different communities, in different regions, different approaches are needed and multiple approaches are needed. So, right now, when it comes to rural communities, it is really important to work with either the local authorities, the community health clinics, the federally qualified health clinics, nonprofit organizations, but also mobile units. We need to make sure that people don’t need to drive miles, too many miles, to get to a vaccination center. The vaccination centers need to come to many of these rural communities, and it’s happening already with mobile units. And the way that Mónica also described working with the farmers and also to get to the farmworkers, it is really important to have a multi-prong approach to this. At some point, the problem was that we did not have enough vaccines. Now that this quantity, the quantity of vaccines, is not an issue anymore, it is about collaborative and innovative ways to get to those communities that need it the most. Mónica.

[00:58:01] Mónica Ramirez: Yeah, I totally agree, Frankie. The other thing is making sure that the community health centers, which are the main health care providers that many folks in rural America rely on, have sufficient supply. You know, one of the things that we don’t talk about enough when it comes to rural America is, you know, we don’t have the same kind of broadband access in lots of places across our communities. And so getting the basic information to people about how to sign up, where to sign up, the ability to sign up, those are actually real challenges in rural America. And so we have to be thinking creatively about how outreach is happening and how signing people up to get the vaccine appointments is taking place. I would also encourage beyond the mobile clinics, there probably have to be transportation dollars that are actually invested in the community so where it is impossible to set up a mobile clinic, there can be small grants given to grassroots and local groups to help drive people to the vaccination site or to come up with some system where, you know, the trip services, the Dora services or whatever they’re called in that particular locality, are available to actually transport people to where the vaccinations are happening.

[00:59:14]Yvette Pena:  Great. Thank you, Mónica.

[00:59:16] Before we continue with a couple more questions, I just wanted to go back very quickly to the topic of family caregiving. I also want to add that AARP was pleased that the new economic relief law, the American Rescue Plan Act, includes an increase in the child tax credit. This is important for parents with children, and grandparents who may be raising their grandchildren. And most importantly, the credit is now fully refundable and can be received as a monthly refund beginning in July. This means that more families will get money more quickly.

[00:59:54] And so, Frankie, I want to shift gears just one sec. How has civic engagement changed in Latino communities last year as a result of the pandemic?

[01:00:05]Frankie Miranda:  Civic engagement was transformational for the year 2020, and our community played an incredible role in the mobilization, thanks in great part to the role of the community-based organizations. We saw the largest single increase in Latino voter participation, a 30 percent increase in participation. It is clear that for any political party, that our community matters and it actually makes a difference in many of these races across the country. What we need to keep in mind is that we need to continue, as Latinos, to continue to work together to get informed, to get mobilized and to really play a big part in the American society, that we are part of the American society, but then we also need to take action. And in the, in the purpose of this forum tonight, we need to take action, get the information that we need and get vaccinated. We matter, and everybody noticed it in the last election cycle, but that’s the start. We need to continue. And for that, we all need to get vaccinated and get, put this virus into the past and make sure that our community continues to be as strong as it has been as of right now.

[01:01:35]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Frankie. Very powerful, very powerful, all of this outreach that’s been happening in our communities. And Veronica, who is our next caller?

[01:01:46]Veronica Segovia Bedon:  Next we have Anthony from New York.

[01:01:50]Yvette Pena:  Hi, Anthony from New York. You are now live. Please ask your question.

[01:01:55]Anthony:  Hi, how are you? Thanks for taking my call. My question is, I was always on the understanding that once you take a vaccine that you are protected. I don’t understand why we’re still wearing masks, and if we do still have to wear a mask, when does it end? Is it always going to be the same cycle that we always have to wear masks? If this vaccine lasts six months, then what do we do after it’s over?

[01:02:29]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Anthony. I will ask Dr. Webb and Dr. Juan to please respond to this question.

[01:02:39]Cameron Webb:  Sure, I’ll start, and then Dr. Juan can, can give some additional information. But it’s a good question because I think a lot of people were asking early on, what’s the value of getting vaccinated if you still need to wear a mask? And I remind people of a couple of things. One is that the vaccines are really good, but they’re not perfect. And so even though, you know, a small percentage of people are still, you know, are still not going to get the full benefit of the vaccine, you don’t want to run that risk with a virus that can cause the kind of damage that COVID causes. So that’s the first reason, to protect you, but also a big reason is to protect other people, and early on, there was a question in the data, whether or not these vaccines were preventing people from getting an asymptomatic infection. We know that they’re very effective at preventing symptomatic infection but it was, you know, it wasn’t one of the data endpoints of the trial to figure out if they prevented asymptomatic infection. Now we really have a lot of indicators at this point that make us feel like they’re very, very effective at preventing asymptomatic infections but even still— And that was the other reason why we encourage folks to still wear masks is because if you had an asymptomatic infection, you could potentially spread that to someone else.

[01:03:58] Another reason is the variants and the fact that those are in circulation. Now, I’ll tell you this, I don’t believe that we’re going to be wearing masks forever. I think that what we’re going to have to track is the rate of community spread all over the country. And the idea is when we beat this virus when we get the rate of spread back to low levels in our communities, that’s when you’ll see masks go away, but we still have some work to do, and that’s, you know, everybody wearing masks for now, maintaining their physical distance, washing your hands and getting the vaccine when it’s your turn. If we all do that, we get back to that scenario where the, the rate of cases is lower in our communities to get back to that faster, then that’s when we’ll see things like masks, you know, go away. But Dr. Juan, I’m not sure if you had anything else you wanted to add to that.

[01:04:47]Juan Rivera:  Thank you, Dr. Webb. I think that that was a great explanation. The other perspective that I will add is the following. This is not a simple situation. And I think a lot of people think about this in terms of black or white. They think that one day we have a pandemic and the next day we might not have a pandemic. And the transition is not from one day to the next. This is an evolution, and this is a process. And, and there are multiple things that have to be in place for us to be able to go from peak pandemic to normal life.

[01:05:27] I think that, at a point in which we have a lot of cases in the country, and we have been obviously worse, we’re now above 60,000, I think it’s between 60,000 and 70,000 cases a day. The first thing that has to happen is we need to bring those cases down. We need to make sure that the positivity rate, in other words, the number of cases that, the number of tests that test positive of coronavirus are less than 5 percent. Let’s use that 5 percent. So to be able to decrease those cases, especially when they’re very high, we need measurements like masks, we need measurements like quarantines, because we don’t want to overwhelm the health care system. We don’t want to overwhelm hospitals. We want to make sure that if someone gets sick and needs to use a ventilator, an ICU, that those resources are going to be available.

[01:06:30] Now, let’s say that we get to a, to a point in which we have done that, and now the cases are low, and now we have a positivity rate of less than 5 percent. Well, one thing that we need at that level that I quite frankly don’t think that we have established in a robust way, it’s a way to do very effective contact tracing, right? Because if we have contact tracing, if we can identify where the pockets of cases are appearing once we are at a very low positivity rate, then that is when we can start getting a little bit more flexible in terms of opening society, perhaps in combination with vaccination, not using masks, depending on how the variants are developing.

[01:07:24] So we need some process and some of the elements that we need to go from a pandemic to a normal life, some of the elements that are important we have, like vaccines, but then some of the elements like a robust contact tracing system like we have in other countries in the world, we don’t. So the transition is not going to be from one day to the next, but I want to highlight the fact that by CDC criteria, if someone is already vaccinated and visiting with let’s say another family who was vaccinated, you don’t need masks and you don’t need social distancing. So that is obviously progress from we have to wear masks, we have to stay inside. So, this is progress that is going to come with time, it’s going to come with some of these tools working and put in place. And I understand this is difficult.

[01:08:29] Listen, I know that we don’t have time to talk about this, but this has caused a significant problem when it comes to mental health, not only in health care professionals but everyone, adults, kids. So I understand, I understand that people want to make masks go away from one day to the next. We want to go back to restaurants. We want to go back to theaters. We want to hug people. I want to shake the hands of colleagues. I also want that, but it’s going to be a transition. It’s not going to be from one day to the next, and I promise you, we are making progress. It is, it is something that statistics show; we can demonstrate it. We need to do better. We need to do better, but we’re already making progress.

[01:09:19] There is hope. We are going to get away of the lifestyle that we’ve had for the past, you know, I don’t know, 16 months or so. We will be the society that we were before. But in certain times in history, consequences, circumstances, I’m sorry, arise that require that the population adapt and sacrifices. And this was our time. And we’re going to be victorious, and we’re going to learn hopefully from this. And it’s going to be sad, and it’s going to hurt because a lot of us have lost family members, and a lot of us have gone through very difficult situations, but we will make it out of this.

[01:10:04]Yvette Pena:  Thank you, Dr. Juan. Thank you, Dr. Webb. This has been a very informative discussion. Thank you to our distinguished panel for answering our questions and being here with us tonight. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership, has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the crisis, we are 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, including a recording of today’s Q&A event can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus on April the 9th. Again, that website is aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there if your question wasn’t answered and if you would like to find the latest updates, as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. Please make sure to tune in on April 22nd for two more live events where we’ll discuss COVID-19 vaccines. At 1 p.m. Eastern we’ll focus on COVID vaccine distribution, and at 7 p.m. Eastern, we will discuss coronavirus vaccines and Asian Americans. Thank you, gracias, and have a good evening. This concludes our call.

[01:12:13]

Yvette Pena:  Yvette Peña: Hola. Soy la vicepresidenta de AARP, Yvette Peña, y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre el coronavirus. Antes de comenzar, si deseas escuchar esta teleasamblea en español, presiona *0 en el teclado de tu teléfono ahora.

 

AARP, una organización no partidista sin fines de lucro con membresía, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores durante más de 60 años. Frente a la pandemia mundial de coronavirus, AARP proporciona información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan.

 

Hoy vamos a discutir lo último sobre el impacto de la pandemia en los latinos en Estados Unidos y compartir información crítica sobre cómo mantenerse a salvo, la prevención y la distribución de vacunas. También hablaremos sobre cómo y por qué la pandemia está afectando de manera desproporcionada a las personas de color, en particular a la comunidad latina, y qué se está haciendo al respecto.

 

Contamos con distinguidos expertos disponibles para responder a sus preguntas en vivo. Para aquellos de ustedes que se unan a nosotros por teléfono, si desean hacer una pregunta sobre la pandemia de coronavirus, presionen * 3 en su teléfono para comunicarse con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y pregunta y los colocará en una lista para hacer esa pregunta en vivo. Si deseas escuchar esta teleasamblea en español, presiona * 0 en el teclado de tu teléfono ahora. Si te unes a través de Facebook o YouTube, puedes publicar tus preguntas en los comentarios.

 

Hola. Si acabas de unirte a nosotros, soy Yvette Peña de AARP y quiero darte la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre la pandemia mundial de coronavirus. Estaremos hablando con principales expertos y respondiendo sus preguntas en vivo. Para hacer una pregunta, presiona * 3 y, si te unes a través de Facebook o YouTube, puedes publicar tus preguntas en los comentarios.

 

Tenemos algunos invitados sobresalientes que nos acompañan hoy del Grupo de Trabajo contra el COVID-19 del presidente Biden, Univision, Federación Hispana, Justice for Migrant Women. También nos acompañará mi colega de AARP Verónica Segovia Bedon, quien ayudará a facilitar sus llamadas.

 

Este evento está siendo grabado y podrán acceder a la grabación en AARP.org/elcoronavirus 24 horas después de que terminemos. Nuevamente, para hacer una pregunta, presiona * 3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de tu teléfono para conectarte con el personal de AARP. Si te unes a nosotros a través de Facebook o YouTube, deja tus preguntas en los comentarios.

 

Ahora me gustaría dar la bienvenida al Dr. Cameron Webb, es un asesor principal de políticas, equidad de COVID-19, Equipo de respuesta de COVID-19 de la Casa Blanca. El Dr. Webb es médico en ejercicio en el Centro Médico de la Universidad de Virginia. Bienvenido, Dr. Webb.

 

Dr. Cameron Webb: Gracias por invitarme. Un placer estar aquí.

 

Yvette Peña: Y luego tenemos al Dr. Juan Rivera quien es corresponsal médico principal de Univision. Bienvenido, Dr. Juan.

 

Dr. Juan Rivera: Gracias por esta gran oportunidad. Gracias, AARP.

 

Yvette Peña: Luego tenemos a Frankie Miranda, quien es el presidente de la Federación Hispana. Bienvenido, Frankie.

 

Frankie Miranda: Gracias Yvette por invitarme, un saludo a todos desde la ciudad de Nueva York.

 

Yvette Peña: Y luego tenemos a Mónica Ramírez, quien es la fundadora y presidenta de la organización Justice for Migrant Women. Bienvenida Mónica.

 

Mónica Ramírez: Gracias Yvette. Es maravilloso estar aquí con todos ustedes en esta conversación.

 

Yvette Peña: Entonces, comencemos. Espero con interés nuestra conversación y las preguntas de nuestros oyentes. Solo para recordarles, para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3 en el teclado de su teléfono o pueden dejarla en la sección de comentarios en YouTube o Facebook.

 

Esta conversación está sucediendo hoy a medida que continuamos viendo que la COVID-19 está golpeando duro, particularmente a los latinos. Un estudio en California muestra que los latinos en edad laboral están muriendo a una tasa 5 ½ veces mayor que la tasa de personas blancas no hispanas de la misma edad. Este es un problema serio para la comunidad, y hoy contamos con expertos para responder sus preguntas. Entonces, con eso, Dr. Webb, comencemos con usted. La COVID-19 ha tenido un impacto devastador en nuestra comunidad. ¿Por qué las personas negras y morenas se han visto afectadas de manera tan desigual y qué se está haciendo para abordarlo?

 

Dr. Cameron Webb: Es una pregunta importante. Y creo que la respuesta simple es que, bueno, este virus en sí no se dirige a las personas en función de su raza o etnia. Sí aprovecha al máximo esta idea de desventaja social y ahora el virus ha podido propagarse en ciertas comunidades debido a la falta de inversión, la falta de apoyo, la falta de acceso a la atención médica. Esa es parte de la razón por la que hemos visto un impacto tan devastador en las comunidades negras y morenas.

 

Es fácil para las personas pensar detenidamente en el componente de acceso a la atención médica y, de manera desproporcionada, es más probable que la comunidad negra y morena no estén aseguradas, y eso es parte de ello. Y también es más probable que tengan afecciones médicas crónicas y sabemos que esas afecciones médicas generan mayor riesgo a tener resultados graves a causa de la COVID-19. Pero eso no explica toda la historia.

 

La cuestión es que es más probable que las comunidades negras y morenas sean trabajadores esenciales de primera línea, ya sea en entornos sanitarios, ya sea en el transporte o en los servicios de alimentos que realmente se sacrificaron, en términos de que son personas que no pudieron tener el privilegio de sentarse en casa, ponerse en cuarentena o aislarse durante esta pandemia.

 

Muchas de esas personas son personas de raza negra y morena, ellos literalmente mantuvieron el país en funcionamiento durante esta pandemia y han pagado un alto precio por la falta de protección en cuanto a equipos de protección personal, falta de protección, en cuanto al acceso a otros recursos en el camino. Y por eso es tan importante que cuando hablamos de equidad de COVID-19, tenemos que pensar en abordar esas dinámicas.

 

Ya sabes, la gente habla de la vivienda como una de esas dinámicas, o el transporte como una de esas dinámicas, pero tenemos que incorporar todo eso en nuestro concepto de equidad ante la COVID-19. Por eso es tan importante el esfuerzo para vacunarse. Reconocer que estas comunidades han sido las más afectadas de tantas maneras, no es para nada aceptable que se queden atrás en las tasas de vacunación debido al mismo problema sistémico y estructural.

 

Y entonces, creo que saben, está profundamente arraigado, se remonta a la existencia de esta nación y ha continuado perpetuando la desigualdad. Pero creo que este es uno de esos momentos en el que traemos a la luz la realidad, y decimos que tenemos que dar un paso al frente.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Dr. Webb. Información muy importante. Y si estás escuchando hoy y quieres aprender más sobre esto, puedes visitar www.AARP.org/coronavirus o www.AARP.org/elcoronavirus para obtener más información. Dr. Juan Rivera, vamos con usted. Mientras que los casos y las hospitalizaciones han caído desde los máximos de enero y el paso de vacunación está aumentando, estamos viendo otro aumento en la hospitalización y casos en varios estados. ¿Qué está impulsando esto?

 

Dr. Juan Rivera: Creo, Yvette, que hay varios factores que están impulsando el aumento de casos y hospitalizaciones que estamos viendo recientemente. Un elemento es la nueva variante, pero en particular la variante B117, que se está volviendo la más predominante ahora en Estados Unidos. Esta es la variante del Reino Unido, que sabemos que es más transmisible y hay un poco de evidencia que sugiere que también podría ser más letal.

 

De modo que, en combinación con el hecho de que estamos viendo una flexibilización de algunas de las medidas preventivas en ciertos estados y en ciertas ciudades, creo que eso puede explicar por qué estamos viendo este aumento de casos. Creo que también es importante decir que el aumento de casos que estamos viendo, y probablemente seguiremos viendo, es principalmente en personas más jóvenes.

 

Esto se debe a que tenemos un porcentaje significativo de la población mayor de 65 años que ya están vacunados, por lo que estamos viendo que los nuevos casos son en personas, digamos, menores de 40 años, o mucho más que lo que estamos viendo en la población mayor. Entonces, siempre le he dicho a mi audiencia que seguimos en esta carrera. Y es muy simple.

 

Estamos en una carrera entre qué tan rápido podemos vacunar a las personas versus qué tan rápido estas variantes pueden propagarse en nuestras comunidades. Y ahí está la importancia de la vacunación. ¿Por qué? Porque sabemos en este momento que hay vacunas disponibles, que hacen un trabajo decente en términos de protegernos de estas variantes particulares.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Dr. Juan. Sabemos que el acceso a las vacunas es fundamental. Y actualmente las comunidades latinas tienen una tasa más baja de vacunación. Solo el 16% de los latinos en EE.UU. se han vacunado, comparado con el 28% de las personas blancas no hispanas. Esta disparidad debe abordarse mejorando el acceso a las vacunas y brindando un mejor acceso a la información. Con eso me gustaría darte el espacio aquí ahora Frankie. ¿Cuál es el impacto de que esta información se comparta de boca en boca y a través de las redes sociales? ¿Y puedes compartir algunos ejemplos?

 

Frankie Miranda: Gracias, Yvette. Creo que para responder a esta pregunta correctamente solo quiero dedicar un minuto a hablar sobre la diferencia entre la mala información y la desinformación. La mala información es información falsa que se difunde, independientemente de si existe alguna intención de confundir. Por otro lado la desinformación, es información que se proporciona deliberadamente para engañar y se comparte a sabiendas información sesgada o narrativas manipuladoras. Por tanto, existe una diferencia entre la mala información y la desinformación, y tiene que ver con la intención.

 

Entonces, cuando las personas difunden información errónea, a menudo creen en esta información falsa que están compartiendo. Y entonces la desinformación, que está diseñada y tiene la intención de engañar a la gente, puede convertirse en mala información. Entonces, lo que quiero enfatizar aquí, es que a veces en nuestra comunidad la gente comparte información falsa sin saber que es información falsa. Y ha sido creada a propósito, dirigida a nuestras comunidades, por personas que quieren asegurarse de que no obtengamos la información correcta.

 

Lo que hemos escuchado es esta idea de que la vacuna va a cambiar tu ADN, que la vacuna te va a enfermar, que tiene el virus y por eso te vas a enfermar. Además, ha habido algunas historias sobre microchips que se implantan, o que esto está relacionado de alguna manera con algún tipo de plan religioso o maligno que está en contra de la religión. Todo esto es información diseñada para confundir a nuestra comunidad, y sabemos que específicamente en español, ambas publicaciones en las redes sociales no han sido etiquetadas correctamente o no han sido dirigidas y se continuaron compartiendo, y la gente siente que por estar publicado en línea es real.

 

Nuestro importante consejo para todos es que para obtener la información correcta, deben escuchar las noticias, ir a las organizaciones, como el sitio web de AARP, o hablar con organizaciones comunitarias o con su médico para obtener la información correcta. Sabemos que cuando se trata de la persona adecuada, los portavoces adecuados, los embajadores de información adecuados, nuestra comunidad quiere vacunarse. Así que todos tenemos que hacer nuestra parte, y asegurarnos de que cuando compartamos información sobre la vacuna, la efectividad o la intención, que lo hagamos sabiendo que hemos verificado el hecho. Y es por eso que estamos teniendo estas importantes conversaciones esta noche.

 

Yvette Peña: Muchas gracias Frankie. Solo un recordatorio, para hacer una pregunta por favor presiona * 3 en el teclado de tu teléfono, o puedes dejarla en la sección de comentarios, en Facebook o YouTube. Mónica, bienvenida. Y gracias por tu tiempo. Casi 4 de cada 10 trabajadores latinos de 50 años o más son parte de la fuerza laboral esencial. Esto incluye a las personas que trabajan en la atención médica, las tiendas de comestibles y la agricultura. ¿Cuál es la experiencia de estos trabajadores en la pandemia? ¿Se refleja esto en la distribución de vacunas?

 

Mónica Ramírez: Gracias Yvette. Y quiero decir que agradezco todo lo que se ha compartido hasta ahora. Coincide plenamente con lo que hemos estado escuchando y experimentando en la comunidad. Y también quiero decirles a todos los que escuchan, que es probable que conozcas a alguien que haya sido afectado por la COVID-19 o es posible que tú mismo te hayas enfermado, y espero que sepas que todos lamentamos profundamente todo lo que has experimentado durante esta crisis. Ha sido traumático para todos nosotros, y particularmente aquellos que han estado lidiando con enfermedades y algunas pérdidas por la enfermedad.

 

Creo que la fuerza laboral esencial ha vivido una combinación de confusión y ansiedad, y como dijo Frankie, ha habido mucha mala información. Y en cuanto a los trabajadores mal pagados, ha existido esta realidad en la que trabajadores que no habían sido considerados o llamados esenciales, como los trabajadores agrícolas y otros, de repente se consideraron esenciales pero no se les proporcionaba ninguno de los beneficios o el apoyo que se necesitaban.

 

De hecho, muchos de los trabajadores agrícolas con los que trabajamos y a quienes prestamos servicios hablaron de que se les dieron unas tarjetas que decían que podían ir a trabajar, y que debían mostrar esas tarjetas a las autoridades si los detienen en una situación de encierro. Pero no se les dio mucha más información, no se les dio la mascarilla que necesitaban, no había posibilidad de distanciamiento social.

 

Entonces, esencialmente, eran invocados para mantener nuestro país en movimiento y mantener la comida en nuestra mesa pero no se les dio lo que necesitaban para sobrevivir o para mantenerse. Y, en consecuencia, hemos visto una gran cantidad del coronavirus entre muchos de estos trabajadores de primera línea. Sabes, en la comunidad de trabajadores agrícolas se publicó un estudio de University of Purdue que decía que ha habido más de medio millón de casos estimados de COVID-19 en la comunidad de trabajadores agrícolas y más de 9,000 muertes.

 

Y sabemos que probablemente no sea un reflejo fiel de la realidad. Y esa es solo una fuerza laboral. Por lo tanto, hemos estado tratando de obtener información precisa para la comunidad, tratando de abordar algunos de los temores que se han mencionado, las preocupaciones sobre si las autoridades usarían la información contra las personas, particularmente si eran indocumentadas; preocupación de que la información sobre la ayuda que recibieron, los programas que se estaban brindando, ya sean pruebas o ahora vacunación, de alguna manera se usaría en su contra, llamándolos una carga pública y evitando que algún día puedan obtener ayuda migratoria si y cuando eso llegara a suceder. Así que ha habido muchas cosas con las que la gente ha estado lidiando y el miedo a enfermarse es solo una parte de eso.

 

Debo decir que lo que vimos en el campo, en términos de activismo desde dentro de la comunidad, desde, ya saben, los fondos de ayuda mutua que se han creado, hasta el esfuerzo comunitario para llevar información a la gente acerca de las pruebas y la vacunación y ahora, los esfuerzos para asegurarse de que las personas realmente puedan acceder a la vacuna, porque en realidad no es tan fácil para muchos de los trabajadores de primera línea de los que estamos hablando en particular, gente de la comunidad latina y aquellos que son inmigrantes y tal vez no hablan inglés, de hecho, es bastante desafiante.

 

Y, afortunadamente, creo que tuvimos un período de aprendizaje durante la fase de prueba donde pudimos comenzar a descubrir cómo hacer clínicas móviles y cómo asegurarnos de que teníamos disponible información cultural y lingüísticamente apropiada. Pero yo diría que todavía hay un poco más de brecha de información, y es por eso que todos tenemos que seguir hablando, hablando juntos y hablando una y otra vez sobre los recursos disponibles. No solo del Gobierno, sino también de la organización sobre el terreno, en todo el país, que desean apoyar a los miembros de la comunidad que lo necesitan.

 

Y también para los trabajadores mayores de 50 años, el grupo demográfico del que se compone la membresía de AARP, ya sabes, existe esta ansiedad adicional por faltar al trabajo y no estar disponible para trabajar, y la posibilidad de discriminación por edad contra las personas que pertenecen a ese grupo demográfico. Y eso es algo a lo que también debemos ser sensibles y responder para que la gente obtenga la información que necesita, pero también las referencias correctas para apoyos para quienes lo necesitan.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Verónica, es información muy importante. Esos esfuerzos comunitarios son muy importantes para nuestra comunidad. Pronto recibiremos algunas preguntas. Y quiero recordarles que para hacer una pregunta deben presionar * 3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con el personal de AARP. O si nos acompañan a través de Facebook o YouTube, pueden colocar sus preguntas en los comentarios.

 

Dr. Rivera, estamos encantados de tenerlo de regreso con nosotros. Hemos visto muchas preguntas sobre las diferentes vacunas. ¿Puede explicar la diferencia entre las tres vacunas en EE.UU.? ¿Son todas igualmente efectivas?

 

Dr. Juan Rivera: Sí, claro. Será un placer. Lo primero que diré es que las tres vacunas son muy efectivas, y que tenemos suerte de tener estas tres vacunas disponibles en este país en un tiempo récord increíble, lo cual ha sido un esfuerzo significativo y sin precedentes. Tenemos dos vacunas que llamamos vacunas de ARNm. Esas son la vacuna Pfizer y la vacuna Moderna. Son muy efectivas 10 días después de la segunda dosis, 94-95% de efectividad. Después de la primera dosis, obtienes aproximadamente un 50% de inmunidad o protección.

 

Es importante tener en cuenta que la vacuna Pfizer se administra en dos dosis con tres semanas de diferencia. La vacuna Moderna se obtiene en dos dosis con cuatro semanas de diferencia. Ambas vacunas son seguras. Hay personas que tienen los efectos secundarios típicos de fiebre, escalofríos, algunos dolores corporales. Y eso puede suceder durante 24, normalmente hasta 48 horas. Pero eso es algo que hemos visto con otras vacunas.

 

Quiero ser claro, nada sugiere que estas vacunas, a pesar de que se llaman vacunas de ARNm, no hay evidencia de que afecten el ADN de un individuo. Se trata de vacunas que, si bien es la primera vez que se utilizan en seres humanos, se han estado estudiado desde hace bastante tiempo. Por eso es importante especificar eso. También es importante que las personas comprendan que pasaron por los tres estudios clínicos diferentes, o fases de estudio clínico, por las que suelen pasar las vacunas.

 

Los datos se han informado de forma revisada por pares y, obviamente, como sabemos, han sido aprobadas por la FDA en términos de aprobación de emergencia. También tenemos una vacuna J&J. Por la razón que sea, esta vacuna ha llegado a un cierto grado de mala reputación, y creo que eso se debe a que los medios de comunicación generalmente solo informan fragmentos. Y la gente dice que la vacuna Johnson & Johnson tiene una efectividad del 66%. Bueno, depende de cómo se mire el resultado.

 

Y lo importante que hay que entender aquí es que la vacuna Johnson & Johnson es 100% efectiva en términos de proteger a las personas de la hospitalización o la muerte. Las vacunas Johnson & Johnson tienen una efectividad del 85% en términos de proteger a las personas de enfermedades graves. La vacuna J&J es solo una dosis, por lo tanto, los individuos serían inmunes 10 días o 10 a 14 días después de la dosis inicial.

 

Inmediatamente pueden ver cómo, desde el punto de vista de la salud pública, eso proporciona una ventaja. Porque al final del día, lo que estamos tratando de hacer aquí es vacunar a más del 70-75% de la población. Esa es la definición de inmunidad colectiva. Así es como protegemos a los demás en la comunidad. Entonces, si lo haces de una sola vez, con una dosis, frente a esperar los 31 días para Pfizer o los 38 días para Moderna, esa es una ventaja increíble que tiene la vacuna Johnson & Johnson.

 

La otra cosa, tocando un poco los mitos y lo que escuchamos de nuestra comunidad, escuché que la gente tuvo una entrevista con Eugenio Derbez después de que nosotros tuvimos una entrevista con el Dr. Anthony Fauci. Y una de las cosas que Eugenio Derbez estaba diciendo era: "Bueno, me preocupa que estas vacunas de ARNm son nuevas, las tecnologías son nuevas." Y dije, bueno, ¿sabes qué?, podemos debatir eso y puedo educarte sobre por qué creemos que son seguras, pero, por las dudas, simplemente aplícate la vacuna Johnson & Johnson. Esa es una tecnología más antigua, es un adenovirus con una proteína de pico del coronavirus que se inyecta en tu cuerpo.

 

Si estás preocupado por eso, que por cierto, no creo que tengas que preocuparte por eso, pero si estás preocupado por eso, tienes la oportunidad de elegir, aplícate la vacuna Johnson & Johnson. Entonces creo que estas tres vacunas son efectivas. Creo que estas son las mejores herramientas que tenemos, obviamente en combinación con todas las medidas preventivas de las que hemos hablado mucho. Y lo que he hecho en los últimos seis meses es tratar de educar a la comunidad hispana sobre la seguridad de las vacunas, sobre la importancia de hacerlo. Y hay muchos mitos dando vueltas, mucha, como decían los colegas, mala información, desinformación.

 

Y lo último que diré es lo siguiente. Durante mucho tiempo durante la pandemia, los funcionarios del Gobierno no dieron información en español a la comunidad hispana. Fue muy difícil obtener información en español de los CDC sobre lo que estaba sucediendo con la pandemia, pero los hispanos morían y los hispanos eran hospitalizados a un ritmo cada vez mayor. Así que nadie excepto nosotros en este grupo y, obviamente, otros en nuestra comunidad hablábamos con ellos, y ahora, de repente, el Gobierno quiere que se vacunen.

 

Es difícil, es difícil ganarse la confianza de toda una comunidad en tan poco tiempo cuando han estado pasando por lo que hemos descrito aquí, por lo que hemos estado pasando en la comunidad. Entonces, es mi opinión, y le dije esto al secretario del HHS, que si los funcionarios del gobierno quieren aumentar el número de hispanos que se vacunan, necesitan asociarse y empoderar a los médicos de la comunidad que ya tienen la confianza de esas personas para poder proporcionarles la vacuna.

 

Yvette Peña: Genial, gracias por esa respuesta tan completa, Doctor Juan. Responderemos algunas preguntas muy pronto. Quiero recordarles a todos que deben presionar * 3 en cualquier momento en el teclado del teléfono para conectarse con el personal de AARP. Y si nos acompañan en Facebook o YouTube, pueden colocar sus preguntas en los comentarios.

 

Antes de que respondamos las preguntas de nuestros socios queremos abordar un tema importante. Sabemos que muchos de ustedes tienen dificultad con el registro de vacunas, porque muchos lugares requieren suscripciones a través de formularios en línea y si no tienes acceso a una computadora, esto puede presentar un reto. AARP quiere ayudar. Hemos establecido un equipo de apoyo para el buscador de vacunas, de AARP para ayudar en estos casos.

 

Entonces, si estás escuchando hoy y no tienes una computadora, y no puedes registrarte para una vacuna en tu comunidad porque no tienes acceso a tecnología, por favor presiona 1, para ser agregado a una lista y recibir una llamada telefónica del personal de AARP que te ayude. Nuevamente, si estás escuchando hoy y no tienes acceso a una computadora o internet y no puedes registrarte para una vacuna debido a eso, por favor presiona 1, para ser agregado a una lista y recibir una llamada telefónica. Cuando lo hagas, escucharás un breve mensaje y luego volverás a la llamada.

 

Y ahora es el momento de abordar sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus con el Dr. Webb, el Dr. Juan, Frankie Miranda y Mónica Ramírez. Por favor presionen * 3, en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para ser conectados con un miembro del personal de AARP y compartir su pregunta. Y ahora, me gustaría traer a mi colega de AARP, Verónica Segovia Bedon para ayudar a facilitar sus llamadas. Bienvenida, Verónica.

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: Hola Yvette.

 

Yvette Peña: Hola Verónica.

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: Tenemos nuestra primera llamada, de Irene en Carolina del Sur. Y creo que esta será una gran pregunta para el Dr. Juan.

 

Yvette Peña: Bien, hola Irene. Cuéntanos tu pregunta, estás en vivo.

 

Irene: Buenas noches y gracias por atender mi llamada. Estoy muy preocupada por todas las vacunas que hay, y todos en las comunidades estamos preocupados, y todos queremos ayuda, pero no queremos que surjan otros problemas. He escuchado un montón de cosas sobre si te vacunas... si tienes una reacción alérgica. Esas personas que tienen reacciones alérgicas, tengo entendido que las vacunas a veces las hacen sentir realmente mal. Tienen una reacción realmente mala y muchas veces es demasiado tarde después de que se vacunan, y tienen que pasar por toda esa agonía y ese dolor.

 

La otra cosa que quiero preguntar, ¿es este un tipo de experimento que se hace en todos los seres humanos, del que no están muy seguros de si va a funcionar o no? Porque todo el mundo sigue en cuarentena, todo el mundo todavía lleva mascarillas, y están ocurriendo de un lugar a otro. Así que me pregunto si esto nos ayudará en algo.

 

Yvette Peña: Muchas gracias por tu pregunta. Dejaremos que el Dr. Juan responda a tus múltiples preguntas ahora.

 

Dr. Juan Rivera: Sí, aquí hay un par de preguntas. Y lo primero que quiero expresar es que entiendo sus preocupaciones. Por supuesto, creo que sus preocupaciones son importantes y válidas. Y es importante que obtengan la información correcta, para que puedan tomar la mejor decisión para uno y la familia. Lo primero que quiero abordar es lo experimental.

 

No es experimental en el sentido de que en el momento en que estamos, cuando la FDA aprueba una terapia, en este caso una vacuna, pasa por diferentes etapas. Pasa por una primera etapa en la que la probamos en animales, y estamos buscando entender la efectividad y si hay algún efecto secundario, y si todo va bien, pasamos a la etapa 2. Y en la etapa 2, hacemos lo que se llama un ensayo clínico, que es otro experimento, por así decirlo, con un pequeño grupo de seres humanos.

 

Nuevamente, estaremos tratando de determinar si es efectivo en el pequeño grupo de seres humanos y si causa algún efecto secundario que debería preocuparnos. La respuesta, en esta vacuna en particular fue no, así que pasamos a la fase 3 o la etapa 3. Ahora, este es un ensayo clínico, en el que participaron entre 15,000 y 20,000 personas. Y lo hacen de forma aleatoria, lo que significa que, digamos, 10,000 personas reciben la vacuna, 10,000 reciben lo que se llama un placebo o una inyección de azúcar y luego comprenden cuántas personas que recibieron la vacuna obtienen inmunidad u obtienen una protección significativa, cuántos efectos secundarios en comparación con las personas que recibieron el placebo.

 

Todas estas vacunas pasaron por estas tres fases apropiadas antes de que la FDA las aprobara. Entonces pasaron por la fase experimental, de la misma forma que algunos de los medicamentos que tomamos hoy, pasaron por las mismas fases. Y fue solo entonces cuando se decidió que era apropiado que el público las recibiera. Así que pasaron toda la fase experimental y ahora es apropiado que nos pongamos la vacuna.

 

Solo para informarles, yo recibí mi segunda vacuna el 6 de enero. Déjenme decirles, tengo una familia, tengo hijos. Miré la información, la estudié, porque también tenía preocupaciones y entendí que era segura. ¿Creen que me voy a poner una vacuna que creo que podría dañarme a mí o a mi familia o tener consecuencias en el futuro? Bueno, la respuesta es no. Quiero vivir, tanto como ustedes, y quiero estar a salvo, al igual que ustedes. Entonces eso es lo primero.

 

Número dos, ¿es esto algo efectivo? ¿Es lo correcto? Permítanme hacerles una pregunta. Cuando tomen esta decisión, quiero que piensen en dos elementos diferentes. Número uno, el riesgo de la vacuna. Estoy de acuerdo, no hay nada en la vida que tenga un 0% de riesgo, nada. Existe un pequeño riesgo de reacciones alérgicas con la vacuna, etc., entraré en eso en un minuto, pero el riesgo es muy bajo.

 

Veamos el riesgo del coronavirus: más de 500,000 muertes. Hay miles de miles de personas que están sufriendo una secuela diferente. Esto significa que algunas personas tienen problemas cardiovasculares después de recuperarse de la fase aguda del [virus]. Algunas personas tienen problemas neurológicos, algunas personas tienen dolor de espalda, fatiga crónica.

 

Así que no se trata solo de si vives o mueres, se trata de cómo terminas después de la enfermedad aguda. Entonces, cuando tomas esos dos riesgos, en mi opinión, el riesgo de la vacuna es significativamente, significativamente menor que la ruleta rusa que es el coronavirus. Y finalmente, sí, se han informado algunas reacciones alérgicas. Pero más de 100 millones de personas han recibido esta vacuna, y el número de reacciones alérgicas que hemos visto es extremadamente, extremadamente bajo.

 

Algunas reacciones alérgicas se han tratado de inmediato con medicación donde les dieron la vacuna. Entonces ese es un proceso que, aunque puede suceder, las posibilidades de que eso suceda son muy bajas en comparación con lo que podría sucederle a un paciente con coronavirus. Entonces, si alguien tiene antecedentes de alergias, ya sea una alergia a algún alimento o medicamento, eso no es una contraindicación para no vacunarse.

 

Ahora, si uno tuvo una reacción llamada reacción anafiláctica, en la que tuvo una reacción alérgica en el pasado que requirió el uso de epinefrina, hospitalización, o le faltaba mucho el aliento por eso, entonces sí, debe consultar con su médico antes de tomar una decisión. Esas fueron varias preguntas, pero espero haberlas respondido todas.

 

Yvette Peña: Genial. Respuesta muy completa Dr. Juan. Muchas gracias. Bueno, Verónica, ¿de quién es nuestra próxima llamada?

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: Yvette, tenemos a Ronald de Florida.

 

Yvette Peña: Hola Ronald de Florida. Estás en vivo, sigue adelante con tu pregunta.

 

Ronald: Sí, me gustaría saber qué medidas se están tomando para llevar la vacuna a los principales trabajadores agrícolas en las áreas donde viven y trabajan.

 

Yvette Peña: Mónica, esta sería una buena pregunta para ti.

 

Mónica Ramírez: Gracias. Sí, gracias por esta pregunta. Hay muchos planes diferentes en marcha para llevar la vacuna a los trabajadores agrícolas de todo nuestro país. Y hay muchas organizaciones que están trabajando en estrecha colaboración con los funcionarios de salud estatales, con el Gobierno federal y también con los funcionarios de salud del condado, para hacer vacunación móvil, donde, como en el caso de trabajadores agrícolas migratorios como en el estado de Ohio, donde vivo, que muchos trabajadores agrícolas vienen aquí para hacer el trabajo.

 

Se están planificando clínicas móviles para que los profesionales de la salud puedan acudir a los campamentos donde viven los trabajadores para administrarles la vacuna, y luego también hay alianzas que se están formando con los funcionarios de salud y las organizaciones de base en las que la comunidad de trabajadores agrícolas confían, para ayudar a vacunar a las personas, ya sea ayudando a concertar citas o llevándoles información a los trabajadores sobre cómo inscribirse.

 

Otro esfuerzo en marcha, que es realmente muy importante, es que hemos estado tratando de organizarnos y promover más directamente con los agricultores. Y sabes, muchas veces el trabajo que hacemos sobre el terreno es dentro de la comunidad. Y a menudo no tenemos mucho contacto con los propios agricultores. Y creo que para que podamos llegar a la mayor cantidad posible de trabajadores con la vacuna, es de vital importancia que los defensores de los trabajadores agrícolas y los agricultores trabajen juntos para que los trabajadores puedan tener acceso a la vacuna en los campamentos o en los lugares de trabajo donde están trabajando. Y se están realizando muchos esfuerzos en todo el país para lograrlo.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Mónica.

 

Yvette Peña: Bueno, Verónica. ¿A quién tenemos ahora?

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: Tenemos una pregunta de la lista en línea, de Alaina. Y ella pregunta, ¿qué pueden hacer las empresas más grandes para alentar a sus empleados a que se vacunen y asegurarles que no estarán en peligro, ya sea por el estado de su documentación o los efectos secundarios? ¿Qué pueden hacer las grandes empresas e iglesias para educar a la comunidad?

 

Yvette Peña: Buena pregunta, Frankie, ¿te gustaría responderla?

 

Frankie Miranda: Absolutamente, absolutamente y gracias por la pregunta. Lo importante es que en este momento la Administración de Biden está pidiendo a todos los estados que tengan los mismos requisitos para todos, a partir de finales de este mes. Ha sido un poco confuso en diferentes partes del país, en cuanto a quién puede recibir la vacuna, cuáles son los requisitos y para cuándo, pero una vez que todos alrededor de los 16 años puedan vacunarse, eso creará un mejor acceso a la vacuna y no habrá confusión.

 

Muchos de los estados están trabajando ahora mismo para tener sus planes de reapertura, aunque todavía nos preocupa la posibilidad de una cuarta ola del [virus]. Es importante que las empresas trabajen con sus empleados para informarles exactamente cuáles son los requisitos en este momento para la vacuna y la información que pueden necesitar. En ciertos estados, se deberá obtener algún tipo de certificación del trabajo, según el campo en el que se trabaje.

 

Pero al final del día, lo que esperamos es que para fin de mes, antes de la fecha límite establecida por el presidente Biden, todos en este país comprendan que cualquier persona mayor de 16 años puede recibir la vacuna. Eso va a ser sumamente importante, y por supuesto el papel de las iglesias. Hemos visto muchas iglesias diferentes que se han movilizado, se han convertido en sitios de vacunación e información.

 

Han funcionado muy bien en las iglesias negras de todo el país, y continuamos alentando ese tipo de colaboración entre los empleadores y los empleados, los feligreses y las iglesias. Y nuevamente, otra parte que aún queremos enfatizar, fue mencionada antes por el Dr. Juan, que los trabajadores comunitarios, los médicos comunitarios, ¿no? pero también las organizaciones comunitarias son extremadamente importantes para nuestra comunidad.

 

Ellos han sido los que han estado brindando los servicios durante la pandemia, en muchos casos, asistencia alimentaria, asistencia en efectivo, asistencia para el alquiler y mucha más información para nuestra comunidad más vulnerable. Esas son las organizaciones a las que la gente debe seguir acudiendo para obtener más información y también muchas de ellas se están convirtiendo en sitios de vacunación. Entonces, en este momento lo más importante es que todos obtengan información clara en cada estado de que todos en Estados Unidos y sus territorios pueden tener acceso a la vacuna para que no haya más confusión.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias, Frankie. Información muy, muy importante, especialmente sobre el lanzamiento de esta vacuna. Verónica, ¿de quién es nuestra próxima llamada?

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: A continuación tenemos a Peter de Nueva York.

 

Yvette Peña: Hola, Peter de Nueva York, estás en vivo. Continúa con tu pregunta.

 

Peter: Mi pregunta era ¿cuánto se supone que durará esta vacuna? Inicialmente me dijeron que es como la vacuna contra el sarampión, una sola inyección y estás hecho de por vida. Ahora parece que me están diciendo que solo durará seis meses. Y si solo va a durar seis meses, ¿será como una vacuna contra la gripe que cambia todos los años? Y si no lo saben, deberían informarnos: "Simplemente no lo sabemos todavía". Gracias.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Peter. Dr. Webb, ¿le gustaría abordar esta pregunta?

 

Dr. Cameron Webb: Claro, Peter, esa es una buena pregunta. Creo que la esperanza siempre ha sido que podamos diseñar una vacuna que dure el mayor tiempo posible. Lo que sabemos en este momento es que los investigadores que han estado siguiendo esto saben que la vacuna proporciona algo de protección inmunitaria, supongo, durante al menos seis meses. Entonces eso no significa que solo durará seis meses, significa que durante todo el tiempo que han podido rastrearlo, pueden decir que todavía está brindando protección durante seis meses.

 

Continúan siguiendo a ese grupo inicial de pacientes para ver cuánto dura. La esperanza es que dure un tiempo, no sabemos exactamente cuánto tiempo, pero sí sabemos que puede ser algo duradero. Pero escuchamos antes, creo que fue el Dr. Juan quien dijo que uno de los desafíos es que también tenemos estas variantes. Una de las cosas que siempre debemos tener en cuenta es qué tan bien funcionan todas las vacunas que tenemos en nuestro cinturón de herramientas, qué tan bien funcionan contra la variante en circulación.

 

Hasta ahora, las vacunas que tenemos parecen estar funcionando bastante bien con la variante circulante, particularmente la B117, que es la cepa o variante más predominante que tenemos en Estados Unidos a esta altura. Las vacunas aún funcionan bien contra eso, pero tenemos que estar atentos. Entonces, lo que no queremos hacer es prometer a la gente que la vacuna durará para siempre, entendiendo que hay muchas variables. Pero lo que sí sabemos es que las vacunas que fueron diseñadas sí funcionan y brindan una buena protección durante al menos seis meses, y continuaremos rastreando cuánto duran, y partiremos de ahí.

 

Es diferente de la gripe, por su naturaleza, en que no necesariamente esperamos que este coronavirus sea idéntico a la gripe, en que hay una cepa diferente, la cepa dominante cada año, y estamos destinados a ver cuál está emergiendo como la cepa predominante de COVID-19. Con la COVID-19 es un poco diferente, pero aún así, es el nuevo coronavirus. Es algo nuevo, por lo que estamos rastreando los datos todos los días, estamos verificando cuánto duran y hasta ahora continúan durando, no estamos viendo que esa inmunidad se desvanezca.

 

Yvette Peña: Genial. Muchas gracias Dr. Webb, y gracias a todos por todas sus preguntas. Recuerda, si deseas hacer preguntas, presiona * 3. Ahora, volvamos a nuestros expertos. Dr. Webb, ¿cómo están representadas las personas de color, en particular los latinos, en el desarrollo y las pruebas de las vacunas que se distribuyen en EE.UU.?

 

Dr. Cameron Webb: Es una pregunta muy importante, como hombre negro también escucho las mismas preguntas de la comunidad negra. ¿Estuvimos representados en estos ensayos? Y muchas veces se preguntan, ¿va a funcionar la vacuna también en mí? ¿Conseguirá el mismo resultado? Bueno, en términos de cómo van los ensayos de vacunas, estos son ensayos de vacunas muy representativos.

 

El ensayo de Moderna tuvo aproximadamente un 20% de latinos, el ensayo de Pfizer, aproximadamente un 26%, y el de Johnson & Johnson tuvo aproximadamente un 45%. Y entonces hubo una muy buena representación en esos ensayos de la comunidad latina. Creo que en realidad la comunidad negra tuvo una participación de alrededor del 9%, casi el 10% en la de Moderna y Pfizer, y alrededor del 17% en la de Johnson & Johnson. Entonces, lo que eso nos dice es que puedes sentirte cómodo con las conclusiones que se extrajeron sobre cómo funciona esta vacuna.

 

Esas conclusiones se aplican también a las comunidades negras y morenas. Es muy buena para prevenir hospitalizaciones, es muy buena para prevenir la muerte. Es muy segura, y eso es cierto para las personas de color, por igual. Así que es útil y recuerda que esos ensayos se hicieron con más de 75,000 personas entre Pfizer y Moderna, por lo que hubo mucha representación allí.

 

Y luego, si te fijas un poco mejor, al día de hoy, alrededor de 6.6 millones de latinos han recibido al menos una dosis de esta vacuna. Incluso más allá del ensayo, ahora tenemos esta experiencia del mundo real y 5.2 millones de personas de raza negra han recibido esta vacuna en este momento. Cuando se observa la experiencia del mundo real con las comunidades de color y esta vacuna en particular, vemos lo mismo. Sigue siendo eficaz y segura, y funciona para todas estas comunidades. Entonces, buena información, tenemos muchos, muchos puntos de datos a esta altura, buena representación y confianza en que esas conclusiones se aplican a todos.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Dr. Webb, es muy bueno ver esa representación, especialmente entre hermanos y hermanas negros y morenos. Dr. Juan, ¿qué consejo le daría a los abuelos que están cuidando a sus nietos que regresan a la escuela o a hogares con varias generaciones de personas donde las personas pueden tener que salir de la casa para ir a trabajar? ¿Qué pueden hacer para mantenerse a salvo?

 

Dr. Juan Rivera: Creo que los CDC han sido muy claros en este tema, creo que los abuelos deben vacunarse. Creo que si se han vacunado y si están visitando una casa, digamos la casa de un niño donde hay... o su hijo o hija, donde hay una pareja casada y nietos, etc., en realidad pueden, si han pasado diez días desde la última dosis de la vacuna, pueden ir y pasar tiempo con esa familia. Sobre todo si las familias también se vacunaron pero aunque el nieto no esté vacunado, pueden pasar tiempo sin mascarilla y sin distanciamiento social. Y esa es la directriz de los CDC. Por eso creo que las vacunas son la mejor herramienta que tenemos.

 

Al final del día, creo que este es un mensaje importante y creo que todos debemos centrarnos en estos aspectos cuando hablamos de vacunas, porque hablamos mucho sobre la evidencia científica, hablamos mucho sobre la eficacia, hablamos de muchos otros hechos, de que son seguras, y todo eso es cierto. Pero al final del día, lo que todos en este país y en cualquier otro país quieren, es volver a la normalidad. Un abuelo o una abuela abrazando a sus nietos, eso es normal. Esa es la vida normal, y la forma de llegar a esa vida normal, de llegar a ese contacto humano que nos define como especie, es vacunándonos, consiguiendo la inmunidad y haciendo nuestra parte para lograr la inmunidad colectiva y proteger a la comunidad como un todo.

 

Ahora, quiero mencionar algo que creo que también es muy importante. Cuando hablamos de que las personas se vacunen, debemos ser muy claros, no solo estamos hablando de Estados Unidos. Estamos hablando del mundo entero, porque podemos vacunarnos aquí en Estados Unidos, pero si hay países en desarrollo que no están recibiendo las vacunas y no se están vacunando, el coronavirus seguirá, surgirán nuevas variantes y llegarán a Estados Unidos eventualmente, y las vacunas pueden funcionar o no, por lo que la vacunación es para todo el mundo. El mundo entero quiere volver a la normalidad, no solo nosotros.

 

Yvette Peña: Tienes tanta razón, el mundo entero se ve afectado y todos quieren volver a la normalidad. Gracias por esta buena información. Mónica, las mujeres, especialmente las latinas, se han visto muy afectadas por la pandemia. Han tenido más dificultades con la economía y muchas han tenido que asumir tareas adicionales de cuidado familiar. ¿Qué ha revelado la pandemia sobre los cambios de política que necesitamos para apoyar mejor a los cuidadores familiares, en particular a las mujeres?

 

Mónica Ramírez: Bueno, definitivamente esta pandemia ha revelado que deberíamos haber aprobado políticas que apoyaran a los cuidadores hace mucho tiempo, porque no teníamos la red de seguridad y el apoyo para realmente sostener y apoyar a los cuidadores durante esta crisis. Necesitamos políticas en las que las personas tengan derecho a una licencia remunerada, o que las personas tengan licencia para poder cuidar de su familia, donde no tengan que preocuparse por tener que elegir entre el trabajo y el cuidado de su familia.

 

Hemos visto que más de 2 millones de mujeres han sido expulsadas del mercado laboral, y más de un millón de las mujeres que han sido expulsadas del mercado laboral desde que comenzó la pandemia han sido latinas. Y entendemos que la razón por la que ha sido difícil para muchos de estos cuidadores y mujeres permanecer en su posición ha sido que, como dijo el Dr. Webb al principio, no tenían la protección adecuada al entrar en esta crisis.

 

Por lo tanto, no se trata solo de tener políticas que brinden licencia pagada y licencia por enfermedad pagada y la capacidad de cuidar a tu familia si alguien más se enferma, etc., sino también algunas de las protecciones básicas que las personas necesitan. No todos los trabajadores de nuestro país tienen los mismos derechos básicos, y eso debe cambiar para que la gente pueda tener una red de seguridad. Va a ser muy importante en el futuro que se promulguen políticas que vayan a ayudar a que las mujeres vuelvan a trabajar, porque hay más de 2 millones de mujeres que dejaron la fuerza laboral debido a esta crisis para cuidar de sus familias.

 

Entendemos que se necesitarán muchas cosas para que las mujeres vuelvan a trabajar en puestos que sean iguales a los que tenían antes, si no mejores, porque además de los otros problemas que enfrentan las mujeres, también tenemos que lidiar con las brechas que existen en términos de brecha salarial y de riqueza, que ya eran problemas persistentes. Entonces, esta pandemia ha revelado mucho, y lo que nos ha dicho es que tenemos que seguir insistiendo en las políticas que siempre supimos que debían aprobarse y ahora vamos a tener que ser muy creativos con los otros tipos de políticas y programas que servirán de apoyo para ayudar a las mujeres a regresar a la fuerza laboral.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias, Mónica. Y ahora es el momento de abordar más preguntas, pero antes de hacerlo, queremos asegurarnos de que presiones * 3 en cualquier momento para conectarte con el personal de AARP. ¿De acuerdo? Tenemos preguntas en la cola. Verónica, ¿a quién tenemos en la línea?

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: Muy bien, Yvette, tenemos una pregunta de nuestra lista en línea, y dice que muchos residentes de comunidades rurales han tenido dificultades para acceder a las vacunas. ¿Qué más se necesita hacer para garantizar que las comunidades rurales tengan acceso a la vacuna?

 

Yvette Peña: ¿Qué tal Frankie y Mónica para contestar esta pregunta?

 

Frankie Miranda: Gracias Yvette, y Mónica aludió a esto antes, la importancia de continuar trabajando con las autoridades locales para asegurarse de que no existe una solución única para la vacunación. En diferentes comunidades, en diferentes regiones, se necesitan diferentes enfoques y se necesitan múltiples enfoques.

 

Entonces, en este momento, cuando se trata de comunidades rurales, es realmente importante trabajar con las autoridades locales, la salud comunitaria, las clínicas de salud calificadas a nivel federal, las organizaciones sin fines de lucro, pero también las unidades móviles. Necesitamos asegurarnos de que las personas no necesiten conducir millas, demasiadas millas para llegar a un centro de vacunación.

 

Los centros de vacunación necesitan llegar a muchas de estas comunidades rurales, y eso ya está sucediendo con unidades móviles. Y la forma en que Mónica también describió el trabajo con los agricultores y también para llegar a los trabajadores agrícolas, es realmente importante tener un enfoque múltiple. En un momento, el problema era que no teníamos suficientes vacunas. Ahora que la cantidad de vacunas ya no es un problema, se trata de encontrar formas colaborativas e innovadoras de llegar a las comunidades que más lo necesitan. ¿Mónica?

 

Mónica Ramirez: Sí, estoy totalmente de acuerdo, Frankie. La otra cosa es asegurarse de que los centros de salud comunitarios, que son los principales proveedores de atención médica de los que dependen muchas personas en las zonas rurales de Estados Unidos, tengan suficiente suministro. Una de las cosas de las que no hablamos lo suficiente cuando se trata de las zonas rurales de Estados Unidos es que no tenemos el mismo tipo de acceso de banda ancha en muchos lugares de nuestras comunidades y, por lo tanto, hacer llegar la información básica a la gente sobre cómo averiguar, dónde inscribirse, la posibilidad de inscribirse, esos son desafíos reales en las zonas rurales de Estados Unidos.

 

Por lo tanto, tenemos que pensar de manera creativa sobre cómo se está llevando a cabo la divulgación y cómo se está registrando a las personas para obtener las citas de vacunas. También recomendaría, más allá de las clínicas móviles, que probablemente tendrá que haber fondos en transporte que realmente se inviertan en la comunidad, de modo que cuando no sea posible establecer una clínica móvil, se pueden otorgar pequeñas subvenciones a las organizaciones de base y grupos locales para ayudar a llevar a las personas al sitio de vacunación o para idear algún sistema en el que los servicios de viaje o los servicios en puerta, o como se llamen, en esa localidad en particular, estén disponibles para transportar a las personas al lugar de vacunación.

 

Yvette Peña: Genial, gracias Mónica. Antes de continuar con un par de preguntas más, solo quería volver muy rápidamente al tema del cuidado familiar. También quiero agregar que AARP estaba complacida con la nueva ley de arrendamiento económico, la Ley del Plan de Rescate de Estados Unidos incluye un aumento en el crédito tributario por hijos.

 

Esto es importante para los padres con hijos y los abuelos que pueden estar criando a sus nietos. Y lo más importante, el crédito ahora es totalmente reembolsable y se puede recibir como un reembolso mensual a partir de julio. Esto significa que más familias obtendrán dinero más rápidamente. Entonces, Frankie, quiero cambiar de rumbo solo un segundo. ¿Cómo ha cambiado el compromiso cívico en las comunidades latinas el año pasado como resultado de la pandemia?

 

Frankie Miranda: El compromiso cívico fue transformador para el año 2020, y nuestra comunidad jugó un papel increíble en la movilización, gracias en gran parte a la labor de las organizaciones comunitarias. Vimos el mayor aumento individual en la participación de votantes latinos, un aumento del 30% en la participación. Está claro que para cualquier partido político, nuestra comunidad es importante y, de hecho, marcó la diferencia en muchas de estas carreras en todo el país.

 

Lo que debemos tener en cuenta es que debemos continuar como latinos, continuar trabajando juntos para informarnos, expresarnos y realmente desempeñar un papel importante en la sociedad estadounidense, que somos parte de la sociedad estadounidense, pero que también debemos tomar medidas en el propósito de estos foros esta noche, debemos tomar medidas, obtener la información que necesitamos y vacunarnos.

 

Somos importantes y todos se dieron cuenta de eso en el último ciclo electoral, pero ese es el comienzo. Necesitamos continuar y para eso, todos necesitamos vacunarnos, dejar estos virus en el pasado y asegurarnos de que nuestra comunidad continúe siendo tan fuerte como lo ha sido hasta ahora.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Frankie, muy poderoso, muy poderoso todo este alcance que ha estado sucediendo en nuestras comunidades. Y Verónica, ¿de quién es nuestra próxima llamada?

 

Verónica Segovia Bedon: A continuación tenemos a Anthony de Nueva York.

 

Yvette Peña: Hola, Anthony de Nueva York. Ahora estás en vivo. Por favor haz tu pregunta.

 

Anthony: Hola, ¿cómo estás? Gracias por tomar mi llamada. Mi pregunta es, siempre entendí que una vez que te vacunas, estás protegido. No entiendo por qué seguimos usando mascarillas, y si todavía tenemos que usar máscaras, ¿cuándo termina? ¿Siempre va a ser el mismo ciclo en el que siempre tenemos que usar mascarillas? ¿Esta vacuna dura seis meses? ¿Y qué hacemos después de que terminen?

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Anthony. Le pediré al Dr. Webb y al Dr. Juan que por favor respondan a esta pregunta.

 

Dr. Cameron Webb: Comenzaré y luego el Dr. Juan puede dar información adicional. Es una buena pregunta, porque mucha gente se preguntaba desde el principio, ¿cuál es el sentido de recibir la vacuna si todavía tienes que usar una mascarilla? Y le recuerdo a la gente un par de cosas. Una, es que las vacunas son realmente buenas, pero no perfectas.

 

A pesar de que un pequeño porcentaje de personas todavía no va a obtener el beneficio completo de la vacuna, no queremos correr ese riesgo con el tipo de daño que causa la COVID-19. Así que esa es la primera razón, para protegerte. Pero también una gran razón es proteger a otras personas, y al principio hubo una pregunta en los datos, de si estas vacunas estaban evitando que las personas contrajeran una infección asintomática.

 

Sabemos que son muy efectivas para prevenir infecciones sintomáticas, pero sabemos que no fue uno de los puntos finales de datos del ensayo determinar si previenen una infección asintomática. Por lo general, tenemos muchos indicadores que nos hacen sentir que son muy, muy efectivas para prevenir la infección asintomática, pero aún así, esa fue la otra razón por la que alentamos a las personas a usar mascarillas, y es porque si tuvieras una infección asintomática, podrías contagiar a otra persona.

 

Y están las variantes y el hecho de que están circulando. Te diré esto. No creo que vayamos a usar mascarillas para siempre, pero creo que lo que vamos a tener que rastrear es la tasa de propagación en la comunidad en todo el país. Y la idea es que cuando venzamos este virus, cuando regresemos a niveles bajos en nuestras comunidades, ahí es cuando veremos desaparecer las mascarillas, pero todavía tenemos trabajo por hacer, es decir, todo el mundo debe llevar mascarillas, mantener la distancia física, lavarse las manos y ponerse la vacuna cuando es su turno. Si todos hacemos eso, volveremos a ese escenario en el que la tasa de casos es menor en la comunidad, y si volvemos a eso más rápido, es entonces cuando veremos que desaparecerán cosas como las mascarillas. Dr. Juan, no estoy seguro de si tiene algo más que quiera agregar.

 

Dr. Juan Rivera: Gracias Dr. Webb, creo que fue una excelente explicación. La otra perspectiva de la que me di cuenta es la siguiente: Esta no es una situación sencilla. Y creo que mucha gente piensa en esto en términos de blanco o negro, piensan que un día tenemos una pandemia y al día siguiente podríamos no tener la pandemia. Y la transición no es de un día para otro.

 

Esta es una evolución y es un proceso. Y hay muchas cosas que deben ocurrir para que podamos pasar de la pandemia a la vida normal. Creo que en un punto en el que tenemos muchos casos en el país, y obviamente hemos estado peor, ahora estamos por encima de los 60,000, creo que son entre 60,000 y 70,000 casos por día, lo primero que tiene que suceder es que debemos reducir esos casos, debemos asegurarnos de que la tasa de positividad, en otras palabras, el número de casos, que el número de pruebas que dan positivo en coronavirus sea inferior al 5%, usemos ese 5%.

 

Entonces, para poder disminuir esos casos, especialmente cuando son muy altos, necesitamos medidas como mascarillas, necesitamos medidas como cuarentena, porque no queremos abrumar al sistema de salud. No queremos abrumar a los hospitales, queremos asegurarnos de que si alguien se enferma y necesita usar un respirador, una UCI, que esos recursos estén disponibles.

 

Ahora digamos que llegamos a un punto en el que lo hemos logrado, ahora los casos son bajos, ahora tenemos una tasa de positividad de menos del 5%. Bueno, una cosa que necesitamos a ese nivel, que, francamente, no creo que hayamos establecido de manera sólida, es una forma de hacer un rastreo de contactos muy efectivo. ¿Cierto? Porque si tenemos rastreo de contactos, si podemos identificar dónde están apareciendo los focos de casos, una vez que estemos en una tasa de positividad muy baja, entonces es cuando podemos comenzar a ser un poco más flexibles en términos de apertura de la sociedad, tal vez en combinación con vacunación, sin utilizar mascarillas, dependiendo de cómo se vayan desarrollando las variantes.

 

Entonces necesitamos un proceso y algunos de los elementos que necesitamos para pasar de una pandemia a una vida normal, algunos de los elementos que son importantes los tenemos, como las vacunas, pero algunos de los elementos como un sistema de rastreo de contactos robusto como el que llevan en otros países del mundo, no lo tenemos. Entonces la transición no va a ser de un día para otro, pero quiero resaltar el hecho de que según los criterios de los CDC, si alguien ya está vacunado y visita, digamos, otra familia que está vacunada, no necesitas mascarillas y no necesitas distanciamiento social.

 

Entonces eso es obviamente un progreso desde "tenemos que usar una mascarilla, tenemos que permanecer adentro". Este es un progreso que vendrá con el tiempo, vendrá con algunas herramientas en funcionamiento y establecidas. Y entiendo que esto es difícil, sé que no tenemos tiempo para hablar de esto, pero esto ha causado un problema importante en lo que respecta a la salud mental, no solo en los profesionales de la salud, sino en todos; adultos, niños, y entiendo, entiendo que la gente quiera hacer desaparecer las mascarillas, de un día para otro queremos volver a los restaurantes, queremos volver a los cines, queremos abrazar a la gente, yo quiero estrechar la mano de mis colegas, yo también quiero eso.

 

Pero va a ser una transición, no ocurrirá de un día para otro. Y les prometo que estamos avanzando, es algo que muestran las estadísticas. Podemos demostrarlo, tenemos que hacerlo mejor, necesitamos hacerlo mejor. Pero ya estamos progresando, hay esperanza, vamos a alejarnos del estilo de vida que hemos tenido en los últimos, no sé, 16 meses más o menos.

 

Seremos la sociedad que éramos antes, pero en ciertos momentos de la historia surgen circunstancias que requieren que la población se adapte y haga sacrificios. Y este era nuestro momento, saldremos victoriosos y, con suerte, aprenderemos de esto. Y va a ser triste, y va a doler, porque muchos de nosotros hemos perdido familiares y muchos de nosotros hemos pasado por situaciones muy difíciles. Pero saldremos de esto.

 

Yvette Peña: Gracias Dr. Juan, gracias Dr. Webb. Esta ha sido una discusión muy informativa. Gracias a nuestro distinguido panel por responder nuestras preguntas y estar aquí con nosotros esta noche. Y gracias a nuestros socios, voluntarios y oyentes de AARP por participar en esta discusión.

 

AARP, una organización no partidista sin fines de lucro, con membresía, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores durante más de 60 años. Frente a la crisis, estamos brindando información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores, y a quienes los cuidan, a protegerse del virus, prevenir el contagio a otros y al mismo tiempo cuidar de sí mismos.

 

Todos los recursos mencionados, incluida la grabación del evento de preguntas y respuestas de hoy, se podrán encontrar en AARP.org/coronavirus el 9 de abril. Una vez más, ese sitio web es AARP.org/coronavirus, o en español en AARP AARP.org/elcoronavirus. Ve allí si tu pregunta no fue respondida y si deseas encontrar la última actualización, así como información creada específicamente para adultos mayores y cuidadores familiares.

 

Asegúrense de sintonizar el 22 de abril para ver dos eventos en vivo más en los que hablaremos sobre las vacunas contra la COVID-19. A la 1:00 p.m., nos centraremos en la distribución de la vacuna contra la COVID-19 y, a las 7 p.m., hora del este, hablaremos sobre las vacunas contra el coronavirus y las personas de origen asiático. Gracias, y que pasen una buena noche.

 

Con esto concluye nuestra llamada.

 

 

Coronavirus and Latinos: Safety, Protection and Prevention

Thursday, April 8 at 7 p.m.

Listen to a replay of the live event above.

During this special Spanish-language simulcast a panel of experts addressed questions about the coronavirus, vaccine development and distribution, and how the pandemic is affecting Latinos.

The experts:

  • Cameron Webb, M.D.
    Senior Policy Advisor,
    COVID-19 Equity, 
    White House COVID-19 Response Team

  • Juan Rivera, M.D.
    Chief Medical Correspondent
    Univision 

  • Frankie Miranda 
    President
    Hispanic Federation 

  • Mónica Ramirez 
    Founder and President
    Justice for Migrant Women

Bill Walsh: Hello, I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you’d like to hear this telephone-town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan 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. The good news is that we are finally seeing an acceleration of vaccine distribution. Some 73 percent of people aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, many older adults are struggling to get access; navigating long wait times, confusing sign-up systems; and in some cases, they lack transportation to and from appointments. While there are many signs we are emerging from the pandemic, we find ourselves in an in-between period with challenges all its own. Those who have been vaccinated have more freedom. But what does that mean for interacting with family, including grandkids who may be back at school? Some states are lowering the age to get vaccines, but what does that mean for an older person who hasn’t gotten an appointment yet? And some are relaxing public restrictions, so how do we stay safe these days?

Today’s panel of experts will address these issues and more and take your questions live. 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 question live. If you’d like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. For those of you joining on the phone, if you‘d like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 and your telephone to be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question, and place you in the queue to ask that question live. And if you‘re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including representatives from President Biden‘s COVID-19 Task Force, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of Southern California, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. We’ll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jean Setzfand, who will 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. Dr. Cameron Webb is a senior policy adviser for COVID-19 Equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. Dr. Webb is also a practicing physician at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Welcome to the program, Dr. Webb.

Cameron Webb: Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Bill Walsh: We’re glad to have you. I’d also like to welcome Dr. David M. Aronoff. He is the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Welcome back, Dr. Aronoff.

David Aronoff: Thanks so much for having me on, Bill. Great to be here.

Bill Walsh: Donna Benton, Ph.D., is the director for the Family Caregiver Support Center at the University of Southern California. Thanks for joining us again, Dr. Benton.

Bill Walsh: And finally, Lilly Kan is the senior director of Infectious Disease and Infomatics at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. That organization represents 3000 local health departments. Welcome back to the program.

Lilly Kan: Thank you so much, Bill. It’s great to be on.

Bill Walsh: Great to have you. Let’s jump right into the questions with our experts, and Dr. Webb, let’s start with you. While there have been signs of improvement, the vaccine distribution process continues to be challenging for many older adults. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 42 percent of seniors who tried to get an appointment said it was difficult. And we continue to hear about long lines and confusion on where and how to sign up. What’s being done to improve this?

Cameron Webb: That‘s such a great question because I‘ve heard from my own family members and from other individuals, how challenging this process has continued to be, and I think there’s been some improvement, but we want to keep pressing toward the mark. And so I‘ll start off by saying that the key tenets here are three things: One, to increase the amount of vaccines, increase the number of vaccinators, and increase the venues for vaccination. And so, if you look back to mid-January when the Biden/Harris administration started, we were sending out about 8.6 million doses of vaccine each week. And last week we sent out over 33 million doses. And so I think some of those long lines in terms of the instructional component, those are improving. We have even more vaccine available, especially when you couple that with more vaccinators. And then the last thing that we’ve really been pushing and calling on the states to increase are the venues for vaccination. That’s where you have these mass vaccination spaces, or community vaccination centers, but now in doctors’ offices, in federally qualified health centers, in pharmacies, and the president scaled that up from 17,000 sites to now it‘s over 24,000 sites as of this week, up to 40,000 sites by the 19th of this month. And so we’re really trying to make it easy and accessible in the places that people are used to getting their vaccinations. And I would think that’ll help some, and then finally, I think it’s pretty important that we streamline this process of registration. And web-based isn’t going to work for everybody. So making sure that there are phone options, and it works, making sure it’s culturally and linguistically appropriate. And we’re continuing to work closely with the states, and we’re looking forward to the launch of our vaccinefinder.gov next month. We think that probably … together, we’re going to continue to make it easier for older adults and for everyone to get access to a vaccine.

Bill Walsh: Let me ask you a follow-up question. COVID-19 has had a well-documented and tragic impact on older adults and people of color. How has the vaccine distribution sought to address this issue?

Cameron Webb: I touched on a couple of those points, but the main piece, I would say, particularly around the equity dynamic, is that all of our federal channels for vaccination are designed around that concept of equity. So our federal mass vaccination sites, which are our larger through-put centers, 3,000–6,000 shots per day, those are centered in the communities that have the most economic disadvantage, where they can serve the most people who’ve been the hardest hit and at the highest risk. In those sites alone, there are 25 different sites that we’ve watched so far, and they’re vaccinating over 60 percent of folks receiving shots there are from communities of color. And so that‘s really important as we’re trying to press toward that mark for equity, and then if you look at our federally qualified health centers, again, scaling that program up from 250 sites to over 400 sites now, there’ll be 950 sites by the end of this month, and again, these are trusted locations for care in these community health centers. And we think that that‘s a key mechanism, over 70 percent of the shots that those centers have been going to minority communities. And then finally, our pharmacy program, 50 percent of the sites nearly are located in the highest areas of economic disadvantage, the highest social vulnerability index scores. And so again, we‘re centering our programs around addressing some of those equity challenges, and that really does serve … older adults in an important way, because it makes sure that … in each of these, it‘s finding places to connect them and get them a little bit closer to where the vaccine is — instead of asking the fire to make its way to the water, bring the water to the fire. And that‘s kind of what we’re doing.

Bill Walsh: There you go. And you had mentioned vaccinefinder.gov. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

Cameron Webb: There was a version that was released earlier in the year of vaccinefinder.org, and it was really a site meant to consolidate, give a single place for people to come to get information about where and how to register. And so we looked on the site at this point, because of course it’s being built out of HHS and that‘s going to launch in the next couple of weeks, but the idea behind it is to really pull together a single place where anyone across the country can go to start to plug in, to figure out where to get vaccinated. Sometimes it‘s hard to find out where to start, and so we‘re trying to streamline and make it a little easier both in the web-based format and telephonically. And so we’re hoping that launching that is very important. And you’ve probably heard that we just recently launched a public confidence campaign. We have this new campaign —  if you haven’t seen it, it‘s the “We Can Do This” campaign — so there are commercials, targeted advertising, but that education component about where and how to get vaccinated is also a part of that along with our community core that‘s going to be connecting folks with the vaccinations as well. So lots of different efforts to make sure that we’re getting people to the shots they need.

Bill Walsh: Very good. Thanks for that. And a reminder to our listeners, you can also find local resources on the vaccine on AARP‘s website: aarp.org/vaccineinfo. You can just choose your state, find the rules and regulations, and also toll-free numbers there, and some questions to ask as well. Dr. Aronoff, let‘s turn to you. We’ve seen a lot of questions about the different vaccines, with some people wanting to wait for one or another. Is there a reason to try to hold out for a specific vaccine? Is one better than another?

David Aronoff: That’s really a great question, Bill. And the short answer to that is no. We’re in the middle of a pandemic crisis, and we need to get people immunized. And we‘re in a very fortunate situation right now where we have three vaccines that are all doing exactly what we need them to be doing, which is that on the individual level, when you receive any of these three vaccines you are gaining immune protection that will keep you out of the hospital and provide protection against dying from COVID-19. And then the other thing that we’re asking of these vaccines is to induce immunity — that as more people get immunized ends the pandemic by inducing what we call herd immunity, and limiting the ability of the virus to keep hopping from person to person. And right now, all three of the options that are on the table in the United States are doing exactly what we need them to do. Now some people may prefer to get a single-shot vaccine over a two-shot vaccine, or have access to one versus the other. And those things may help drive decisions. But really the answer I try to tell people is get the vaccine that you can get unless there’s any compelling reason — if someone‘s allergic to a component of a particular vaccine, and that‘s information you can find on the internet or also speaking with your licensed health care professional.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much for that, Dr. Aronoff. Dr. Benton, let‘s turn to you. What advice do you have for family caregivers who are trying to assist older loved ones in getting a vaccine appointment or getting to a vaccine location?

Donna Benton: Thank you. The first thing is patience. … You know, we‘ve all learned that going online may seem easy, but sometimes you actually have to just go back online and refresh and refresh. Telephone calls are wonderful. I think the people who are on these lines from, when I’ve talked to many family members, they find doing the phone call is a lot easier. You have to also think of the network of where your relative, your older adult relative, what‘s their network. Because sometimes when you’re trying to look for a vaccine, while we have these general sites, there may be something that‘s been expanded, like maybe at their church that your family member attends. They may be holding a vaccine clinic, or their physician may know where the nearest vaccine clinic is or a neighborhood watch group. So work with your relatives, because it may not just be these big sites, but there actually may be something where your relative is involved in. Maybe they‘re with a local senior center that has a vaccination clinic coming up. And so I think communication between family members is going to be very important along the coordination, but don‘t be afraid to pick up the phone. Sometimes for younger people we‘re used to texting … or going online, but a phone call is still very effective.

Bill Walsh: And it‘s still what a lot of people want, right. They just want to be able to talk to a human and ask those questions, particularly when the stakes are so high. Thanks so much for that, Dr. Benton, and I‘d like to remind our listeners that family caregivers can visit aarp.org/caregiving for more tips and tools to help. Lilly Kan, I‘d like to turn to you now. Many students are returning to in-person learning after almost a year of virtual schooling. What are some of the safety precautions that school districts and health departments are taking?

Lilly Kan: Thanks so much for that question, Bill. So one of the top safety precautions that local health departments and school districts are taking is making sure that people, including educators and school staff, are getting vaccinated. And it was really exciting to see that the CDC announced earlier this week that nearly 80 percent of teachers, school staff, and health care workers have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Again, that‘s such terrific news, and it really aligns with the focus that we as a nation have had in protecting our educators and school staff against COVID-19 through vaccinations. Local health departments, because they are also among the vaccinators alongside health care providers, and other people who are providing vaccinations within their communities, they‘re definitely involved in actually vaccinating educators and school staff. Health departments are also, outside of vaccinations, working to increase their support of things like school-based screening testing in collaboration with schools. And so we see local health departments continuing to work with schools also to not only vaccinate, but support school-based screening, testing, and even more generally, share information about continued community transmission and what that is looking like within communities. They are working to provide other support as schools determine how to implement CDC guidelines for schools, such as distancing in the classroom. One of the things that we know about local health departments in schools is that even before the pandemic, the majority of local health departments were working with schools in some kind of way. And it‘s those relationships that they‘re continuing to build on to help us get through the pandemic.

Bill Walsh: Thanks for that information, Lilly, we really appreciate it. And as a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad. We‘re going to get to those live questions shortly. But before we do, I wanted to bring in Megan O‘Reilly, vice president of health for AARP Government Affairs, to give us an update on what AARP has been doing on the COVID front. Welcome, Megan.

Megan O’Reilly: Great to be with you, Bill. Thank you.

Bill Walsh: Nice to have you. Megan, a few weeks ago, Congress passed, and the president signed, another coronavirus relief bill. What‘s in this law that will help folks with health coverage, including COVID-19 vaccines?

Megan O’Reilly: Great question. You know, AARP has been fighting to lower health care costs, as we believe all Americans should have access to affordable coverage and the health care they need. We are pleased with the new law recently enacted, known as the American Rescue Plan that takes important steps to lower health care costs for those getting covered in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces over the next two years. Specifically, the law includes new and enhanced financial assistance for people who purchase coverage on their own in this marketplace. Many people could now pay nothing for their premiums, while others could save up to thousands of dollars a year. The new financial assistance is especially important for the many of you who are 50 to 64, who pay for more than other age groups for marketplace coverage, and also struggle to afford your health care bills. This expanded coverage and financial assistance will also help address keeping disparities and access to quality health care. It is available now, and in most states, you can enroll or update your coverage through August 15. And to learn more, we urge you to go to aarp.org/ACA. You‘d also mentioned vaccines, Bill, and the Rescue Plan includes billions of dollars in new funding to support vaccine development, distribution and education efforts. This is going to help vaccine supply increase and support efforts to reach those who are having trouble; for example, if you‘re homebound or don‘t have internet access. The new law also increases the child tax credit. Most important, the credit is now fully refundable and can be received as a monthly refund beginning in July. And finally, AARP has been fighting to make sure that everyone gets an economic stimulus payment, whether they are working or retired, pay taxes or do not. The new law gives $1,400 to every income-eligible individual, including those on Social Security. At the start of this week, 157 million payments have been sent out. And as of this week, the government has made more than 19 million payments, almost all by direct deposit to Social Security beneficiaries who have not already received their payments. AARP is proud to have fought for this help.

Bill Walsh: Megan, thanks so much for that update. And I wonder if there are any other priorities that AARP is fighting for on Capitol Hill right now.

Megan O’Reilly: AARP continues to fight for the financial and health security for 50- plus. This includes making sure that people, as they age, can remain in their homes and communities, that we‘re protecting nursing home residents and staff, and that people have access and can stay connected through high-speed internet. Congress will soon begin working on an infrastructure plan. And AARP will be fighting to make sure that the investments in our care economy are included in this package. This includes expanding access to services that help people live independently in their homes and communities and providing greater assistance to the nation‘s over 40 million family caregivers, many of whom we know are joining us today on today‘s call. We will also continue our work to lower prescription drug prices which continue to cripple family budgets. It is a really busy time on Capitol Hill, and AARP will continue to work hard to make sure the needs of older adults across this country are a priority, and that your voices are heard as we advocate on the issues that matter most to you.

Bill Walsh: Thank you for that update, Megan. Really appreciate it. As a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad. And we are going to get to those questions shortly. But before we do, I just wanted to address an important issue. We know that many of you are having challenges registering for vaccines because many places require sign-ups through online forums, and if you don‘t have access to a computer this is a real challenge. AARP wants to help. We‘ve established the AARP Vaccine Finder Support Team to assist in these cases. So if you‘re listening today, and you can‘t register for a vaccine in your community because you don‘t have access to technology, please press 1 on your telephone keypad now to be added to a list to receive a phone call from an AARP staff member to help out. Again, if you‘re listening today and you don‘t have access to a computer or the internet and cannot register for a vaccine because of that, press 1 on your telephone to be added to a list to receive a phone call. When you do, you‘ll listen to a brief message and then be returned to this call.

It‘s now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Cameron Webb, Dr. David Aronoff, Dr. Donna Benton, and Lilly Khan. I‘d like now to bring in my AARP colleague Jean Setzfand to help facilitate your calls. Welcome, Jean.

Jean Setzfand: Thanks, Bill. Happy to be here for this important conversation.

Bill Walsh:Who is our first caller today?

Jean Setzfand: Our first caller is Roger from Maryland.

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

Roger: I was vaccinated two months ago and recently spent dinner with someone who I sat next to for many hours and has tested now positive for the virus. This other person is also a senior. Do I need to quarantine or do people around me need to be kept away ‘cause I might be able to transmit it to them, even though I … probably won‘t get sick myself?

Bill Walsh: Right. Thanks for the question, Roger. Maybe Dr. Aronoff can weigh in on that, and Dr. Webb, if you have anything to add.

David Aronoff: Thank you for that question, Roger. So the good news is — and one of the real incentives for getting vaccinated — is that that provides a higher barrier to you getting infected. And so if we look at the CDC guidelines for how we‘re supposed to handle these kinds of situations once we are immunized, the recommendations are that we don‘t need to quarantine, and we do not need to get tested for COVID-19 after exposure to someone who turns out to have COVID-19. But we do need to monitor ourselves for symptoms, and of course, if we develop symptoms that are suggestive of COVID-19, absolutely we should start to isolate ourselves and seek testing and/or medical attention depending on how the symptoms are. Now, my own advice also is that if you know for sure that you‘ve been exposed to somebody for a prolonged period of time who is positive, that for the next 10 days to two weeks try to limit the times that you‘re putting yourself into the space of other people without masking or without regard to the 6-foot distance, because you want to try to limit any possibility that even if you were asymptomatically shedding virus, that that could be transmitted to someone else. And so I just say, do the things you‘re normally doing to protect others around you when you‘re out in public, wearing a mask in public places, watching your distance between yourselves and others, but maybe just be a little more conscious of those efforts during that week to two weeks after a known exposure.

Bill Walsh: OK, and Dr. Webb, I wonder if you would just remind our listeners, many of whom are getting vaccinated, what the relatively new rules are related to interacting with people if you‘ve had the shots.

Cameron Webb: Absolutely. And I want to say first and foremost, Dr. Aronoff, that was perfect. I think that‘s the right advice. In terms of more broadly, the CDC guidance, the first way to think about it is that it‘s continuing to evolve and change. And so you‘ll see there are going to be adjustments or a new detail that‘s provided with these recommendations as the science continues to evolve. But the first thing is for folks who are fully vaccinated, they are able to visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or without being 6 feet apart. And I think that‘s, again, trying to make sure that we‘re acknowledging the science, but also acknowledging that there are some benefits to getting vaccinated. And then if you are engaging with unvaccinated people who are from at least only one other household, you can engage indoors without wearing masks or staying apart if that other household is that low risk for severe disease. Those are some of the key updates there. This is kind of the hugging guidance that they described as from Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky. But I think that as a starting point, those first sets of guidelines … are helpful. There‘s also numerous guidelines on, again, just in the past week about air travel and not having the need to quarantine before or after. And so that‘s helpful, too. And just keep your eyes peeled … there‘s going to continue to be new guidance and adjustments to the guidance in the weeks and months to come. But also as we‘re seeing changes in terms of disease spread or in terms of the variants, always keep in mind the better part of valor is caution. And I completely agree with Dr. Aronoff. It goes with the idea of making sure that you‘re wearing a mask when you can, keeping up physical distancing. It‘s still helpful to keep you safe and to keep others safe.

Bill Walsh: Thank you both for that. Jean, who do we have next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Lisa from Nebraska.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Lisa, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Lisa: Yes, sir. I am having problems in transportation to where I go get my shot, and also, they told me do not reschedule any more appointments. And so I don‘t know, I‘m just kind of lost. I haven‘t had a vaccine yet, so, but I‘m at home. I stay at home. I‘m disabled … I‘m over 50, and I have those conditions, you know, the preexisting conditions. I have MS and a few other things.

Bill Walsh: Lisa, whereabouts are you in Nebraska?

Lisa: I‘m just having problems with transportation.

Bill Walsh: Let‘s ask Lilly Kan about your question. Lilly.

Lilly Kan: Yes. Thank you so much for that question. So depending on the state, and I hear that you are in Nebraska, we know that different states and local jurisdictions are doing a number of different things to support people who may have trouble getting vaccinated either, again, because they have trouble getting to the sites or simply just cannot leave their homes. Now, the strategy does vary by state and locality. So, for example, in some states they are working with both public and private partners to provide transportation options. They are increasingly scheduling, and this is also in collaboration with the federal government as well, to really make the sites as accessible as possible. So increasing the number of sites so that it is not more than five miles from an individual. There are a lot of efforts that are happening around that as well. On a more limited — but it also exists — basis, there is some support in actually delivering vaccinations to people in their homes, recognizing that that is pretty resource intensive; that is happening on a relatively more limited basis than some of the other examples I‘ve provided. And so really, the first start would be to contact your state health department if that wasn‘t the agency that your caller had already been in touch with, to see what the different options are. And Bill, I certainly recognize that through AARP, there is some support in figuring out what additional services are as well for older adults trying to actually get to the vaccines.

Bill Walsh: Thanks Lilly, for that, and Lisa in Nebraska, if you want to just hit 1 on your phone, we‘ll connect you with an AARP staff member, and they will try to help you with that transportation issue that you‘re having. Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: We have several questions from YouTube and Facebook, and we have one coming from YouTube from Southwest Spirit, and the question is, "My 9-year-old grandson went back to school. We, the grandparents, have been vaccinated. I‘m 64 with type 2 diabetes. My husband is 70 with A-fib and high blood pressure. My grandson lives in two different households as well, one with mother and one with father. He‘s also around extended family. Is it safe to be able to have him back in our home, and also pick him up from school at least two to three times a week, and also stay with him during the summer two to three times during the week as well?

Bill Walsh: Hmm. That‘s a great question. Dr. Benton, do you have any thoughts on that?

Donna Benton: Actually, I think, no; I thought it was going to go to a doctor.

Bill Walsh: Well, that‘s OK. We can bring in Dr. Aronoff on that. Dr. Aronoff, do you have any suggestions for that caller?

David Aronoff: Yeah, I mean that‘s a really good question and a complicated scenario. But the thing that I really liked to hear from that question is that both grandparents have gotten vaccinated and completed their vaccine schedule, which is really important because we know that the vaccines protect our older populations from getting severely ill, into the hospital, and dying from COVID-19, which is really important. I think this is the kind of situation where communication is really important between the grandparents and the respective parents and the 9-year-old child to be trying to limit any extraneous interactions that can be limited so that it‘s less likely that the 9-year-old will become essentially infected and become a vector, bringing the virus around. But going to and from school, monitoring that 9-year-old for symptoms, making sure that the parents are vaccinated, if at all, they can get vaccinated, and just trying to create that bubble should allow for the grandparents to be around the grandchild, to contribute to picking up the child. I mean, this again is a situation where it probably wouldn‘t be best for the grandparents to be operating a carpool, shepherding a lot of children around, but one of the benefits of vaccination is going to be being able to see your grandkids. But just making sure that the family knows that there are two people in the family who, while they are vaccinated, still have risk factors for getting sick with COVID-19, and we just want to be prudent to try to limit extra sort of things — you know, maybe limiting sleepovers and things where they‘re just, it may be not essential. But that‘s a complicated situation, and I hope that the parents are also vaccinated.

Bill Walsh: Ah, that‘s a good point. Dr. Benton, let me swing back to you as a caregiving expert, I‘m sure you‘re hearing a lot of these situations. I mean grandparents have been unable in many cases to see their grandkids for a year or more. And now we‘re in this in-between phase where things are beginning to loosen up. Are there any pieces of advice you might give to grandparents contemplating reuniting either virtually or in person with grandkids?

Donna Benton: I think especially now — and I know that I‘ve heard more people are kind of getting together and having these parties — so I think the first thing is that we do have to, as the doctor just said, make sure that it‘s going to be safe for the younger child. We, probably during this time, if you‘ve been in the bubble together, then you probably are in a safer place, because everybody knows the risk factors that are going on. I think … the recommendation is that you still use masks, but maybe you‘re allowed hugs now. Somebody could correct me if I‘m wrong, and take it slow at this point because we don‘t want to increase anyone‘s risk factor if they have any underlying conditions. But I know everybody wants to just get together and hug each other and have some kind of celebration. And I think if you can do something that maybe is around a party as some kind of traditional thing, make a special meal together, this is a great time as we start getting back together. I think that food around the table is going to be what will bring people together again slowly.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Benton, thanks so much for that. Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Katherine from California.

Bill Walsh: Hey Katherine. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your call.

Katherine: Yes, I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine about a month ago, and I know it‘s been about two weeks since it‘s been in the news that there were all of those contaminated vials. I‘m just wondering, do I need to be worried that there might‘ve been contamination prior to what was reported in the news?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Webb, I wonder if you might weigh in on that.

Cameron Webb: Happy to. So, I want to be really clear on this. There‘s no reason to worry about any Johnson & Johnson products that have been delivered that folks are using currently that have been previously administered. This site where that contamination event happened was not yet approved or authorized by the FDA, and so that site wasn‘t active. None of them — the Johnson & Johnson that‘s been in clinics or vaccination centers — came from that space. And so nothing to worry about from that standpoint. You know, we feel pretty confident there. And then there‘s a lot that‘s being done with that particular plan in Baltimore to make sure that things get back on track, so it doesn‘t mess with the broader availability of Johnson & Johnson. But, as far as we know at this point, no prior contamination that‘s affected the other doses that have gone out.

Bill Walsh: OK, thank you for that. Jean, who do we have up next?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Elaine from Illinois.

Bill Walsh: Hi, Elaine, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Elaine: Yes. I wanted to know if someone is highly allergic to various medications, would this hamper it, ‘cause my doctor doesn‘t want liability.

Bill Walsh: Have you had a dose of a vaccine yet?

Elaine: No.

Bill Walsh: You haven‘t. OK. And what have you been allergic to in the past?

Elaine: Too many to mention on the air.

Bill Walsh: OK. No problem. Let‘s ask Dr. Aronoff about what he can tell you about that.

David Aronoff: So, really medication allergies have not been a contraindication to getting these vaccines. It is always good to check with your licensed health care provider to see if there are any particular ingredients that may be in certain medications or foods, or cosmetics or things that you‘re allergic to that may cross over with ingredients in the vaccines, which are available on the CDC website and other public spaces. But in general what we‘ve learned has been around anaphylaxis to these mRNA vaccines — which are the Pfizer and Moderna shots — which are very infrequent happenings in the order of somewhere between two and five events per million doses that are given. And those don‘t seem to be occurring in people with medication allergies per se, but everybody who gets one of these vaccines is asked to wait and be observed for at least 15 minutes, and if they do have a history of severe allergies to just about anything, they‘re often asked to wait for 30 minutes. And we give these vaccines in facilities that are prepared to handle it if anyone seems to be having a reaction to the vaccines. So the short answer is you should be able to get one of these vaccines. Being allergic to a regular type of medication, like an antibiotic or a blood pressure pill, should not be a contraindication to getting vaccinated. And if you want more information, for sure, engage your licensed health care professional.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Aronoff, isn‘t it true that there‘s also a monitoring period after the administration of a dose just for this very reason.

David Aronoff: Absolutely. Routinely people get watched for 15 minutes, and then they‘re free to go if there‘s been no problems, and then for people who do have a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergy, they are often asked to wait 30 minutes just to make sure that there is no untoward events from the vaccines.

Bill Walsh: And so would you advise Elaine to sign up for a vaccine and then simply advise the health care professional administering the vaccine about her past allergic reactions?

David Aronoff: Absolutely. Everybody who is giving vaccines has been trained to be able to advise people if they have severe allergies to a food or to medications, and to know whether they should wait 15 minutes or 30 minutes. So that‘s absolutely an acceptable approach.

Bill Walsh: Thank you so much for that, Dr. Aronoff, and thank you for all your questions. We‘re going to get to more of them shortly. Let‘s turn back to our experts. Dr. Webb, we‘ve heard a lot about the mass vaccination sites. You mentioned them earlier. They are being supported by the federal government. How has the administration supported vaccine access for people who can‘t get to those sites, because they‘re homebound, they don‘t have transportation, maybe they live in a rural area?. How can people access the resources if they fall into those categories?

Cameron Webb: Well, a couple of ways. And you heard the reference earlier that the president announced increasing the number of retail pharmacies that are distributing vaccines; and so the idea is that by 11 days from now, over 90 percent of people in this country will have one of the pharmacies within at least five miles of their home. So that helps somewhat for bridging that gap, for making it so that people don‘t have to travel across many counties to get to a place for vaccination, but they‘ll have a pharmacy nearby. The other thing is there are mobile units. And that is one of the ideas that we included in the national strategy for addressing this pandemic. And so, in terms of mobile units, we have mobile units that were created by FEMA, also by the Department of Defense, and then also by the VA. And we‘re mobilizing at this point over 500 different mobile sites to get to some of those hard- to-reach places and also to get vaccines closer to people. And so that‘s really important, and it‘s a matter of getting it as close as we can. Certainly working with states and localities, financially supporting efforts that are aimed to deliver vaccine to people who … use home and community-based services. So lots of different approaches. Again, this is inherently a local thing, but I think from the federal standpoint where we‘re really trying to support localities who understand the challenges that residents are facing with connecting with vaccine, and just making sure there are good mechanisms in place everywhere, whether it‘s through mobile units that are going around bringing vaccine to people, or whether it‘s mobile sites that are bringing vaccines and community-based or faith-based organizations to partner, or whether it‘s through these retail pharmacies that are going to be within a couple miles of your home.

Bill Walsh: And what suggestion do you make to folks in these situations to get access to those resources, the mobile units, the community-based outlets?

Cameron Webb: I think a good starting point is to reach out to your local health department and figure out what the options are in your area, because there are different strategies that are being employed in different places. But I think that very problem is prevalent across the country. There are people who fit that description in every community. And so, I think just touching base with the local health department and then saying, what are the options there? And an aging services organization … in your community can also help you figure out what the options are going to be locally.

Bill Walsh: OK, and a reminder to our listeners, AARP also has state-by-state guides for accessing vaccines at aarp.org/vaccineinfo. Simply select your state, and you‘ll see all the information about how to access the vaccine online, through a toll-free number and even questions to ask your doctor. Thank you very much for that, Dr. Webb. Dr. Aronoff, there are millions of grandparents who may be caring for grandkids or live in households with multiple generations. And we talked about this issue a little bit earlier, but I‘d like to put a finer point on it. If an older adult has been vaccinated, but is living in a house with unvaccinated grandkids who may be going to school or doing other activities, what precautions should they be taking?

David Aronoff: Yeah, I mean this is an important situation, Bill, because it‘s hopefully increasingly common that older adults are vaccinated. And soon, I hope, we‘ll start to be able to vaccinate children, but right now we‘re in that window period where young children are not yet immunized. And so, living at home being vaccinated, it is fine in that household for the vaccinated grandparents to not be wearing masks, but there should continue to be some guidance around the child going to school. Hopefully, the school is doing all of the things necessary to risk mitigate, and that means creating distance to the extent possible between students, having students wearing masks in school, having hand sanitizer available, having barriers up, and all of those things that schools have increasingly gotten very, very good at. But again, just trying to limit extracurricular activities or not hosting a bunch of children over at the house. But you know, the good news is the vaccines are likely to provide important protection to the older adults in the household. And, of course, if a child who‘s going to school has symptoms, or even the vaccinated adults have symptoms that are suggestive of COVID-19 at any time, they should isolate from others in the household if they can and go get tested.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Webb reminded us a moment ago that many states are lowering the age of eligibility for getting a vaccine. What do we know about the efficacy of the three approved vaccines for children and teenagers, Dr. Aronoff?

David Aronoff: Also a really great question. And we‘re hearing really good things and there‘s more to come. So for example, one of the mRNA vaccines that‘s made by Pfizer BioNTech has recently released data showing really, really high efficacy in children aged 12 to 16. And the vaccine is not yet approved by FDA through an emergency use authorization for that population. But that gives us some real hope that that will be around the corner. We know that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are doing trials, or have even finished enrolling in trials for even younger children down to as young as six months of age. So I think that later this spring, early summer, and heading toward the school year, we‘re going to get a lot of news about the effectiveness of these vaccines in younger populations. And we‘re all optimistic that prior to the school year next year, that we‘ll be able to really do substantial immunizations in our younger persons.

Bill Walsh: Hmm. Thank you for that. And we also understand that CDC just released an advisory that vaccinations for children dropped more than 14 percent from 2020 to 2021. And it encouraged family members to schedule well visits and keep on track with vaccinations even beyond the COVID-19 shot. So that‘s an important call-out for families. Dr. Benton, we‘ve been living under the pandemic for a year, and we‘ve all been feeling the strain — family caregivers, especially. What are some practical tools and resources that people can use to care for themselves?

Donna Benton: Yeah, we really have been feeling the strain, all of us, with being socially isolated and being worried that we can harm our relative. And so right now, I think that as we move out of this pandemic that we have to take it slow — and when I say slow, it kind of stands for first of all, we have to have some self-care. And that starts with recognizing what are your signs of stress. If you are feeling stressed, you have to figure out: Is it physical? Is it more emotionally drained? And then you match that, you counterbalance it by maybe saying it‘s more physical. You might, if you‘re having muscle soreness … maybe you‘re going to do stuff like dance or do some soft stretching or self-massage. But if it‘s more of like you‘re feeling emotionally drained, you might do more things like laughing and journaling and talking to other people. So you‘re trying to match what your self-care with once you figure out what your stress signs are. The L in slow means, you have to really look back and take an inventory of, you know, during this last year, we‘ve all gotten new information. We‘ve met new people. You‘ve had probably new programs that you learned about that have helped you be resilient during the pandemic. And what we don‘t want to do is just drop all of this new learning out of our life because maybe there‘s some things that you learned during this year, when you look back, that can actually help you going forward. So keep those things and that new information and people and programs with you as we move out of the pandemic. The other thing for O for slow is really begin to organize your day so that you now begin to include at a minimum 10 minutes of just taking a deep breath. You close your eyes. You clear your thoughts. Focus on your breathing and organize your day so that you really start to take those deep breaths and get that extra oxygen and thinking, and being able to relax your entire body quickly. And finally, the W in slow stands for — I found this quote that says, “Worry never robbed tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy.” So worrying about things at this point, let‘s try to recognize when we‘re getting worried, and really try to figure out how we can look at things a little differently and what we can focus on in the positive.

Bill Walsh: That‘s some great advice. I feel calmer already. Thank you for that. Dr. Benton, let me pivot to a less slow topic. You know, we heard from AARP‘s , Megan O‘Reilly a few minutes ago about the child tax credit that was part of the American Rescue Act Plan. How can credits like this help older adults who may be caring for younger family members?

Donna Benton: My understanding of the tax credit is this is really going to be able to give back some of the money that you might‘ve been using over and above … you might have strained your finances. And this will really give you back some money that you can use for expenses, that you might have had to make choices on before when you‘re caring for a younger child, if you‘re a grandparent taking care of grandkids. And I think that the other thing is that if you think about the funds that come in, it might allow you this time to re-bond with your grandchild. So maybe you can use the funds to do some kind of extra treats — like going out for ice cream or going to a museum that maybe you can‘t go to — you know, once everything is opened up safely — that may have had an entry fee. And also … kids are going to be going back to school. Your grandkids, we‘ve used the library and we‘ve been away, but maybe now you can buy some nonschool-related books that you can read together with your grandchild … and that‘s not going to take all of the funds, so you may use some for expenses. But maybe try to use a little bit, if you can, to do some treats together with your grandchild.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Thank you so much, Dr. Benton. Dr. Webb, I understand that you have to drop off the call to address an issue at the White House. I just wondered if you have any recommendations for the listeners who are on the line about our conversation today.

Cameron Webb: I think the main recommendation that I have is to not only make sure that you yourself are vaccinated and have had a chance because that‘s so important; if you haven‘t had a chance yet to get vaccinated, understand that the expectation is that over the next couple of days and weeks, a lot more adults are going to be eligible for vaccinations. And we want to make sure that we get you squared away first. But that said, if you have been vaccinated already, you have the potential to be one of the very best messengers that we have. You can spread the word, talk to your peers, (inaudible) in your social circles and talk to them about why you chose to get vaccinated, and some of the things that it has enabled you to do in terms of engagement with family, but also just in terms of peace of mind and know … you‘ve survived this as a shot of hope. And I hope that you‘ll be one of those ambassadors. And that‘s what this vaccine actually does. As a health professional, I just remember the relief that I felt. I work in the coronavirus unit at my hospital … the relief that I felt when that second shot went into my arm, and two weeks later knowing,  “You know, I think I have another layer of protection now that gives me some peace of mind.” And if you feel like you‘re in a similar situation where you have some peace of mind, make sure you share that story. You are one of our best messengers. And thanks for taking the time to join us today and I appreciate you giving me a chance to chat with you.

Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Webb. Well, you were an excellent messenger today as well. We really appreciate you being on the program, and good luck with whatever is percolating at the White House that is going to draw you away. Thanks again for joining us. For our listeners, we‘re going to get to your questions, shortly. Lilly Kan, let‘s turn to you again. We know that in some groups, such as African Americans, there‘s been a reluctance to take the vaccine because of historical skepticism of the medical community. What are local health departments and organizations doing to address this vaccine hesitancy?

Lilly Kan: Thanks for that question, Bill. So first, for those tuning in today who have either gotten their first dose or are fully vaccinated, I just want to say that‘s such terrific news and circumstances because in addition to you protecting yourself, it‘s exactly what Dr. Webb said, you also have an important role to be a trusted communicator to your loved ones who are still making their decisions about getting vaccinated, to talk about what made you get your vaccination and the reasons why as again, to support them in making their decisions. We know that as vaccine supply continues to increase, those numbers of older adults will continue to increase as well — especially again, as Dr. Webb said, the president had recently announced that all adult Americans will be eligible to be vaccinated in the upcoming weeks. We, as you mentioned, Bill, certainly recognize and understand that people who have not yet decided to get vaccinated are aware they are in their decision-making for many different reasons, and that there really is a lot we can do as a community to support these people. And so local health departments with that context, they have continued to work directly within their communities or with trusted community partners and local leaders who serve and represent those communities to do things like share timely and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines. People have continued to have a number of questions about COVID vaccines. Those questions and the specifics of those questions have evolved over time as they‘ve gotten more information and as we continue to learn more about vaccinations. And local health departments have also worked with community partners to make sure that that information is available in different languages that are also culturally appropriate. And so it really is an all-hands-on-deck approach to address vaccine hesitancy and build confidence.

We expect that local health departments and their community partners will be a part of the COVID-19 community core that Dr. Webb mentioned earlier, and that‘s really focused on building a national grassroots network of local stakeholders working to encourage vaccinations through addressing hesitancy and increasing confidence. So they have worked together, local health departments and their community partners have those open and respectful conversations about COVID-19 vaccines, especially with communities of color and other populations to make sure that they‘re heard and listened to and that those questions are addressed. And so a few quick examples, certainly recognizing that there have been a couple of recent religious holidays. It was a really great opportunity for local health departments to work with their faith-based organizations to deliver messages and answer questions. But again, I think these organizations are just one of the many community-based organizations that local health departments are working with. And across all of those types of partnerships to reach communities of color and other communities that are diverse and also at various stages of, again, making their decisions, the focus has been on trusted messengers making sure there is clear and accurate and concise information, and making sure that access isn‘t an issue.

Bill Walsh: All right. Thank you very much for that, Lilly Kan. And before we take more of your questions, we want to again offer the AARP Vaccine Finders Support Team. If you‘re listening today and you don‘t have a computer and can‘t register for a vaccine in your community because you don‘t have access to technology, please press 1 to be added to a list to receive a phone call from AARP to assist you. When you do, you‘ll be asked to confirm that selection and then be returned to this call. Now it‘s time to address more of your questions with our distinguished guests. Jean, who do we have next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Joy from Vermont.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Joy. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your call.

Joy: Hi, I just wanted to say that I‘ve certainly had very good luck with Vermont and with these vaccines, and I‘ve gotten two of them so I don‘t need any more. I just want to congratulate Vermont for doing that. But my question is, I keep hearing that we may have to get booster shots, or another shot in six months or so. Can you tell me anything about that? I heard it on television.

Bill Walsh: Yeah, there‘s been a lot of talk about that. Dr. Aronoff, what can you tell us about the possibility of a booster shot for a vaccine? 

David Aronoff: I think that‘s an important issue. And I thank Joy for bringing up the question. Right now we‘re really in a race to get as many people as we can immunized against COVID-19 while we are watching the spread of the virus throughout the country — including now some of these variants, some of which originated in the United States, some that appear to have come from abroad. And some of these variants are more transmissible and may even be more dangerous for people. And current evidence is that the vaccines we are rolling out right now do provide some protection and likely very important protection against getting seriously ill from these variants. But we don‘t know whether there‘re going to be variants in the future that are going to require tweaking our vaccine supply so that we‘re able to really induce stronger, more specific immunity against a particular variant. We are seeing good news that the vaccines that we are using induce immunity that lasts months at a time. We just heard from the Pfizer group that that vaccine has immunity out at least to six months; that seems to be very, very high. So I‘m hopeful that if we do need to get booster shots that are directed at more popular or prevalent variants, that that‘s off in the future and we have an opportunity to get everybody immunized with our current vaccines and hopefully start to see this pandemic recede into the background. But at the beginning of this pandemic, we weren‘t really thinking about boosters. We were just thinking about, Can we get a vaccine? Now we have great vaccines. And I think we do need to keep in mind that yes, we may need to get boosters at some point, but I don‘t think we can predict that that will be six months from now.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Aronoff, I‘m curious about what level of confidence you have that the current vaccines are effective against the new variants that we‘re seeing popping up it seems almost constantly. Have they been able to keep step with the changes as the virus mutates.

David Aronoff: Yes, and that‘s a really important point. For example, the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown to be quite effective at preventing serious illness from the variant that we‘ve heard coming from South Africa, for example. Now the clinical trials that were used to gain approval for the mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer were completed before we started really seeing these variants. And so, we don‘t have as much clinical information about how protective they are, but if we look at the blood of people who have gotten those vaccines, the antibodies in their blood do seem capable of neutralizing or blocking the ability of these variant viruses to infect cells in the laboratory. And that‘s strongly suggestive that we will get protection from people out in the communities. I will say that that‘s a really good reason to complete the two dose schedule for those mRNA vaccines, because that second dose of either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine really boosts your immune system and leads to much higher antibody levels in your blood compared to even the first shot. And so we really want super high levels of antibody so that even if those antibodies are just a little bit off target for some of these variants, they‘re able to provide enough protection to keep us out of harm‘s way.

Bill Walsh: Oh, really great point. Okay, Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Scott from New Mexico.

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

Scott : I think the last answered one of my questions. I have an autoimmune disease, and I‘ve actually gotten both my vaccinations, and I‘m still following the protocols of wearing a mask and washing my hands, etc. I was wondering if you knew what the strain of the new variants that are coming out. Should I continue to follow this protocol as sort of ad infinitum, in other words, continue it until I hear a directive that says I don‘t have to do that anymore? Or is it safe to be in company with other people who are protected as well, and not wear my mask, and not follow the same protocols that traditionally I was doing prior to the vaccination.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Aronoff, can you help Scott?

David Aronoff: Scott, thank you very much for that question. Obviously, it‘s always hard over the phone to comment on very specific circumstances, such as your own, but I think in general terms now that you are fully vaccinated, you can abide by CDC guidance when you‘re around other people from another household who are fully vaccinated, and you could be without your mask on. If you are on medications that are suppressing your immune system, or you have an underlying condition where your care provider says your immune system is not normal or not functioning at full capacity, then you may want to be wearing a mask even around vaccinated people if there‘s any suspicion that the vaccines you got didn‘t, quote-unquote, take. And I would definitely say when you‘re out in public still wear a mask, still socially distance, and you made a great point, Scott, which is that we‘re going to see more guidance, and Dr. Webb pointed to this as well, change over time from the CDC. Right now we still have a lot of COVID in our communities, and we are seeing clearly the emergence of these variant viruses. And so the coast is not entirely clear. So we‘re still asking people, even fully vaccinated, previously healthy people, that when they are in public spaces indoors, like grocery stores, for example, that they should still be respecting the distance between themselves and other people and wearing their masks and doing things to limit risk. But at some point, we certainly hope that we‘ll get more of a green light from places like the CDC that say, you know, these variants are under control. If you‘re fully vaccinated, you don‘t need to be wearing masks when you‘re in medium or large size gatherings or in public. But we‘re not quite there yet.

Bill Walsh: Thank you for that, Dr. Aronoff. Jean, who do we have next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Golda from Mississippi.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Golda. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question. Hi Golda, go ahead with your question. All right, why don‘t we take another caller?

Jean Setzfand: No problem. Let‘s go to Enola from New Jersey.

Bill Walsh: Hi, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Enola: Hi, yes. I‘m running into an issue where I‘m registered on a couple of different sites. I go on the internet and everything I do, where they say click through to see what CVS has, back, vaccination available, whatever. I get told, no, no, no, no. I‘m 71 years old. I have COPD. I‘ve been diagnosed with what they say is allergic asthma due to the fact I have the allergies. I‘ve been doing the best I can, but I can‘t seem to find any vaccines open. I mean, I‘m on the state‘s wait lists; I‘ve registered with Robert Wood Johnson, which is one of … our hospitals, with their group. My next step is, ‘cause I just found out about it last night, that maybe I can get something from the VA. That‘s going to be my next call to make to see what their regulations are. I need some help. I mean I desperately would like to have the vaccine. Basically I‘m home, homebound other than to go to the doctor‘s or … go to the pharmacy, pick up medication. So when I go out, I always wear my mask, but I‘d like to be able to feel a little bit more comfortable when I‘m out.

Bill Walsh: Yeah, I understand. Perfectly understandable. Let‘s ask Lilly Kan if she has any advice for you.

Lilly Kan: Thank you so much for that. And one, thank you for your interest in getting vaccinated, and all the work that you‘ve already put into it. And while we know that supply is increasingly becoming available, we know that it can still be tough depending on what state and what local jurisdiction you are in, based on what supply is locally available. The best thing that I can say is, certainly continue to closely monitor. And, it sounds like you do have another option of exploring — whether the VA might be an option for you. And really the most important thing is right now, if you use all of these different strategies to get yourself registered and ready, then hopefully you will be well-positioned once supply is available. And so, I know that patience can be very difficult, especially given how eligible, what your eligibility is. But I would say that, continue to do what you are doing, and hopefully, it will work out once, again, supply becomes increasingly available.

Bill Walsh: OK, and Enola, one other resource. If you just press 1 on your telephone keypad, you‘ll be connected with an AARP staff, or maybe we can help you make those connections in New Jersey. All right, Jean, who do we have next on the line?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Audrey from Minnesota.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Audrey. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your call.

Audrey: OK. So once a person has the COVID, and have all the symptoms and they‘re quarantined for 14 days as the CDC has expected them to do. So now should they get vaccinated, and how long after having it should they get vaccinated? And during this time of having the COVID, can they expose somebody? And then those people have to go get tested after how many days of exposure?

Bill Walsh: OK. A few good questions there. Let‘s ask Dr. Aronoff to weigh in.

David Aronoff: Audrey, thank you for that set of questions which are really, really important. So first of all, for people who were able to stay at home and weren‘t hospitalized due to COVID-19, they really become no longer contagious after 10 days have passed beyond the onset of their symptoms — assuming that by 10 days, they‘re no longer having fevers and the majority of their symptoms are clearly getting better or on the way to recovery. So by day 14, and the example that you gave Audrey, that then you‘re not considered to be contagious anymore. Now we don‘t really know the strength of immune response that every individual person gets after they‘ve been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and had COVID-19. And while it‘s clear that people who have had COVID-19 have some immune protection against reinfection, that does seem to vary from person to person and probably is dependent on how strong of an immune response they mounted in the first place. And because of that uncertainty about just how robust their response was to the infection, we are really asking people to please get vaccinated after they‘ve fully recovered because the great thing about the vaccines is that the vaccines are not giving you COVID, but they are informing and educating your immune system to really specifically develop an antibody response against one part of the virus that is critical for infecting ourselves, which is we sometimes refer to as the spike protein on the virus. It‘s sort of like the Velcro that the virus uses to stick to our cells and cause infection.

So the vaccines really are good at making sure that we have a very strong immune response against viral infection. And we‘re asking people who have recovered from COVID to go ahead and get that boost of immunity with the vaccine. Now how long you wait can be, to some extent, up to you. In general, we feel like people who have recovered from COVID have at least three months of protection against reinfection. So if somebody feels more comfortable waiting up to three months before starting on a vaccine schedule, that is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, if somebody is eager to get vaccinated, or their case of COVID was really mild or even asymptomatic, and there‘s really uncertainty about their immune response, then for sure you can get vaccinated once you‘ve fully recovered from your COVID, you‘re no longer feeling sick and you‘re really back to normal. Then if that happens sooner than three months, which hopefully it will, then you‘re clear to get vaccinated. 

Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Aronoff. Thank you very much. And thanks to all of our panelists for answering the questions. It‘s been a really informative discussion. Dr. Aronoff, Dr. Benton and Lilly, I wonder if you have any closing thoughts or recommendations that our listeners should understand most from our conversation today. Dr. Aronoff, you have the mic, so why don‘t you start us off?

David Aronoff: Thank you very much, Bill. And just again, thank you to you and AARP for having me on today‘s show. And I think I would just like to underscore the importance throughout this pandemic that every one of us as individuals has played to protect ourselves and people around us. And one way that we can really play a leading role right now is not only to get ourselves immunized, but to encourage our friends and family to do the same. And I‘m really delighted that AARP is going to such great lengths to help people understand how they can find vaccines nearest them.

Bill Walsh: Thanks so much, Dr. Aronoff. Dr. Benton, any closing thoughts or recommendations?

Donna Benton: I want to say again, thank you for inviting me again. Dr. Aronoff really said everything I was thinking, and I would just add: Keep up the good habits of washing our hands and enjoy this bubble that we have of a little more social distancing.

Bill Walsh: Thank you so much, Dr. Benton. And Lilly Kan, any closing thoughts or recommendations?

Lilly Kan: Yes. And I similarly echo Dr. Aronoff and Dr. Benton in thanking you all for having me on today. In addition to all that your callers are doing to protect themselves through vaccination, social distancing and masking, just thank you to you all on the line for your patience and your perseverance. We know that things are improving. We know that we still have a ways to go, and you all have had such an important part in the work that we all dreamed to get through this pandemic. So thank you for that.

Bill Walsh: And thank all of you again, and thank you to our AARP members or volunteers and our listeners today for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership 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 and 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 starting tomorrow, April 9. Again, that web address is aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you‘ll 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 join us again tonight, April 8, at 7 p.m. for a special live event in English and Spanish — Coronavirus and the Latino Community: Safety, Protection and Prevention. Thank you, and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Coronavirus TTH-2021-04-08-1PM-MP3

Bill Walsh:  Hello, I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you’d like to hear this telephone-town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan 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. The good news is that we are finally seeing an acceleration of vaccine distribution. Some 73 percent of people aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, many older adults are struggling to get access; navigating long wait times, confusing sign-up systems; and in some cases, they lack transportation to and from appointments. While there are many signs we are emerging from the pandemic, we find ourselves in an in-between period with challenges all its own. Those who have been vaccinated have more freedom. But what does that mean for interacting with family, including grandkids who may be back at school? Some states are lowering the age to get vaccines, but what does that mean for an older person who hasn’t gotten an appointment yet? And some are relaxing public restrictions, so how do we stay safe these days?

[00:01:31] Today’s panel of experts will address these issues and more and take your questions live. 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 question live. If you’d like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. For those of you joining on the phone, if you‘d like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 and your telephone to be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question, and place you in the queue to ask that question live. And if you‘re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

[00:02:31] We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including representatives from President Biden‘s COVID-19 Task Force, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of Southern California, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. We’ll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jean Setzfand, who will facilitate your calls today.

[00:02:54] 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.

[00:03:19] Now I’d like to welcome our guests. Dr. Cameron Webb is a senior policy adviser for COVID-19 Equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. Dr. Webb is also a practicing physician at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Welcome to the program, Dr. Webb.

[00:03:37]Cameron Webb:  Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

[00:03:39]Bill Walsh:  We’re glad to have you. I’d also like to welcome Dr. David M. Aronoff. He is the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Welcome back, Dr. Aronoff.

[00:03:54]David Aronoff:  Thanks so much for having me on, Bill. Great to be here.

[00:03:58]Bill Walsh:  Donna Benton, Ph.D., is the director for the Family Caregiver Support Center at the University of Southern California. Thanks for joining us again, Dr. Benton.

[00:04:12] And finally, Lilly Kan is the senior director of Infectious Disease and Infomatics at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. That organization represents 3000 local health departments. Welcome back to the program.

[00:04:28]Lilly Kan:  Thank you so much, Bill. It’s great to be on.

[00:04:31]Bill Walsh:  Great to have you. Let’s jump right into the questions with our experts, and Dr. Webb, let’s start with you. While there have been signs of improvement, the vaccine distribution process continues to be challenging for many older adults. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 42 percent of seniors who tried to get an appointment said it was difficult. And we continue to hear about long lines and confusion on where and how to sign up. What’s being done to improve this?

[00:05:12]Cameron Webb:  That‘s such a great question because I‘ve heard from my own family members and from other individuals, how challenging this process has continued to be, and I think there’s been some improvement, but we want to keep pressing toward the mark. And so I‘ll start off by saying that the key tenets here are three things: One, to increase the amount of vaccines, increase the number of vaccinators, and increase the venues for vaccination. And so, if you look back to mid-January when the Biden/Harris administration started, we were sending out about 8.6 million doses of vaccine each week. And last week we sent out over 33 million doses. And so I think some of those long lines in terms of the instructional component, those are improving. We have even more vaccine available, especially when you couple that with more vaccinators. And then the last thing that we’ve really been pushing and calling on the states to increase are the venues for vaccination. That’s where you have these mass vaccination spaces, or community vaccination centers, but now in doctors’ offices, in federally qualified health centers, in pharmacies, and the president scaled that up from 17,000 sites to now it‘s over 24,000 sites as of this week, up to 40,000 sites by the 19th of this month. And so we’re really trying to make it easy and accessible in the places that people are used to getting their vaccinations. And I would think that’ll help some, and then finally, I think it’s pretty important that we streamline this process of registration. And web-based isn’t going to work for everybody. So making sure that there are phone options, and it works, making sure it’s culturally and linguistically appropriate. And we’re continuing to work closely with the states, and we’re looking forward to the launch of our vaccinefinder.gov next month. We think that probably … together, we’re going to continue to make it easier for older adults and for everyone to get access to a vaccine.

[00:07:05]Bill Walsh:  Let me ask you a follow-up question. COVID-19 has had a well-documented and tragic impact on older adults and people of color. How has the vaccine distribution sought to address this issue?

[00:07:18]Cameron Webb:  I touched on a couple of those points, but the main piece, I would say, particularly around the equity dynamic, is that all of our federal channels for vaccination are designed around that concept of equity. So our federal mass vaccination sites, which are our larger through-put centers, 3,000–6,000 shots per day, those are centered in the communities that have the most economic disadvantage, where they can serve the most people who’ve been the hardest hit and at the highest risk. In those sites alone, there are 25 different sites that we’ve watched so far, and they’re vaccinating over 60 percent of folks receiving shots there are from communities of color. And so that‘s really important as we’re trying to press toward that mark for equity, and then if you look at our federally qualified health centers, again, scaling that program up from 250 sites to over 400 sites now, there’ll be 950 sites by the end of this month, and again, these are trusted locations for care in these community health centers. And we think that that‘s a key mechanism, over 70 percent of the shots that those centers have been going to minority communities. And then finally, our pharmacy program, 50 percent of the sites nearly are located in the highest areas of economic disadvantage, the highest social vulnerability index scores. And so again, we‘re centering our programs around addressing some of those equity challenges, and that really does serve … older adults in an important way, because it makes sure that … in each of these, it‘s finding places to connect them and get them a little bit closer to where the vaccine is — instead of asking the fire to make its way to the water, bring the water to the fire. And that‘s kind of what we’re doing.

[00:09:03]Bill Walsh:  There you go. And you had mentioned vaccinefinder.gov. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

[00:09:13]Cameron Webb:  There was a version that was released earlier in the year of vaccinefinder.org, and it was really a site meant to consolidate, give a single place for people to come to get information about where and how to register. And so we looked on the site at this point, because of course it’s being built out of HHS and that‘s going to launch in the next couple of weeks, but the idea behind it is to really pull together a single place where anyone across the country can go to start to plug in, to figure out where to get vaccinated. Sometimes it‘s hard to find out where to start, and so we‘re trying to streamline and make it a little easier both in the web-based format and telephonically. And so we’re hoping that launching that is very important. And you’ve probably heard that we just recently launched a public confidence campaign. We have this new campaign — if you haven’t seen it, it‘s the “We Can Do This” campaign — so there are commercials, targeted advertising, but that education component about where and how to get vaccinated is also a part of that along with our community core that‘s going to be connecting folks with the vaccinations as well. So lots of different efforts to make sure that we’re getting people to the shots they need.

[00:10:21]Bill Walsh:  Very good. Thanks for that. And a reminder to our listeners, you can also find local resources on the vaccine on AARP‘s website: aarp.org/vaccineinfo. You can just choose your state, find the rules and regulations, and also toll-free numbers there, and some questions to ask as well. Dr. Aronoff, let‘s turn to you. We’ve seen a lot of questions about the different vaccines, with some people wanting to wait for one or another. Is there a reason to try to hold out for a specific vaccine? Is one better than another?

[00:11:01]David Aronoff:  That’s really a great question, Bill. And the short answer to that is no. We’re in the middle of a pandemic crisis, and we need to get people immunized. And we‘re in a very fortunate situation right now where we have three vaccines that are all doing exactly what we need them to be doing, which is that on the individual level, when you receive any of these three vaccines you are gaining immune protection that will keep you out of the hospital and provide protection against dying from COVID-19. And then the other thing that we’re asking of these vaccines is to induce immunity — that as more people get immunized ends the pandemic by inducing what we call herd immunity, and limiting the ability of the virus to keep hopping from person to person. And right now, all three of the options that are on the table in the United States are doing exactly what we need them to do. Now some people may prefer to get a single-shot vaccine over a two-shot vaccine, or have access to one versus the other. And those things may help drive decisions. But really the answer I try to tell people is get the vaccine that you can get unless there’s any compelling reason — if someone‘s allergic to a component of a particular vaccine, and that‘s information you can find on the internet or also speaking with your licensed health care professional.

[00:12:25]Bill Walsh:  OK, thanks so much for that, Dr. Aronoff. Dr. Benton, let‘s turn to you. What advice do you have for family caregivers who are trying to assist older loved ones in getting a vaccine appointment or getting to a vaccine location?

[00:12:40]Donna Benton:  Thank you. The first thing is patience. … You know, we‘ve all learned that going online may seem easy, but sometimes you actually have to just go back online and refresh and refresh. Telephone calls are wonderful. I think the people who are on these lines from, when I’ve talked to many family members, they find doing the phone call is a lot easier. You have to also think of the network of where your relative, your older adult relative, what‘s their network. Because sometimes when you’re trying to look for a vaccine, while we have these general sites, there may be something that‘s been expanded, like maybe at their church that your family member attends. They may be holding a vaccine clinic, or their physician may know where the nearest vaccine clinic is or a neighborhood watch group. So work with your relatives, because it may not just be these big sites, but there actually may be something where your relative is involved in. Maybe they‘re with a local senior center that has a vaccination clinic coming up. And so I think communication between family members is going to be very important along the coordination, but don‘t be afraid to pick up the phone. Sometimes for younger people we‘re used to texting … or going online, but a phone call is still very effective.

[00:14:10]Bill Walsh:  And it‘s still what a lot of people want, right. They just want to be able to talk to a human and ask those questions, particularly when the stakes are so high. Thanks so much for that, Dr. Benton, and I‘d like to remind our listeners that family caregivers can visit aarp.org/caregiving for more tips and tools to help. Lilly Kan, I‘d like to turn to you now. Many students are returning to in-person learning after almost a year of virtual schooling. What are some of the safety precautions that school districts and health departments are taking?

[00:14:47]Lilly Kan:  Thanks so much for that question, Bill. So one of the top safety precautions that local health departments and school districts are taking is making sure that people, including educators and school staff, are getting vaccinated. And it was really exciting to see that the CDC announced earlier this week that nearly 80 percent of teachers, school staff, and health care workers have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Again, that‘s such terrific news, and it really aligns with the focus that we as a nation have had in protecting our educators and school staff against COVID-19 through vaccinations. Local health departments, because they are also among the vaccinators alongside health care providers, and other people who are providing vaccinations within their communities, they‘re definitely involved in actually vaccinating educators and school staff. Health departments are also, outside of vaccinations, working to increase their support of things like school-based screening testing in collaboration with schools. And so we see local health departments continuing to work with schools also to not only vaccinate, but support school-based screening, testing, and even more generally, share information about continued community transmission and what that is looking like within communities. They are working to provide other support as schools determine how to implement CDC guidelines for schools, such as distancing in the classroom. One of the things that we know about local health departments in schools is that even before the pandemic, the majority of local health departments were working with schools in some kind of way. And it‘s those relationships that they‘re continuing to build on to help us get through the pandemic.

[00:16:34]Bill Walsh:  Thanks for that information, Lilly, we really appreciate it. And as a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad. We‘re going to get to those live questions shortly. But before we do, I wanted to bring in Megan O‘Reilly, vice president of health for AARP Government Affairs, to give us an update on what AARP has been doing on the COVID front. Welcome, Megan.

[00:16:58] Megan O’Reilly: Great to be with you, Bill. Thank you.

[00:17:01] Nice to have you. Megan, a few weeks ago, Congress passed, and the president signed, another coronavirus relief bill. What‘s in this law that will help folks with health coverage, including COVID-19 vaccines?

[00:17:13] Megan O’Reilly: Great question. You know, AARP has been fighting to lower health care costs, as we believe all Americans should have access to affordable coverage and the health care they need. We are pleased with the new law recently enacted, known as the American Rescue Plan that takes important steps to lower health care costs for those getting covered in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces over the next two years. Specifically, the law includes new and enhanced financial assistance for people who purchase coverage on their own in this marketplace. Many people could now pay nothing for their premiums, while others could save up to thousands of dollars a year. The new financial assistance is especially important for the many of you who are 50 to 64, who pay for more than other age groups for marketplace coverage, and also struggle to afford your health care bills. This expanded coverage and financial assistance will also help address keeping disparities and access to quality health care. It is available now, and in most states, you can enroll or update your coverage through August 15. And to learn more, we urge you to go to aarp.org/ACA. You‘d also mentioned vaccines, Bill, and the Rescue Plan includes billions of dollars in new funding to support vaccine development, distribution and education efforts. This is going to help vaccine supply increase and support efforts to reach those who are having trouble; for example, if you‘re homebound or don‘t have internet access. The new law also increases the child tax credit. Most important, the credit is now fully refundable and can be received as a monthly refund beginning in July. And finally, AARP has been fighting to make sure that everyone gets an economic stimulus payment, whether they are working or retired, pay taxes or do not. The new law gives $1,400 to every income-eligible individual, including those on Social Security. At the start of this week, 157 million payments have been sent out. And as of this week, the government has made more than 19 million payments, almost all by direct deposit to Social Security beneficiaries who have not already received their payments. AARP is proud to have fought for this help.

[00:19:34] Megan, thanks so much for that update. And I wonder if there are any other priorities that AARP is fighting for on Capitol Hill right now.

[00:19:41] Megan O’Reilly: AARP continues to fight for the financial and health security for 50- plus. This includes making sure that people, as they age, can remain in their homes and communities, that we‘re protecting nursing home residents and staff, and that people have access and can stay connected through high-speed internet. Congress will soon begin working on an infrastructure plan. And AARP will be fighting to make sure that the investments in our care economy are included in this package. This includes expanding access to services that help people live independently in their homes and communities and providing greater assistance to the nation‘s over 40 million family caregivers, many of whom we know are joining us today on today‘s call. We will also continue our work to lower prescription drug prices which continue to cripple family budgets. It is a really busy time on Capitol Hill, and AARP will continue to work hard to make sure the needs of older adults across this country are a priority, and that your voices are heard as we advocate on the issues that matter most to you.

[00:20:46] Thank you for that update, Megan. Really appreciate it. As a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question, press *3 on your telephone keypad. And we are going to get to those questions shortly. But before we do, I just wanted to address an important issue. We know that many of you are having challenges registering for vaccines because many places require sign-ups through online forums, and if you don‘t have access to a computer this is a real challenge. AARP wants to help. We‘ve established the AARP Vaccine Finder Support Team to assist in these cases. So if you‘re listening today, and you can‘t register for a vaccine in your community because you don‘t have access to technology, please press 1 on your telephone keypad now to be added to a list to receive a phone call from an AARP staff member to help out. Again, if you‘re listening today and you don‘t have access to a computer or the internet and cannot register for a vaccine because of that, press 1 on your telephone to be added to a list to receive a phone call. When you do, you‘ll listen to a brief message and then be returned to this call.

[00:21:57] It‘s now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Cameron Webb, Dr. David Aronoff, Dr. Donna Benton, and Lilly Khan. I‘d like now to bring in my AARP colleague Jean Setzfand to help facilitate your calls. Welcome, Jean.

[00:22:20]Jean Setzfand:  Thanks, Bill. Happy to be here for this important conversation.

[00:22:24] Bill Walsh: Who is our first caller today?

[00:22:26]Jean Setzfand:  Our first caller is Roger from Maryland.

[00:22:29]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Roger. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:22:34]Roger:  I was vaccinated two months ago and recently spent dinner with someone who I sat next to for many hours and has tested now positive for the virus. This other person is also a senior. Do I need to quarantine or do people around me need to be kept away ‘cause I might be able to transmit it to them, even though I … probably won‘t get sick myself?

[00:23:11]Bill Walsh:  Right. Thanks for the question, Roger. Maybe Dr. Aronoff can weigh in on that, and Dr. Webb, if you have anything to add.

[00:23:20]David Aronoff:  Thank you for that question, Roger. So the good news is — and one of the real incentives for getting vaccinated — is that that provides a higher barrier to you getting infected. And so if we look at the CDC guidelines for how we‘re supposed to handle these kinds of situations once we are immunized, the recommendations are that we don‘t need to quarantine, and we do not need to get tested for COVID-19 after exposure to someone who turns out to have COVID-19. But we do need to monitor ourselves for symptoms, and of course, if we develop symptoms that are suggestive of COVID-19, absolutely we should start to isolate ourselves and seek testing and/or medical attention depending on how the symptoms are. Now, my own advice also is that if you know for sure that you‘ve been exposed to somebody for a prolonged period of time who is positive, that for the next 10 days to two weeks try to limit the times that you‘re putting yourself into the space of other people without masking or without regard to the 6-foot distance, because you want to try to limit any possibility that even if you were asymptomatically shedding virus, that that could be transmitted to someone else. And so I just say, do the things you‘re normally doing to protect others around you when you‘re out in public, wearing a mask in public places, watching your distance between yourselves and others, but maybe just be a little more conscious of those efforts during that week to two weeks after a known exposure.

[00:24:58]Bill Walsh:  OK, and Dr. Webb, I wonder if you would just remind our listeners, many of whom are getting vaccinated, what the relatively new rules are related to interacting with people if you‘ve had the shots.

[00:25:13]Cameron Webb:  Absolutely. And I want to say first and foremost, Dr. Aronoff, that was perfect. I think that‘s the right advice. In terms of more broadly, the CDC guidance, the first way to think about it is that it‘s continuing to evolve and change. And so you‘ll see there are going to be adjustments or a new detail that‘s provided with these recommendations as the science continues to evolve. But the first thing is for folks who are fully vaccinated, they are able to visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or without being 6 feet apart. And I think that‘s, again, trying to make sure that we‘re acknowledging the science, but also acknowledging that there are some benefits to getting vaccinated. And then if you are engaging with unvaccinated people who are from at least only one other household, you can engage indoors without wearing masks or staying apart if that other household is that low risk for severe disease. Those are some of the key updates there. This is kind of the hugging guidance that they described as from Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky. But I think that as a starting point, those first sets of guidelines … are helpful. There‘s also numerous guidelines on, again, just in the past week about air travel and not having the need to quarantine before or after. And so that‘s helpful, too. And just keep your eyes peeled … there‘s going to continue to be new guidance and adjustments to the guidance in the weeks and months to come. But also as we‘re seeing changes in terms of disease spread or in terms of the variants, always keep in mind the better part of valor is caution. And I completely agree with Dr. Aronoff. It goes with the idea of making sure that you‘re wearing a mask when you can, keeping up physical distancing. It‘s still helpful to keep you safe and to keep others safe.

[00:27:05]Bill Walsh:  Thank you both for that. Jean, who do we have next on the line?

[00:27:10]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Lisa from Nebraska.

[00:27:13]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Lisa, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:27:17]Lisa:  Yes, sir. I am having problems in transportation to where I go get my shot, and also, they told me do not reschedule any more appointments. And so I don‘t know, I‘m just kind of lost. I haven‘t had a vaccine yet, so, but I‘m at home. I stay at home. I‘m disabled … I‘m over 50, and I have those conditions, you know, the preexisting conditions. I have MS and a few other things.

[00:27:57]Bill Walsh:  Lisa, whereabouts are you in Nebraska?

[00:28:00]Lisa:  I‘m just having problems with transportation.

[00:28:03]Bill Walsh:  Let‘s ask Lilly Kan about your question. Lilly.

[00:28:10]Lilly Kan:  Yes. Thank you so much for that question. So depending on the state, and I hear that you are in Nebraska, we know that different states and local jurisdictions are doing a number of different things to support people who may have trouble getting vaccinated either, again, because they have trouble getting to the sites or simply just cannot leave their homes. Now, the strategy does vary by state and locality. So, for example, in some states they are working with both public and private partners to provide transportation options. They are increasingly scheduling, and this is also in collaboration with the federal government as well, to really make the sites as accessible as possible. So increasing the number of sites so that it is not more than five miles from an individual. There are a lot of efforts that are happening around that as well. On a more limited — but it also exists — basis, there is some support in actually delivering vaccinations to people in their homes, recognizing that that is pretty resource intensive; that is happening on a relatively more limited basis than some of the other examples I‘ve provided. And so really, the first start would be to contact your state health department if that wasn‘t the agency that your caller had already been in touch with, to see what the different options are. And Bill, I certainly recognize that through AARP, there is some support in figuring out what additional services are as well for older adults trying to actually get to the vaccines.

[00:29:53]Bill Walsh:  Thanks Lilly, for that, and Lisa in Nebraska, if you want to just hit 1 on your phone, we‘ll connect you with an AARP staff member, and they will try to help you with that transportation issue that you‘re having. Jean, who is our next caller?

[00:30:12]Jean Setzfand:  We have several questions from YouTube and Facebook, and we have one coming from YouTube from Southwest Spirit, and the question is, "My 9-year-old grandson went back to school. We, the grandparents, have been vaccinated. I‘m 64 with type 2 diabetes. My husband is 70 with A-fib and high blood pressure. My grandson lives in two different households as well, one with mother and one with father. He‘s also around extended family. Is it safe to be able to have him back in our home, and also pick him up from school at least two to three times a week, and also stay with him during the summer two to three times during the week as well?

[00:30:51]Bill Walsh:  Hmm. That‘s a great question. Dr. Benton, do you have any thoughts on that?

[00:30:58]Donna Benton:  Actually, I think, no; I thought it was going to go to a doctor.

[00:31:06]Bill Walsh:  Well, that‘s OK. We can bring in Dr. Aronoff on that. Dr. Aronoff, do you have any suggestions for that caller?

[00:31:15]David Aronoff:  Yeah, I mean that‘s a really good question and a complicated scenario. But the thing that I really liked to hear from that question is that both grandparents have gotten vaccinated and completed their vaccine schedule, which is really important because we know that the vaccines protect our older populations from getting severely ill, into the hospital, and dying from COVID-19, which is really important. I think this is the kind of situation where communication is really important between the grandparents and the respective parents and the 9-year-old child to be trying to limit any extraneous interactions that can be limited so that it‘s less likely that the 9-year-old will become essentially infected and become a vector, bringing the virus around. But going to and from school, monitoring that 9-year-old for symptoms, making sure that the parents are vaccinated, if at all, they can get vaccinated, and just trying to create that bubble should allow for the grandparents to be around the grandchild, to contribute to picking up the child. I mean, this again is a situation where it probably wouldn‘t be best for the grandparents to be operating a carpool, shepherding a lot of children around, but one of the benefits of vaccination is going to be being able to see your grandkids. But just making sure that the family knows that there are two people in the family who, while they are vaccinated, still have risk factors for getting sick with COVID-19, and we just want to be prudent to try to limit extra sort of things — you know, maybe limiting sleepovers and things where they‘re just, it may be not essential. But that‘s a complicated situation, and I hope that the parents are also vaccinated.

[00:33:03]Bill Walsh:  Ah, that‘s a good point. Dr. Benton, let me swing back to you as a caregiving expert, I‘m sure you‘re hearing a lot of these situations. I mean grandparents have been unable in many cases to see their grandkids for a year or more. And now we‘re in this in-between phase where things are beginning to loosen up. Are there any pieces of advice you might give to grandparents contemplating reuniting either virtually or in person with grandkids?

[00:33:34]Donna Benton:  I think especially now — and I know that I‘ve heard more people are kind of getting together and having these parties — so I think the first thing is that we do have to, as the doctor just said, make sure that it‘s going to be safe for the younger child. We, probably during this time, if you‘ve been in the bubble together, then you probably are in a safer place, because everybody knows the risk factors that are going on. I think … the recommendation is that you still use masks, but maybe you‘re allowed hugs now. Somebody could correct me if I‘m wrong, and take it slow at this point because we don‘t want to increase anyone‘s risk factor if they have any underlying conditions. But I know everybody wants to just get together and hug each other and have some kind of celebration. And I think if you can do something that maybe is around a party as some kind of traditional thing, make a special meal together, this is a great time as we start getting back together. I think that food around the table is going to be what will bring people together again slowly.

[00:34:52]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Benton, thanks so much for that. Jean, who is our next caller?

[00:34:56]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Katherine from California.

[00:34:59]Bill Walsh:  Hey Katherine. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your call.

[00:35:04]Katherine:  Yes, I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine about a month ago, and I know it‘s been about two weeks since it‘s been in the news that there were all of those contaminated vials. I‘m just wondering, do I need to be worried that there might‘ve been contamination prior to what was reported in the news?

[00:35:24]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Webb, I wonder if you might weigh in on that.

[00:35:28]Cameron Webb:  Happy to. So, I want to be really clear on this. There‘s no reason to worry about any Johnson & Johnson products that have been delivered that folks are using currently that have been previously administered. This site where that contamination event happened was not yet approved or authorized by the FDA, and so that site wasn‘t active. None of them — the Johnson & Johnson that‘s been in clinics or vaccination centers — came from that space. And so nothing to worry about from that standpoint. You know, we feel pretty confident there. And then there‘s a lot that‘s being done with that particular plan in Baltimore to make sure that things get back on track, so it doesn‘t mess with the broader availability of Johnson & Johnson. But, as far as we know at this point, no prior contamination that‘s affected the other doses that have gone out.

[00:36:27]Bill Walsh:  OK, thank you for that. Jean, who do we have up next?

[00:36:31]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Elaine from Illinois.

[00:36:35]Bill Walsh:  Hi, Elaine, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:36:38]Elaine:  Yes. I wanted to know if someone is highly allergic to various medications, would this hamper it, ‘cause my doctor doesn‘t want liability.

[00:36:52]Bill Walsh:  Have you had a dose of a vaccine yet?

[00:36:56]Elaine:  No.

[00:36:57]Bill Walsh:  You haven‘t. OK. And what have you been allergic to in the past?

[00:37:02]Elaine:  Too many to mention on the air.

[00:37:05]Bill Walsh:  OK. No problem. Let‘s ask Dr. Aronoff about what he can tell you about that.

[00:37:13]David Aronoff:  So, really medication allergies have not been a contraindication to getting these vaccines. It is always good to check with your licensed health care provider to see if there are any particular ingredients that may be in certain medications or foods, or cosmetics or things that you‘re allergic to that may cross over with ingredients in the vaccines, which are available on the CDC website and other public spaces. But in general what we‘ve learned has been around anaphylaxis to these mRNA vaccines — which are the Pfizer and Moderna shots — which are very infrequent happenings in the order of somewhere between two and five events per million doses that are given. And those don‘t seem to be occurring in people with medication allergies per se, but everybody who gets one of these vaccines is asked to wait and be observed for at least 15 minutes, and if they do have a history of severe allergies to just about anything, they‘re often asked to wait for 30 minutes. And we give these vaccines in facilities that are prepared to handle it if anyone seems to be having a reaction to the vaccines. So the short answer is you should be able to get one of these vaccines. Being allergic to a regular type of medication, like an antibiotic or a blood pressure pill, should not be a contraindication to getting vaccinated. And if you want more information, for sure, engage your licensed health care professional.

[00:38:45]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Aronoff, isn‘t it true that there‘s also a monitoring period after the administration of a dose just for this very reason.

[00:38:53]David Aronoff:  Absolutely. Routinely people get watched for 15 minutes, and then they‘re free to go if there‘s been no problems, and then for people who do have a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergy, they are often asked to wait 30 minutes just to make sure that there is no untoward events from the vaccines.

[00:39:14]Bill Walsh:  And so would you advise Elaine to sign up for a vaccine and then simply advise the health care professional administering the vaccine about her past allergic reactions?

[00:39:26]David Aronoff:  Absolutely. Everybody who is giving vaccines has been trained to be able to advise people if they have severe allergies to a food or to medications, and to know whether they should wait 15 minutes or 30 minutes. So that‘s absolutely an acceptable approach.

[00:39:44]Bill Walsh:  Thank you so much for that, Dr. Aronoff, and thank you for all your questions. We‘re going to get to more of them shortly. Let‘s turn back to our experts. Dr. Webb, we‘ve heard a lot about the mass vaccination sites. You mentioned them earlier. They are being supported by the federal government. How has the administration supported vaccine access for people who can‘t get to those sites, because they‘re homebound, they don‘t have transportation, maybe they live in a rural area?. How can people access the resources if they fall into those categories?

[00:40:20]Cameron Webb:  Well, a couple of ways. And you heard the reference earlier that the president announced increasing the number of retail pharmacies that are distributing vaccines; and so the idea is that by 11 days from now, over 90 percent of people in this country will have one of the pharmacies within at least five miles of their home. So that helps somewhat for bridging that gap, for making it so that people don‘t have to travel across many counties to get to a place for vaccination, but they‘ll have a pharmacy nearby. The other thing is there are mobile units. And that is one of the ideas that we included in the national strategy for addressing this pandemic. And so, in terms of mobile units, we have mobile units that were created by FEMA, also by the Department of Defense, and then also by the VA. And we‘re mobilizing at this point over 500 different mobile sites to get to some of those hard- to-reach places and also to get vaccines closer to people. And so that‘s really important, and it‘s a matter of getting it as close as we can. Certainly working with states and localities, financially supporting efforts that are aimed to deliver vaccine to people who … use home and community-based services. So lots of different approaches. Again, this is inherently a local thing, but I think from the federal standpoint where we‘re really trying to support localities who understand the challenges that residents are facing with connecting with vaccine, and just making sure there are good mechanisms in place everywhere, whether it‘s through mobile units that are going around bringing vaccine to people, or whether it‘s mobile sites that are bringing vaccines and community-based or faith-based organizations to partner, or whether it‘s through these retail pharmacies that are going to be within a couple miles of your home.

[00:42:15]Bill Walsh:  And what suggestion do you make to folks in these situations to get access to those resources, the mobile units, the community-based outlets?

[00:42:26]Cameron Webb:  I think a good starting point is to reach out to your local health department and figure out what the options are in your area, because there are different strategies that are being employed in different places. But I think that very problem is prevalent across the country. There are people who fit that description in every community. And so, I think just touching base with the local health department and then saying, what are the options there? And an aging services organization … in your community can also help you figure out what the options are going to be locally.

[00:43:01]Bill Walsh:  OK, and a reminder to our listeners, AARP also has state-by-state guides for accessing vaccines at aarp.org/vaccineinfo. Simply select your state, and you‘ll see all the information about how to access the vaccine online, through a toll-free number and even questions to ask your doctor. Thank you very much for that, Dr. Webb. Dr. Aronoff, there are millions of grandparents who may be caring for grandkids or live in households with multiple generations. And we talked about this issue a little bit earlier, but I‘d like to put a finer point on it. If an older adult has been vaccinated, but is living in a house with unvaccinated grandkids who may be going to school or doing other activities, what precautions should they be taking?

[00:43:49]David Aronoff:  Yeah, I mean this is an important situation, Bill, because it‘s hopefully increasingly common that older adults are vaccinated. And soon, I hope, we‘ll start to be able to vaccinate children, but right now we‘re in that window period where young children are not yet immunized. And so, living at home being vaccinated, it is fine in that household for the vaccinated grandparents to not be wearing masks, but there should continue to be some guidance around the child going to school. Hopefully, the school is doing all of the things necessary to risk mitigate, and that means creating distance to the extent possible between students, having students wearing masks in school, having hand sanitizer available, having barriers up, and all of those things that schools have increasingly gotten very, very good at. But again, just trying to limit extracurricular activities or not hosting a bunch of children over at the house. But you know, the good news is the vaccines are likely to provide important protection to the older adults in the household. And, of course, if a child who‘s going to school has symptoms, or even the vaccinated adults have symptoms that are suggestive of COVID-19 at any time, they should isolate from others in the household if they can and go get tested.

[00:45:13]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Webb reminded us a moment ago that many states are lowering the age of eligibility for getting a vaccine. What do we know about the efficacy of the three approved vaccines for children and teenagers, Dr. Aronoff?

[00:45:28]David Aronoff:  Also a really great question. And we‘re hearing really good things and there‘s more to come. So for example, one of the mRNA vaccines that‘s made by Pfizer BioNTech has recently released data showing really, really high efficacy in children aged 12 to 16. And the vaccine is not yet approved by FDA through an emergency use authorization for that population. But that gives us some real hope that that will be around the corner. We know that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are doing trials, or have even finished enrolling in trials for even younger children down to as young as six months of age. So I think that later this spring, early summer, and heading toward the school year, we‘re going to get a lot of news about the effectiveness of these vaccines in younger populations. And we‘re all optimistic that prior to the school year next year, that we‘ll be able to really do substantial immunizations in our younger persons.

[00:46:36]Bill Walsh:  Hmm. Thank you for that. And we also understand that CDC just released an advisory that vaccinations for children dropped more than 14 percent from 2020 to 2021. And it encouraged family members to schedule well visits and keep on track with vaccinations even beyond the COVID-19 shot. So that‘s an important call-out for families. Dr. Benton, we‘ve been living under the pandemic for a year, and we‘ve all been feeling the strain — family caregivers, especially. What are some practical tools and resources that people can use to care for themselves?

[00:47:18]Donna Benton:  Yeah, we really have been feeling the strain, all of us, with being socially isolated and being worried that we can harm our relative. And so right now, I think that as we move out of this pandemic that we have to take it slow — and when I say slow, it kind of stands for first of all, we have to have some self-care. And that starts with recognizing what are your signs of stress. If you are feeling stressed, you have to figure out: Is it physical? Is it more emotionally drained? And then you match that, you counterbalance it by maybe saying it‘s more physical. You might, if you‘re having muscle soreness … maybe you‘re going to do stuff like dance or do some soft stretching or self-massage. But if it‘s more of like you‘re feeling emotionally drained, you might do more things like laughing and journaling and talking to other people. So you‘re trying to match what your self-care with once you figure out what your stress signs are. The L in slow means, you have to really look back and take an inventory of, you know, during this last year, we‘ve all gotten new information. We‘ve met new people. You‘ve had probably new programs that you learned about that have helped you be resilient during the pandemic. And what we don‘t want to do is just drop all of this new learning out of our life because maybe there‘s some things that you learned during this year, when you look back, that can actually help you going forward. So keep those things and that new information and people and programs with you as we move out of the pandemic. The other thing for O for slow is really begin to organize your day so that you now begin to include at a minimum 10 minutes of just taking a deep breath. You close your eyes. You clear your thoughts. Focus on your breathing and organize your day so that you really start to take those deep breaths and get that extra oxygen and thinking, and being able to relax your entire body quickly. And finally, the W in slow stands for — I found this quote that says, “Worry never robbed tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy.” So worrying about things at this point, let‘s try to recognize when we‘re getting worried, and really try to figure out how we can look at things a little differently and what we can focus on in the positive.

[00:50:03]Bill Walsh:  That‘s some great advice. I feel calmer already. Thank you for that. Dr. Benton, let me pivot to a less slow topic. You know, we heard from AARP‘s , Megan O‘Reilly a few minutes ago about the child tax credit that was part of the American Rescue Act Plan. How can credits like this help older adults who may be caring for younger family members?

[00:50:30]Donna Benton:  My understanding of the tax credit is this is really going to be able to give back some of the money that you might‘ve been using over and above … you might have strained your finances. And this will really give you back some money that you can use for expenses, that you might have had to make choices on before when you‘re caring for a younger child, if you‘re a grandparent taking care of grandkids. And I think that the other thing is that if you think about the funds that come in, it might allow you this time to re-bond with your grandchild. So maybe you can use the funds to do some kind of extra treats — like going out for ice cream or going to a museum that maybe you can‘t go to — you know, once everything is opened up safely — that may have had an entry fee. And also … kids are going to be going back to school. Your grandkids, we‘ve used the library and we‘ve been away, but maybe now you can buy some nonschool-related books that you can read together with your grandchild … and that‘s not going to take all of the funds, so you may use some for expenses. But maybe try to use a little bit, if you can, to do some treats together with your grandchild.

[00:51:53]Bill Walsh:  OK, very good. Thank you so much, Dr. Benton. Dr. Webb, I understand that you have to drop off the call to address an issue at the White House. I just wondered if you have any recommendations for the listeners who are on the line about our conversation today.

[00:52:11]Cameron Webb:  I think the main recommendation that I have is to not only make sure that you yourself are vaccinated and have had a chance because that‘s so important; if you haven‘t had a chance yet to get vaccinated, understand that the expectation is that over the next couple of days and weeks, a lot more adults are going to be eligible for vaccinations. And we want to make sure that we get you squared away first. But that said, if you have been vaccinated already, you have the potential to be one of the very best messengers that we have. You can spread the word, talk to your peers, [inaudible] in your social circles and talk to them about why you chose to get vaccinated, and some of the things that it has enabled you to do in terms of engagement with family, but also just in terms of peace of mind and know … you‘ve survived this as a shot of hope. And I hope that you‘ll be one of those ambassadors. And that‘s what this vaccine actually does. As a health professional, I just remember the relief that I felt. I work in the coronavirus unit at my hospital … the relief that I felt when that second shot went into my arm, and two weeks later knowing, “You know, I think I have another layer of protection now that gives me some peace of mind.” And if you feel like you‘re in a similar situation where you have some peace of mind, make sure you share that story. You are one of our best messengers. And thanks for taking the time to join us today and I appreciate you giving me a chance to chat with you.

[00:53:35]Bill Walsh:  OK, Dr. Webb. Well, you were an excellent messenger today as well. We really appreciate you being on the program, and good luck with whatever is percolating at the White House that is going to draw you away. Thanks again for joining us. For our listeners, we‘re going to get to your questions, shortly. Lilly Kan, let‘s turn to you again. We know that in some groups, such as African Americans, there‘s been a reluctance to take the vaccine because of historical skepticism of the medical community. What are local health departments and organizations doing to address this vaccine hesitancy?

[00:54:20]Lilly Kan:  Thanks for that question, Bill. So first, for those tuning in today who have either gotten their first dose or are fully vaccinated, I just want to say that‘s such terrific news and circumstances because in addition to you protecting yourself, it‘s exactly what Dr. Webb said, you also have an important role to be a trusted communicator to your loved ones who are still making their decisions about getting vaccinated, to talk about what made you get your vaccination and the reasons why as again, to support them in making their decisions. We know that as vaccine supply continues to increase, those numbers of older adults will continue to increase as well — especially again, as Dr. Webb said, the president had recently announced that all adult Americans will be eligible to be vaccinated in the upcoming weeks. We, as you mentioned, Bill, certainly recognize and understand that people who have not yet decided to get vaccinated are aware they are in their decision-making for many different reasons, and that there really is a lot we can do as a community to support these people. And so local health departments with that context, they have continued to work directly within their communities or with trusted community partners and local leaders who serve and represent those communities to do things like share timely and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines. People have continued to have a number of questions about COVID vaccines. Those questions and the specifics of those questions have evolved over time as they‘ve gotten more information and as we continue to learn more about vaccinations. And local health departments have also worked with community partners to make sure that that information is available in different languages that are also culturally appropriate. And so it really is an all-hands-on-deck approach to address vaccine hesitancy and build confidence.

[00:56:23] We expect that local health departments and their community partners will be a part of the COVID-19 community core that Dr. Webb mentioned earlier, and that‘s really focused on building a national grassroots network of local stakeholders working to encourage vaccinations through addressing hesitancy and increasing confidence. So they have worked together, local health departments and their community partners have those open and respectful conversations about COVID-19 vaccines, especially with communities of color and other populations to make sure that they‘re heard and listened to and that those questions are addressed. And so a few quick examples, certainly recognizing that there have been a couple of recent religious holidays. It was a really great opportunity for local health departments to work with their faith-based organizations to deliver messages and answer questions. But again, I think these organizations are just one of the many community-based organizations that local health departments are working with. And across all of those types of partnerships to reach communities of color and other communities that are diverse and also at various stages of, again, making their decisions, the focus has been on trusted messengers making sure there is clear and accurate and concise information, and making sure that access isn‘t an issue.

[00:57:49]Bill Walsh:  All right. Thank you very much for that, Lilly Kan. And before we take more of your questions, we want to again offer the AARP Vaccine Finders Support Team. If you‘re listening today and you don‘t have a computer and can‘t register for a vaccine in your community because you don‘t have access to technology, please press 1 to be added to a list to receive a phone call from AARP to assist you. When you do, you‘ll be asked to confirm that selection and then be returned to this call. Now it‘s time to address more of your questions with our distinguished guests. Jean, who do we have next on the line?

[00:58:48]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Joy from Vermont.

[00:58:51]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Joy. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your call.

[00:58:54]Joy:  Hi, I just wanted to say that I‘ve certainly had very good luck with Vermont and with these vaccines, and I‘ve gotten two of them so I don‘t need any more. I just want to congratulate Vermont for doing that. But my question is, I keep hearing that we may have to get booster shots, or another shot in six months or so. Can you tell me anything about that? I heard it on television.

[00:59:19]Bill Walsh:  Yeah, there‘s been a lot of talk about that. Dr. Aronoff, what can you tell us about the possibility of a booster shot for a vaccine?

[00:59:26]David Aronoff:  I think that‘s an important issue. And I thank Joy for bringing up the question. Right now we‘re really in a race to get as many people as we can immunized against COVID-19 while we are watching the spread of the virus throughout the country — including now some of these variants, some of which originated in the United States, some that appear to have come from abroad. And some of these variants are more transmissible and may even be more dangerous for people. And current evidence is that the vaccines we are rolling out right now do provide some protection and likely very important protection against getting seriously ill from these variants. But we don‘t know whether there‘re going to be variants in the future that are going to require tweaking our vaccine supply so that we‘re able to really induce stronger, more specific immunity against a particular variant. We are seeing good news that the vaccines that we are using induce immunity that lasts months at a time. We just heard from the Pfizer group that that vaccine has immunity out at least to six months; that seems to be very, very high. So I‘m hopeful that if we do need to get booster shots that are directed at more popular or prevalent variants, that that‘s off in the future and we have an opportunity to get everybody immunized with our current vaccines and hopefully start to see this pandemic recede into the background. But at the beginning of this pandemic, we weren‘t really thinking about boosters. We were just thinking about, Can we get a vaccine? Now we have great vaccines. And I think we do need to keep in mind that yes, we may need to get boosters at some point, but I don‘t think we can predict that that will be six months from now.

[01:01:21]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Aronoff, I‘m curious about what level of confidence you have that the current vaccines are effective against the new variants that we‘re seeing popping up it seems almost constantly. Have they been able to keep step with the changes as the virus mutates.

[01:01:39]David Aronoff:  Yes, and that‘s a really important point. For example, the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown to be quite effective at preventing serious illness from the variant that we‘ve heard coming from South Africa, for example. Now the clinical trials that were used to gain approval for the mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer were completed before we started really seeing these variants. And so, we don‘t have as much clinical information about how protective they are, but if we look at the blood of people who have gotten those vaccines, the antibodies in their blood do seem capable of neutralizing or blocking the ability of these variant viruses to infect cells in the laboratory. And that‘s strongly suggestive that we will get protection from people out in the communities. I will say that that‘s a really good reason to complete the two dose schedule for those mRNA vaccines, because that second dose of either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine really boosts your immune system and leads to much higher antibody levels in your blood compared to even the first shot. And so we really want super high levels of antibody so that even if those antibodies are just a little bit off target for some of these variants, they‘re able to provide enough protection to keep us out of harm‘s way.

[01:03:09]Bill Walsh:  Oh, really great point. Okay, Jean, who is our next caller?

[01:03:13]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Scott from New Mexico.

[01:03:17]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Scott. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[01:03:21]Scott:  I think the last answered one of my questions. I have an autoimmune disease, and I‘ve actually gotten both my vaccinations, and I‘m still following the protocols of wearing a mask and washing my hands, etc. I was wondering if you knew what the strain of the new variants that are coming out. Should I continue to follow this protocol as sort of ad infinitum, in other words, continue it until I hear a directive that says I don‘t have to do that anymore? Or is it safe to be in company with other people who are protected as well, and not wear my mask, and not follow the same protocols that traditionally I was doing prior to the vaccination.

[01:04:11]Bill Walsh:  Dr. Aronoff, can you help Scott?

[01:04:13]David Aronoff:  Scott, thank you very much for that question. Obviously, it‘s always hard over the phone to comment on very specific circumstances, such as your own, but I think in general terms now that you are fully vaccinated, you can abide by CDC guidance when you‘re around other people from another household who are fully vaccinated, and you could be without your mask on. If you are on medications that are suppressing your immune system, or you have an underlying condition where your care provider says your immune system is not normal or not functioning at full capacity, then you may want to be wearing a mask even around vaccinated people if there‘s any suspicion that the vaccines you got didn‘t, quote-unquote, take. And I would definitely say when you‘re out in public still wear a mask, still socially distance, and you made a great point, Scott, which is that we‘re going to see more guidance, and Dr. Webb pointed to this as well, change over time from the CDC. Right now we still have a lot of COVID in our communities, and we are seeing clearly the emergence of these variant viruses. And so the coast is not entirely clear. So we‘re still asking people, even fully vaccinated, previously healthy people, that when they are in public spaces indoors, like grocery stores, for example, that they should still be respecting the distance between themselves and other people and wearing their masks and doing things to limit risk. But at some point, we certainly hope that we‘ll get more of a green light from places like the CDC that say, you know, these variants are under control. If you‘re fully vaccinated, you don‘t need to be wearing masks when you‘re in medium or large size gatherings or in public. But we‘re not quite there yet.

[01:06:03]Bill Walsh:  Thank you for that, Dr. Aronoff. Jean, who do we have next on the line?

[01:06:08]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Golda from Mississippi.

[01:06:12]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Golda. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question. Hi Golda, go ahead with your question. All right, why don‘t we take another caller?

[01:06:31]Jean Setzfand:  No problem. Let‘s go to Enola from New Jersey.

[01:06:35]Bill Walsh:  Hi, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[01:06:38]Enola:  Hi, yes. I‘m running into an issue where I‘m registered on a couple of different sites. I go on the internet and everything I do, where they say click through to see what CVS has, back, vaccination available, whatever. I get told, no, no, no, no. I‘m 71 years old. I have COPD. I‘ve been diagnosed with what they say is allergic asthma due to the fact I have the allergies. I‘ve been doing the best I can, but I can‘t seem to find any vaccines open. I mean, I‘m on the state‘s wait lists; I‘ve registered with Robert Wood Johnson, which is one of … our hospitals, with their group. My next step is, ‘cause I just found out about it last night, that maybe I can get something from the VA. That‘s going to be my next call to make to see what their regulations are. I need some help. I mean I desperately would like to have the vaccine. Basically I‘m home, homebound other than to go to the doctor‘s or … go to the pharmacy, pick up medication. So when I go out, I always wear my mask, but I‘d like to be able to feel a little bit more comfortable when I‘m out.

[01:08:23]Bill Walsh:  Yeah, I understand. Perfectly understandable. Let‘s ask Lilly Kan if she has any advice for you.

[01:08:31]Lilly Kan:  Thank you so much for that. And one, thank you for your interest in getting vaccinated, and all the work that you‘ve already put into it. And while we know that supply is increasingly becoming available, we know that it can still be tough depending on what state and what local jurisdiction you are in, based on what supply is locally available. The best thing that I can say is, certainly continue to closely monitor. And, it sounds like you do have another option of exploring — whether the VA might be an option for you. And really the most important thing is right now, if you use all of these different strategies to get yourself registered and ready, then hopefully you will be well-positioned once supply is available. And so, I know that patience can be very difficult, especially given how eligible, what your eligibility is. But I would say that, continue to do what you are doing, and hopefully, it will work out once, again, supply becomes increasingly available.

[01:09:41]Bill Walsh:  OK, and Enola, one other resource. If you just press 1 on your telephone keypad, you‘ll be connected with an AARP staff, or maybe we can help you make those connections in New Jersey. All right, Jean, who do we have next on the line?

[01:09:58]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Audrey from Minnesota.

[01:10:02]Bill Walsh:  Hey, Audrey. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your call.

[01:10:05]Audrey:  OK. So once a person has the COVID, and have all the symptoms and they‘re quarantined for 14 days as the CDC has expected them to do. So now should they get vaccinated, and how long after having it should they get vaccinated? And during this time of having the COVID, can they expose somebody? And then those people have to go get tested after how many days of exposure?

[01:10:43]Bill Walsh:  OK. A few good questions there. Let‘s ask Dr. Aronoff to weigh in.

[01:10:49]David Aronoff:  Audrey, thank you for that set of questions which are really, really important. So first of all, for people who were able to stay at home and weren‘t hospitalized due to COVID-19, they really become no longer contagious after 10 days have passed beyond the onset of their symptoms — assuming that by 10 days, they‘re no longer having fevers and the majority of their symptoms are clearly getting better or on the way to recovery. So by day 14, and the example that you gave Audrey, that then you‘re not considered to be contagious anymore. Now we don‘t really know the strength of immune response that every individual person gets after they‘ve been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and had COVID-19. And while it‘s clear that people who have had COVID-19 have some immune protection against reinfection, that does seem to vary from person to person and probably is dependent on how strong of an immune response they mounted in the first place. And because of that uncertainty about just how robust their response was to the infection, we are really asking people to please get vaccinated after they‘ve fully recovered because the great thing about the vaccines is that the vaccines are not giving you COVID, but they are informing and educating your immune system to really specifically develop an antibody response against one part of the virus that is critical for infecting ourselves, which is we sometimes refer to as the spike protein on the virus. It‘s sort of like the Velcro that the virus uses to stick to our cells and cause infection.

[01:12:35] So the vaccines really are good at making sure that we have a very strong immune response against viral infection. And we‘re asking people who have recovered from COVID to go ahead and get that boost of immunity with the vaccine. Now how long you wait can be, to some extent, up to you. In general, we feel like people who have recovered from COVID have at least three months of protection against reinfection. So if somebody feels more comfortable waiting up to three months before starting on a vaccine schedule, that is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, if somebody is eager to get vaccinated, or their case of COVID was really mild or even asymptomatic, and there‘s really uncertainty about their immune response, then for sure you can get vaccinated once you‘ve fully recovered from your COVID, you‘re no longer feeling sick and you‘re really back to normal. Then if that happens sooner than three months, which hopefully it will, then you‘re clear to get vaccinated.

[01:13:38]Bill Walsh:  OK, Dr. Aronoff. Thank you very much. And thanks to all of our panelists for answering the questions. It‘s been a really informative discussion. Dr. Aronoff, Dr. Benton and Lilly, I wonder if you have any closing thoughts or recommendations that our listeners should understand most from our conversation today. Dr. Aronoff, you have the mic, so why don‘t you start us off?

[01:14:01]David Aronoff:  Thank you very much, Bill. And just again, thank you to you and AARP for having me on today‘s show. And I think I would just like to underscore the importance throughout this pandemic that every one of us as individuals has played to protect ourselves and people around us. And one way that we can really play a leading role right now is not only to get ourselves immunized, but to encourage our friends and family to do the same. And I‘m really delighted that AARP is going to such great lengths to help people understand how they can find vaccines nearest them.

[01:14:38]Bill Walsh:  Thanks so much, Dr. Aronoff. Dr. Benton, any closing thoughts or recommendations?

[01:14:44]Donna Benton:  I want to say again, thank you for inviting me again. Dr. Aronoff really said everything I was thinking, and I would just add: Keep up the good habits of washing our hands and enjoy this bubble that we have of a little more social distancing.

[01:15:04]Bill Walsh:  Thank you so much, Dr. Benton. And Lilly Kan, any closing thoughts or recommendations?

[01:15:10]Lilly Kan:  Yes. And I similarly echo Dr. Aronoff and Dr. Benton in thanking you all for having me on today. In addition to all that your callers are doing to protect themselves through vaccination, social distancing and masking, just thank you to you all on the line for your patience and your perseverance. We know that things are improving. We know that we still have a ways to go, and you all have had such an important part in the work that we all dreamed to get through this pandemic. So thank you for that.

[01:15:46]Bill Walsh:  And thank all of you again, and thank you to our AARP members or volunteers and our listeners today for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership 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 and 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 starting tomorrow, April 9. Again, that web address is aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you‘ll 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 join us again tonight, April 8, at 7 p.m. for a special live event in English and Spanish — Coronavirus and the Latino Community: Safety, Protection and Prevention. Thank you, and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[01:17:07]

 

Coronavirus: Vaccines and Caring for Grandkids and Loved Ones

Thursday, April 8, at 1 p.m. ET

Listen to a replay of the live event above.

This live Q&A event addressed the latest vaccine distribution efforts and how you can stay safe while caring for grandkids as schools reopen and other loved ones.

The experts:

  • Megan O’Reilly
    Vice President,
    Federal Health and Family,
    Government Affairs, AARP

  • Cameron Webb, M.D. 
    Senior Policy Advisor,
    COVID-19 Equity,
    White House COVID-19 Response Team

  • David M. Aronoff, M.D.
    Director, Division of Infectious Diseases,
    Department of Medicine,
    Vanderbilt University Medical Center

  • Donna Benton, Ph.D.
    Director, Family Caregiver Support Center,
    University of Southern California

  • Lilly Kan
    Senior Director,
    Infectious Disease & Informatics,
    National Association of County and City Health Officials

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


Replay previous AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • April 22 - Your Vaccine Questions Answered and Coronavirus: Vaccines and Asian American and Pacific Islanders
  • April 8 - Coronavirus and Latinos: Safety, Protection and Prevention and Vaccines and Caring for Grandkids and Loved Ones
  • April 1Coronavirus and The Black Community: Your Vaccine Questions Answered
  • March 25Coronavirus: The Stimulus, Taxes and Vaccine
  • March 11 - One Year of the Pandemic and Managing Personal Finances and Taxes
  • February 25Coronavirus Vaccines and You
  • 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