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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

Experts answer your questions related to COVID-19

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.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership 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. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, the pandemic is proving once again to be frustratingly persistent. Over the past week, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been trending up in about half the states as cold weather sets in and people are spending more time indoors. The good news is that the U.S. vaccination rates continue to increase, albeit slowly, and nearly 70 percent of Americans have at least one dose. Also, the FDA's recent authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is encouraging. Yet COVID-19-related misinformation continues to spread, stoking fears and confusion, particularly among older adults. And as families prepare to gather for the holidays, many are turning their attention to the health and mental well-being of their loved ones and family caregivers.

Today we'll be talking to a very special guest, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, M.D., U.S. Surgeon General, to discuss these issues and more. If you've participated in one of our tele-town halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us by phone, if you'd like to ask a question of Dr. Murthy, 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. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

Hello. If you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, 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 questions in the comments section. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded, and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staffer and get in the queue to ask your question live. Or, if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

Now I'd like to welcome our distinguished guest, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. and MBA. Dr Murthy is the 19th and 21st Surgeon General of the United States. His mission as the nation's doctor is to restore trust by relying on the best scientific information available; providing clear, consistent guidance and resources for the public; and ensuring we reach our most vulnerable communities. Welcome, and thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Murthy.

Vivek Murthy: Well, thank you, Bill. I really appreciate you having me on today.

Bill Walsh: All right, well we're delighted to have you. Let's dive right in. In the first week it was available, some 900,000 children ages 5 to 11 got COVID vaccines. Still, many parents and grandparents are weighing the risks and the benefits, and even some fully vaccinated adults are struggling with the decision to vaccinate young children. Why do you think that is, and what can you say that would give them some confidence in the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

Vivek Murthy: Well, that's a great question, Bill. And I'll just say, even though I'm the Surgeon General and I'm a physician, I think about this first and foremost as a dad. I'm a parent to two young children who are under the age of 12, which means up until recently, there hasn't been a vaccine available for them. And my wife and I, when we were thinking about this decision, we wanted what every parent wants, which is to make sure that our kids are safe and that they're protected. And so I certainly think if parents out there, grandparents out there, have questions about the vaccine, that's perfectly okay. It's reasonable. You just have to get your questions answered from credible and reputable sources, because there is a lot of misinformation out there.

A few things I would say, though, to parents and grandparents who are considering the vaccine for their kids and grandkids. Number one, it's important to know that the vaccine that's available for children 5 through 11 is specifically designed for kids. It's a lower dose than what the adults get. It's about a third of the dose. And the trials, the clinical trials that were done to study the impact of the vaccine were also specifically designed for kids in the 5 through 11 age group. And the thousands of participants in those trials helped us understand two critical things about the vaccine. Number one, it's highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in kids, more than 90 percent effective. The second is that it has a really strong safety profile. There were no serious adverse effects that were seen among children. Where they did experience side effects it was soreness in the arm, fatigue, headache, a fever that lasted for a day or two, but then resolved, leaving children with protection. Just one last thing that's important I think to consider here, too, which is the consequences of not getting vaccinated. You know, we've been through quite a lot, all of us, with this pandemic, and it's still not over yet unfortunately. We made a tremendous amount of progress, with nearly 195 million people fully vaccinated now in the country who are protected from the worst outcomes of COVID. But we still have many who are not vaccinated, and those include our children.

Now as winter approaches, we're seeing cases starting to go up, especially in cold-weather parts of the country. And that's not surprising, because as people go indoors, there's a greater chance of spread indoors. And we also know that the virus is more easily transmitted in cold, dry air. But that's why it makes it all the more important for us to strongly consider getting our kids vaccinated now, because we don't want them to be subject to infection and to risk from COVID over the coming weeks. And we have a chance, if we start now, to start their protection early. The last thing I'll just say is this, timing wise. If you get your child or your grandchild, maybe you start that vaccination process this week, you can have him or her ready actually and fully vaccinated by Christmas time, which, I know for my family, we're planning to take our kids to visit their grandparents during Christmas, the Christmas holidays, and we're really excited for our son to be fully vaccinated for that.

Bill Walsh: That's a great point. You know, I think travel during the holiday season is on everyone's mind. Let me just follow up very quickly. Which vaccines are now available for kids ages 5 to 12. And also, you noted that the kid's vaccine was a lower dose than the adult. But how does it compare to the one that was approved for kids 12 and older?

Vivek Murthy: Well, that's a great question, Bill. Well, the vaccine that's available for children 5 through 11 is the Pfizer vaccine. Some out there may know that there are three vaccines available now in the United States, one made by Pfizer, another one made by Moderna, and a third made by Johnson & Johnson. So this is the Pfizer vaccine. It turns out that the Pfizer vaccine is also the vaccine that's available for children 12 and up, but the dose for kids 12 and up is higher than the 5-to-11 dose. In fact, the dose for kids 12 and up is the same as the adult dose. So again, the current vaccination that was announced for children 5 to 11, this is specifically designed for this age range.

Bill Walsh: Okay, thanks for that. Now you alluded to this earlier. You know, many families, grandparents help keep the families healthy and whole, through childcare, tutoring, financial support, or other guidance. But it can be really delicate to discuss some parental decisions like vaccines. Do you have any advice to offer grandparents?

Vivek Murthy: Well, absolutely. And I know sometimes this can be delicate to navigate, especially when you're trying to be helpful but you don't want to overstep the parents' sort of decision-making. Look, as a parent myself, we negotiate this all the time with my parents, with my kids' grandparents because they participate in some of the decision-making that we make for our children's health. So it's not always easy. But here's one thing I do know. During this time, we've asked so much of parents, so much has been hoisted upon them. They've had to not only be parents, but they've had to become teachers as distance learning was required for many kids during the pandemic. They've had to telework many times in the process and figure out how to do all that. They've had to take care of so much more than is usually on their plate, and that's been taxing. And so any help and support in making decisions, getting information, I think can often be quite a service to parents.

But here's a couple of things I would recommend. One is to approach the conversation, one, just with an ear to listening. It could vary — a lot of people may have heard various things about the vaccines, and they have questions, they have concerns. Trying to understand what the parents' concerns are is one important part of it. I think the second is to try to gently and empathetically raise your concerns or your suggestions. If you're concerned about your grandchild's exposure to COVID-19 — especially if they're going to be traveling for the holidays or if they're in communities where there's still a lot of spread of COVID-19 — and being able to gently share those concerns but also direct parents to credible sources of information is also very important. And there are a number of credible sources you can point parents to. Those include talking to their own doctor, going to their local children's hospital for advice, talking to their local department of health, going to the CDC website. There are places that are assigned space that can provide people with answers to their questions.

And finally, I would just say this also. You know, sometimes it's a really interesting thing about all of us as human beings, our psychology, we tend to over-weight the cost of action and under-weight the cost of inaction. And the reason that becomes relevant here is sometimes we might not think there's a cost to waiting to get vaccinated, but there actually is a cost. And we know, for example, with a lot of COVID around — and they're somewhere between 75,000 to 80,000 people who are getting infected every day in this country; that's a lot of COVID-19 — that means a lot of people who are potentially exposed as well. The risk to our kids is not negligible. In fact, during this pandemic, we've lost hundreds of children to COVID-19. We've had thousands of kids who have been hospitalized. We've had thousands who have developed something called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is one of these conditions where multiple organ systems, including the heart, are affected. And beyond all of that, we know that COVID has forced many of our kids to miss play dates and time with grandparents, caused them to miss school as well as youth sports. So the cost to our children has been substantial.

So just because children overall do better than older adults when it comes to COVID does not mean that COVID is harmless in them. And if anyone tries to sort of tell you that COVID is just the flu or just like a bad cold, that's absolutely not true. We've learned that the hard way, through a very, very difficult experience these last 20, 22 months. So those are some things that might be worth raising with parents. But I do think — and I want to emphasize this — I do think grandparents have a very, very important role here to play. I know many of them out there have played extraordinarily important roles during this pandemic in providing so much of this support and extra help, and not just practical support but emotional support that many parents like me needed. I don’t know if I could have made it through this pandemic without my parents, without my children's grandparents. They were an integral part of caring for our kids and making sure we had the support to make the right decisions for them as well.

Bill Walsh: Yeah. I think a lot of people feel that way. Well, thank you so much for that. Let me shift gears and talk a little bit about boosters. In these programs in the past, we've gotten a lot of questions about boosters, and hopefully you can offer some clarity. News outlets are reporting booster shot authorization will be expanded to include all adults. Can you talk about that? And also whether it's safe to mix the vaccines. Say getting a different booster than the initial full cycle. Some have suggested mixing the vaccine types can actually strengthen the immune response. What are your thoughts?

Vivek Murthy: Well, I'm really glad you asked, Bill, because boosters are an especially important topic right now as winter approaches. And let me just step back for a second and just talk about the purpose of boosters for a moment. Number one, vaccine boosters are not unusual. We have boosters for many vaccines that people commonly get. A classic example is the tetanus shot. It doesn't mean that the vaccine that you got in the beginning doesn't work. In fact, the purpose of the booster is to extend the strong protection that people have already been getting from the vaccine. We just want to keep that going, and we know that the vaccines have already been instrumental in saving many people's lives, preventing them from ending up in the hospital. So again, we want to continue that. As of right now, people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago or more are eligible to get boosters. People who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines more than six months ago and who fall into a high risk category are also eligible to be boosted.

And now what does it mean to be in a high-risk category? Well, right now that means you're either above 65, you've got other medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or obesity, or you live or work in a place where you're more exposed to COVID-19. Maybe you work in a hospital or you're a teacher in a school or you work in a grocery store. Those would all be examples. Now, if that sounds like a lot of people, it is. It's about 100 million people who are eligible for boosters right now. And I would urge anyone who is eligible to please get boosted as soon as you can, because we — especially with winter coming, cases going up —we want people to have protection. If you're planning to travel for the holidays or get together with family, this is another layer of precaution that you can add to make sure you stay safe, but also you prevent yourself from transmitting the virus to other people.

Now finally, when it comes to the decision the FDA and CDC are working on right now, they're considering expanding the eligibility even further. So it would be all adults 18 and up that would be eligible for a booster shot. And they will make that decision actually very, very soon. They were expecting it within days here, but the bottom line is there are millions of people who are still eligible who have not gotten boosted. About 30 million have gotten boosted so far. That leaves about another 70 million who are eligible.

And lastly, with the mix and match, as you mentioned, it is actually now permissible to mix and match your vaccines. So if you got boosted with Pfizer, for example, and you went to get your ... or sorry, if you got your primary series with Pfizer and then you went to get boosted and they only had, let's say, Moderna, it would be okay for you to get a dose of Moderna. And similarly, vice versa. If you got Moderna and they only had Pfizer available, it's okay to get a dose of Pfizer. When it comes to Johnson & Johnson, some people have asked the question, should I go ahead and get a Johnson & Johnson booster or should I get boosted with Pfizer or Moderna? Because there's some data from Europe that showed that boosting with the mRNA vaccines, of which Pfizer and Moderna are a type of mRNA vaccine, that might be beneficial for folks who got a vaccine like J&J first. And the truth is, there's data showing that if you get boosted with Johnson & Johnson, that you actually get boosted to a very high level of protection. There's also data showing that if you got Johnson & Johnson, then you get boosted with the mRNA, that boosts your antibody levels up to a very, very high level.

So the bottom line is whichever pathway you go down, you should get strong protection from the boosters. And that's what we really want for everyone, especially going into this holiday season.

Bill Walsh: Right. Okay, thanks very much for that, Dr. Murthy, And as a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. And we're going to get to those live questions shortly. But before we do, I want to bring in Nancy LeaMond. Nancy is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer here at AARP. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy LeaMond: Well, thank you. I’m delighted to be here with Dr. Murthy and you, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. Now, in addition to sharing the most current coronavirus information, we'd like to take a few minutes to update our listeners on timely issues facing Congress in a segment we call Fighting for You. This week is a big one, with a lot happening on Capitol Hill that will affect older Americans. Nancy, what can you tell us?

Nancy LeaMond: Well, this is a big week, in many respects the biggest we've seen in years, with a lot to celebrate. First, President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on Monday, and we're expecting the House to vote very soon, maybe tomorrow or this weekend, on the budget reconciliation package, which includes a number of AARP priorities.

Bill Walsh: Okay. So two huge pieces of legislation. Well, first, let's talk about the reconciliation package, which is also known as the Build Back Better Act. What do people need to know about that?

Nancy LeaMond: Well, we're urging Congress to vote yes on this package that will lower prescription drug prices for millions of older Americans by finally allowing Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices. AARP has fought hard for this, and we're happy to see Congress finally reaching a deal to tackle the skyrocketing costs seniors pay for prescription drugs. In addition to Medicare being empowered to negotiate drug prices for the first time, the bill also penalizes drug companies that increase their prices faster than the rate of inflation. And it also adds a hard cap on what seniors pay out of pocket for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. I can't stress enough what this would mean to older Americans to finally get some relief from skyrocketing prescription drug costs.

Bill Walsh: Okay, so a lot of big news on the prescription drug front. What are some of the other provisions in the Build Back Better Act that AARP is fighting for?

Nancy LeaMond: Well, obviously, the prescription drug relief is a huge victory, and we simply can't overstate that enough. But as you say, there are other important health-related changes, including in the package, AARP has strongly supported the bill's addition of a hearing benefit to the Medicare program, as well as critical investments in home- and community-based services. So more older Americans are able to choose where they live and how they age. We also support the inclusion in the House bill of paid leave, which will offer much-needed help to working family caregivers, who are also struggling to balance paid employment and caring for their loved ones. The bill also makes individual health coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans aged 50 to 64. And finally, the bill makes a significant investment in housing, which is critical to older adults, who will benefit from the construction and repair of affordable and age-friendly housing options.

Bill Walsh: Okay. Well, thanks for that update. Let's talk about the other big piece of legislation, the new bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law this week. This includes more good news for older Americans. Can you share some of the highlights?

Nancy LeaMond: Sure. The infrastructure bill will help millions of Americans 50 and older stay connected to their communities, both in person and online. The package includes several AARP priorities, namely investments to expand access to high speed internet. It'll also help us improve roadway and pedestrian safety, as well as expand public transit. Nearly 15 percent of older adults have no access to high-speed internet and almost 7 out of 10 outlive their ability to drive, both of which limit their ability to access health care and jobs and stay connected in communities. AARP is fighting to ensure that all Americans have affordable, reliable internet access, wherever they live, and benefit from a range of safe and accessible transportation options, regardless of their age or their ability.

Bill Walsh: All right. So it sounds like a lot of positive changes there for older Americans. Is the battle over yet?

Nancy LeaMond: Well, there are a lot of important positive changes, but we have to keep going, and it's going to take efforts from all of us. AARP can't thank our members enough for raising your voices. Activists sent 300,000 emails and made 9,000 phone calls to Capitol Hill within a few days demanding that Congress make good on its promise to lower drug prices. And for those of you who are on the call today who helped us out, we really appreciate it. Your voices were heard loud and clear and are the reason prescription drug prices made it back into the bill. AARP will continue our full-court press as the reconciliation bill makes its way through the House and the Senate and completes its long and winding process to becoming law. But as you pointed out earlier, Bill, it's shaping up to be a very good week.

Bill Walsh: All right, well, thank you so much, Nancy LeaMond, for that update. We really appreciate it. Now it's time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Vivek Murthy. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question live. And if you'd like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: Now I'd like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: Thanks. I'm so glad to be here, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right, who do we have on the line first for the Surgeon General?

Jesse Salinas: Our first question today is going to be from Ralph in New York.

Bill Walsh: All right, Ralph. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Ralph: Yes. Good afternoon and thank you for having me. My question has to do with the anti-vax movement. I understand that the virus can be really put to bed by a high participation of getting vaccinated against it. Yet there's so many people that are worried about theoretical or possible, very faint possibility, of getting a reaction, and they'd rather not get the vaccination. Yet the cost of that is the real side effect, which could be death by not getting the vaccination. It's like misplaced priorities. So why is it so pervasive, the anti-vax sentiment, and then, what can be done about it?

Bill Walsh: Yeah, thanks so much, Ralph. You know, it seems some days that the only thing more persistent than COVID is the reluctance by some folks to get the vaccine to it. Dr. Murthy, can you address that ongoing concern?

Vivek Murthy: Well, sure, Bill, and first, Ralph, thank you for that question. I'm thinking maybe one of our strategies should be to send you out on the road because you seem to have a very clear understanding of the trade-offs here. Because you're exactly right. You know, it's very interesting and concerning to me how some people focus on the very, very low risks of getting vaccinated while ignoring the very, very high risks of not being vaccinated. And unfortunately, we have seen the price of that trade-off time and time again. We lost over 750,000 people in our country to this virus, which is just absolutely astounding. And we are losing more than a thousand every day now. So clearly, we have work to do.

Your question though about why this sentiment is as prevalent as it is. It's a few things that are happening. I think one, we know that there's a tremendous amount of misinformation that has proliferated during this time that's led some people to even believe that COVID's not real. I've had health care workers tell me that they have brought people in who are extraordinarily sick and have been admitted to the ICU, and they still don't believe that they had COVID, because they've been told that there's no such thing or that it's not real. And so there's a lot of misinformation about COVID, about the vaccine, about precautions, about masks, which have led people to move in a direction that's often in counter to their health interests.

There are few things feeding this as well. I think one, we know that one thing that's different now versus 10, 15 years ago is the proliferation of technology platforms on which people can share information. And unfortunately, while there's a lot of good that comes from these technology platforms, many of them have done a poor job of understanding the spread of misinformation on their site and have, unfortunately, allowed extraordinary proliferation of this misinformation. There's some tech sites, for example, some of the social media platforms, which have algorithms which inadvertently serve up more and more misinformation to people if they consume an initial article that may not be reputable or may be false, because the algorithm tells them, hey, do they like that article? They read it. Maybe they should get more of it. So you can see how this can become counterproductive very quickly.

But there are a couple of other factors at play here as well, Ralph. One is the fact that we are living in a time of extreme polarization, and the reason that matters is because polarization, whether it's political polarization or polarization for other reasons, actually enables the spread of misinformation, because when people become distrustful and angry towards those who don't share their belief or life experiences, we can find ourselves looking to believe anything that proves the other side is wrong, even if that information is false or if it's misleading. And so that's why it has been seen time and time again that polarized environments are fertile grounds for misinformation to spread.

And then the last thing is just fear, Ralph. This is a time where a lot of people are worried. Either they're seeing what's happening with regard to health and the impact on our kids and our schools and our economy, and they're worried. And when people are fearful, it's also a dangerous time, when misinformation can take root, because some people will take advantage of that fear and will try to sell people a narrative that may or may not be true, but may be economically beneficial to the person disseminating that misinformation, or politically beneficial. So it's a complicated and unfortunate environment. But here's one thing that gives me hope, something that we've seen time and time again. Which is that we can break through a lot of that is when people hear information from sources they trust. A lot of people may not trust the government, they may not trust a large company, but they may trust their doctor, or the nurse who takes care of them, or a family member who's well informed, or a faith leader from their congregations every Sunday. These trusted voices have extraordinary impact and outsized impact right now, which is one of the reasons why one of the things I've been working on that we have been building here in government is something called the COVID-19 Community Corps, which is a consortium of more than 16,000 churches and synagogues and YMCAs and local and sort of state-level networks, as well as doctors, nurses and other organizations that are coming together because they want to do everything they can to make sure people have accurate information about COVID-19.

So, anyway, I just want you to know, Ralph, that you, as an individual, all of us have people in our life who trust us. That means we have power through our voice and the power to help get them accurate information. That's what it's going to take for us ultimately to break through that misinformation and end this pandemic.

Bill Walsh: Okay, very good. Thank you, Doctor. Jesse, let's take another question.

Jesse Salinas: Yep, we've got a lot of response on social media today, Bill. So the next question is from Luanne on Facebook, and she asks, "What percentage of fully vaccinated people are having breakthrough cases of COVID."

Bill Walsh: Can you address that, Dr. Murthy, the rate of breakthrough infections?

Vivek Murthy: Sure. So one of the things that we started seeing is, in the original trials, what we saw was that the vaccines were highly effective. In fact, in the case of the mRNA vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna vaccines in particular — they were more than 90 percent effective at preventing infection. What we started to see as time went on is it is a combination of waning immunity, meaning after about six months we saw the protections of the vaccines was starting to go down a bit. But we also saw that with the delta variant that there were more breakthroughs. And the delta is the latest version of COVID-19 that caused the surge that took place over the summer. But here's the really good news: We found, number one, that the vaccines have since by and large been very effective at preventing people from experiencing the worst of COVID, and those include hospitalization and death. So bottom line is it still saves your life, it keeps you out of the hospital. But we also found that with boosters, you can restore that high level of protection, even against mild to moderate infection. And that's one of the reasons that we are strongly recommending that people who are eligible get boosted. We've got 100 million people are eligible right now. Anyone who got J&J more than two months ago, people who got Pfizer or Moderna more than six months ago, and who fall into a higher-risk category: above 65, have other illnesses, where they live and work in a place where they're more exposed to COVID-19.

Bill Walsh: Okay, Jesse, who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: We'll take one more from social media. We've got somebody named Lisa Spirit from YouTube, and she says, "My 9-year-old grandson is not vaccinated. I want to know if I can see them over the holidays. Do they need to take a rapid COVID test on the same day they're coming to my house? Or what do you suggest?"

Bill Walsh: Hmm, Doctor, what do you suggest? Lisa wants to visit with her 9-year-old grandson.

Vivek Murthy: Oh, well, first of all, I'm so glad, Lisa, that you're going to have a chance to see your grandson. My kids are going to be able to see their grandparents over the holidays. I'm very excited about that, too. They are as well. So there's a couple of things you can do to make sure you're safe. If your 9-year-old, for example, is coming to visit, keep in mind your 9-year-old now has the chance to get vaccinated because we have a vaccine for 5 through 11-year-olds. And so getting him or her vaccinated as soon as possible would be the most important thing I could recommend.

The second thing I would say is you can absolutely use testing as a way to reduce your risk even further. And so testing, for example, on the day that your grandson arrives would be one way to help reduce risk. Is testing a 100 percent reliable? No, but is it pretty darn good at helping us understand if somebody's got a high level of virus in them? Yes, it is. So I would certainly get them tested as well.

And I would think about your circumstance as well. You know, if you're above 65, if you've got other medical conditions, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease that might make you feel that you're at higher risk, then you can also go the extra mile and make sure you're wearing masks when you're in indoor settings together. And if you need to be indoors, let's say to eat, then try as best you can to improve the ventilation, having a portable air filter there. Or having other means like opening windows, et cetera, to improve air circulation is yet another way to further reduce risk.

Bill Walsh: Okay, great tips there. Jesse, let's take another call.

Jesse Salinas: Yep. We're going to bring on Donna from Ohio.

Bill Walsh: All right. Hey, Donna. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Donna: So if you have had COVID and you got a vaccine three months later, do you still need to get the booster shot?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy?

Vivek Murthy: Well, Donna, that's a great question. So if you had COVID and then you got a vaccine dose three months later, you should have a good degree of protection against the virus, which is great. But what we're recommending is that if you are more than six months out from your last shot — and bring up, for example, let's just say you got one of the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna — if you're more than six months out of from your last shot, we're still recommending at this time that you get boosted if you fall into one of those higher-risk groups that we talked about before: over 65, you've got other illnesses or you live or work in a place where you're higher risk for getting COVID. So I would still recommend doing that. Again, the risk side effects of these vaccines are, the risk is very low. The benefits are very high, especially with winter coming, holiday gatherings coming, it's a good time to have that extra protection.

Bill Walsh: Okay. Thanks to our listeners and those of you on Facebook and YouTube for your questions. We're going to get to more of those questions soon. And remember, if you'd like to ask a question, go ahead and press *3 on your telephone keypad, or drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Also, if you'd like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy, you know, we've seen a lot of news recently about a surge in COVID cases abroad, cases in Europe have surged about 50 percent over the past month. And you know, as I said at the outset, rates are also up in this country. How worried should Americans be of rising cases abroad, and is the increase in this country likely to continue?

Vivek Murthy: Well, it's a really important question. And one thing we've seen is that what happens in other countries and other parts of the world with COVID ultimately has an impact on us. This is a global pandemic, and it's emphasizing, reminding us how interconnected we are. I think as winter approaches, there are a couple of things we have to keep in mind in the United States. One is that we are starting to see a rise in cases, and we should anticipate that may continue for some time. How bad it gets, how much it rises, really depends on us and what we do together over the coming days and weeks.

Now, what is driving this increase? Well, it's a couple of things. Number one, it's the fact that we're getting to cold-weather season, and when the cold comes, people go indoors and indoors is a perfect setup for the virus to spread. The other factor is that in cold, dry air, it's easier for the virus to spread. So that's also contributing. Then finally you keep this in mind. We know that for people who got vaccinated a while ago, that one thing that may be contributing here is some waning immunity, which is why we're encouraging people to go out and get a booster shot if you are eligible for one. And if you are not vaccinated, this is absolutely, absolutely the right time to get vaccinated as quickly as you can, because you have no protection, really, if you're not vaccinated. Of course, you've got your natural immune system, but we've seen how many people have had severe illness and have died from this virus over the past couple of years, almost a couple of years now.

So the bottom line is, cases may continue to go up for some period of time this winter, but if you get vaccinated, and it's particularly if you get boosted, you can give yourself a high degree of protection certainly against the worst outcomes of COVID like hospitalization and death.

Bill Walsh: Right. All right, thanks for that, Dr. Murthy. Now next week, of course, families will be spending time together around the dinner table, and historically, this is an opportunity to take the measure of the health of our family members, and in particular our aging loved ones. What should we be looking for? What questions should we be asking?

Vivek Murthy: Well, Bill, I think this is such an important topic that we don't discuss often enough, which is the fact that this pandemic has taken a real toll on our mental health and our emotional well-being. We focus so much on hospitalizations, on other physical aspects of COVID-19, but gosh, I worry most, or just as much I should say, about the mental and emotional toll on all of us. And this is not always easy to see, right? You can't always tell from what people post on social media or from the brief conversation you may have over the phone about how people are really doing. So if you have the opportunity to get together with family face-to-face, an experience which I think we appreciate even more now after the many months of this pandemic, I would certainly use that as a chance to really check in with people and to ask how they are doing. Now, when you say how are you, 99 percent of the time people don't give you the honest answer. Sometimes you've got to pause, you've got to wait, you've got to listen for the real answers. Sometimes you've got to dig a little bit deeper. But this is a time for us to remind people that they have people in their lives who care about them, who are there for them, who are willing to listen to them, and who are there to support them.

One of the things we can also do is to be open about how we are doing. Sometimes a moment of honesty or transparency from us can inspire others to be open and honest as well. I would say, before you leave and come back home, make a plan to stay in touch on a regular basis. You know, it's great to get together once a year for the holidays, but sometimes it's that five-minute call in between that's done on a regular basis that can really provide a lifeline for so many others. When it comes to strengthening our relationships with each other — something that I think this pandemic has reminded us that we have to do because our relationships are our lifeline — it turns out that it is the quality of time we spend that really matters, not the quantity of time alone. And that five minutes of conversation where we're truly present with someone, where we're listening undistracted by our phones or other devices, when we're showing up just to truly understand how they are, that could be more powerful than an hour or two hours of distracted conversation. So it turns out at the end of the day, when we look at the number of wounds people have sustained during this pandemic, I want to remind everyone that we all have the power to help each other heal simply by showing up, by being present and by lending our support.

Bill Walsh: Yeah. I think that's a great point. You know, some of the less visible concerns of this pandemic have been the most insidious. And one of the most insidious has just been the burnout. I mean I'm sure you've seen it in the health community among medical and health workers. We've seen it a lot in family caregivers. Their jobs were difficult enough pre-pandemic, and they've gotten even more challenging during the pandemic. Do you have any advice for them? Some tips or best practices to help take care of themselves?

Vivek Murthy: I mean, this is such a real cost of this pandemic, the burnout that you mentioned. You know, in my own family, my grandmother is 90 years old, and my mother is the primary caregiver with some help from my father and my sister. And I look at the toll on my mom and on the family over this past year and a half of having no external help, just having to be there day in and day out, and take care of my grandmother who's had a number of health problems. And that burnout's real. You know, I see it up front in my own family. And I know millions of others are experiencing this as well.

You know, I think if you're one of those people out there who's struggling with this kind of burnout, a couple of things I would offer. Number one, please know that you are not alone. The fact that you may be feeling burned out doesn't mean that you are somehow weak, or that you can't rise to the occasion, or that you just don't have what it takes to care for your family. What you're going through is a very real and understandable phenomenon that many other people are going through during this pandemic. You've been asked to do an extraordinary amount. And I want people to know that. The second thing, though, is just to remember that one of our most powerful sources of healing is our connection to one another with our relationships. And we might think, gosh, with the burdens of caregiving, I just don't have time to go visit other friends or to have that one hour catch-up conversation. And that's very real. But the good thing about the fact that we are hardwired to connect with one another is sometimes even just a few minutes on the phone or via FaceTime with someone we care about, that alone can give us a significant boost. But it requires us to take that five minutes, to be fully present and not distracted during those conversations, and to just allow ourselves to be open. But the returns can be absolutely amazing.

And the third thing, last thing I'll point out is just that moments of solitude can also be very renewing for people who are struggling with anxiety, with depression, with burnout, from this pandemic. And now this might be counterintuitive, because I just said that relationships and social connection is very powerful for healing, but solitude is very different from loneliness. You know, solitude is the time we spend by ourselves where we're at peace or we're calm, that it's a time that renews us. And that might be five minutes that we spend sitting on our doorstep feeling the breeze against our face. It might be a short walk that we take through the woods, in our house, near our house. It might be five minutes, as you said, listening to music that calms us or inspires us, or reading something that reminds us of who we want to be. However we spend those few minutes, whether it's praying, meditating, reading, listening, taking those five minutes is something that I would encourage everyone to do whether it's at the beginning, end or middle of your day. It's not being selfish. It's doing what you need to do to support and sustain yourself during a very, very challenging time.

Bill Walsh: Right. Okay, that you for that, Dr. Murthy. Now I have another question for you. Maybe it's an unanswerable question, but I know it's on the minds of all of our members and many people around the country. It's how does this pandemic end? What are the milestones that tell us that we're moving beyond COVID's grip?

Vivek Murthy: Well, that is the right question. And one thing I do want to tell people is that we have made tremendous progress over this past year and a half. I know it may not always feel like that as you read the headlines in the paper, and you see that there are still thousands of cases that are taking place a day. But here's what I would keep in mind. Last year at this time, we didn't have a vaccine that was available. We were seeing cases surging and being followed by hospitalizations and deaths rising at an extraordinary clip. And we didn't have really powerful oral medications also that were game changers. But here's where we are now. We've got not only one but three vaccines. We have 195 million people who are fully vaccinated. That means that 195 million people are protected against the worst outcomes of COVID. We've got now 28 more million people in our children, 5 through 11, who are eligible for vaccines. We've got our kids back in school. We're learning how to actually gather for the holidays. And we've got two oral medications that can be taken by mouth that are on the horizon that are going through the FDA review process but have been shown to dramatically reduce your chances of getting seriously ill if you get COVID.

All of this is really good news, but for this pandemic to end, here's what we need to see. We need to see the severity of COVID dramatically reduced, and we can do that with vaccines and oral medicines. We just need more people to get vaccinated. We've got about 60 million people in our country who are eligible but not yet vaccinated. We need to close that gap. The second thing that we need to see come down are the sheer number of cases. And there, too, we can reduce those cases as we get up there in terms of our vaccination rates. And if we continue to take precautions judiciously, especially when case levels are high, and those precautions include things like wearing masks then when we're outside our homes and indoor settings. So these are the ways that we can get there. We will get there, though. This pandemic will end. That doesn't mean COVID will 100 percent disappear, but we will learn to knock it down so that it's far less dangerous to us than it is right now, and we see the tools to do that on the horizon.

So all of that, just to say, as tough as things are, I am hopeful that we, and optimistic that we, will get to the end of this pandemic, and I'm more confident in that now than I was a year ago.

Bill Walsh: All right. Well, we all very much appreciate your optimism. Now it's time to address more of your questions with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff to ask your question live. Jesse, who do we have next on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next caller is Leonard from Arizona.

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

Leonard: Nice to talk to you, Dr. Murthy, and Nancy LeaMond. I have a question about — I'm 85, my wife's 79. We had our Pfizer shots in January, second shots in February, boosters in September. Can we expect that we will be getting a COVID shot next year and every year after consistent with what we do with the flu and not with what we've done with other diseases, like we got our childhood immunizations?

Bill Walsh: Right. Thanks for that question, Leonard. Dr. Murthy, this is a question on a lot of people's minds. So once they've gotten their regimen of shots and boosters, what can they expect in the future?

Vivek Murthy: Well, Leonard, it's a really good question. And first of all, I'm so glad that you and your wife got vaccinated early in the year and that you got boosted in September. That means that you have a high degree of protection now against the worst of COVID. That's great, great news going into the holidays. As to whether you're going to need another shot next year or not, the truth is, we don't know yet. What we have to do is continue to follow people like you and understand more about what their experiences are as the months progress. But if we do see any indication that protection is dropping, that might be a signal that people do need an additional shot, and so they might end up being like the flu shot, where you may have to get something, a booster every year. Or it could end up being like the hepatitis B vaccine, where you get three doses at zero, one and six months, and then you're good for many years. But time will tell which course we go down, but this I can tell you. If it turns out that regular booster shots are needed, we will have the supply to do that, we will have the mechanisms to deliver it, because that's what we built over this past year: tens of thousands of locations for people to get vaccinated, the manufacturing capacity to generate what our country needs for protection.

Bill Walsh: Great. Thank you very much, Dr. Murthy. Jesse, let's take another call.

Jesse Salinas: Yep, we're going to take Lillian from Illinois.

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

Lillian: My question is, I had the Johnson & Johnson shot. There's no, very little information given out on the Johnson & Johnson booster in the area where I live. I am refusing to take any other booster other than Johnson & Johnson. So why is the information on the others, Pfizer and the others, given so often, and Johnson & Johnson doesn't get the equal coverage?

Bill Walsh: Well, let's ask the nation's top doctor. Dr. Murthy, can you talk a little bit about progress on the J&J booster? And also, you talked earlier about mixing and matching booster regimens. Can you address that again?

Vivek Murthy: Absolutely. Well, Lillian, I am so glad that you asked this question, and I've heard from many people like you, Lillian, who have gotten the J&J shot and have been wondering what they should do for their booster. I agree, a lot of times when you hear the news, it seems like they're primarily talking about Pfizer and Moderna, and not enough about Johnson & Johnson. So let me tell you what the recommendation is for Johnson & Johnson. The good news is that boosters are available now for people who got the J&J shot. And if you got your Johnson & Johnson shot two months ago or more, you are eligible for that booster. Now, you could get boosted with Johnson & Johnson if that's your preference, or you could get boosted with a Pfizer or Moderna shot. A lot of people are sort of choosing what works best for them, but what the trials have shown is that if you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as your booster, then you will have a significant increase in your protection against COVID. If you get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine as your booster, then you will also have a marked increase, a really big increase in the antibody levels, which are the soldiers, if you will, that protect your body from COVID-19 infection.

So whichever path you go down, you will get more protection than you have right now. And again, if you're more than two months out, I would urge you to go ahead and get that booster as soon as you can. You can get it at the same place that you got your J&J shot, most likely in any pharmacy, a lot of doctor's offices have the vaccines now. And if you're not sure where to go, you can check out vaccines.gov on the internet, and then just put in your zip code there, it'll give you locations where you can get an additional booster.

Bill Walsh: Okay. Very good. Thank you for that. Jesse, let's take another call.

Jesse Salinas: Yep. Our next caller is going to be Michael from California.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Michael, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Michael : Hi there. If someone has received three doses of the vaccine and takes immune suppressive medication, it is safe for that person to attend an indoor performance such as a play or a musical? Thank you.

Bill Walsh: Hmm, what do you say to that, Dr. Murthy. Any advice if people have been vaccinated but want to attend indoor events?

Vivek Murthy: Well, it's a great question, Michael. And if I heard Michael correctly, I believe he said he was immunocompromised as well. If you are immunocompromised, we know that in general that means that you're at higher risk, and first of all, you should absolutely get the vaccine. The CDC has also authorized people to get an additional dose, a third dose if they got two doses of the mRNA vaccine, so a third dose to make sure that they get an extra boost, if you will, in terms of protection. And on top of that, you are eligible, like everyone else, for a booster shot when you're six months out. And so I would urge people to do that. But when it comes to what is safe, afterward, we know that some folks who are immunocompromised will mount a really good response to the vaccine, but others may not. It depends in part on things like how immunocompromised are you. Are you, for example, on a low dose of steroids, or are you on some very powerful chemotherapeutic medications that may suppress your bone marrow and your production of immune cells. So if you have questions just about how much at risk you are, given specific illnesses you may have, you can always talk to your doctor to get advice. But if you are concerned, I would certainly say that if you're going to attend an indoor gathering, making sure that you wear a high-quality mask would be a good idea. That could be an N95 or a KN95 mask, making sure that you're washing your hands well, carry some hand sanitizer with you. And then, get in and get out as quickly as you can. But I would probably err on the side of safety, especially if you have a serious immune condition that reduces your protection.

Bill Walsh: Okay. Jesse, let's take another call.

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next question is going to be from Glenda in Florida.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Glenda, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Glenda: Thank you so much. My question is, if you've had COVID, and you had very mild case of it. My son and his family had it last winter, very mild, they don't think they need to get the immunizations. My opinion is, I think they do. They said a study out of Israel said people that had had the COVID had a higher immunity than people who had the immunization. I just need clarification on that.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy, can you help with that?

Vivek Murthy: Absolutely. Glenda, I'm so glad you asked this question, because you're not the only one who has it, and the bottom line is you are right, and I'll explain to you why. It turns out that people who have prior infection from COVID, they do mount an immune response, and that does give them some protection against future COVID episodes. Now, the big question, though, Glenda, is how much protection do they get? How long does that last? And does the amount of protection differ based on how old they are, how severe their infection was, or what other medical conditions they have. One thing that we have seen in the data, which is interesting and somewhat concerning, is that especially for people who have milder infections like your son did and his family, the amount of protection they develop in terms of antibodies is quite variable. Some develop a high degree of protection, but there are many who don't. And so I would be concerned if your son and others in your family had a mild infection last winter, meaning almost a year ago, and that they still may not have adequate protection right now. It's one of the reasons, given how many open questions there still are about the protection you get from prior infection. That's the reason that myself, the CDC and many other scientists inside and outside government have highly recommended that people pursue the path of vaccination because that is the tried-and-true pathway to getting maximum protection based on what we understand today. Now could that change down the line as we understand more? It might, but for right now, based on what we understand, vaccination is the pathway to go down.

Finally, let me just say one thing about that Israeli study that your son pointed out, because it's a reasonable question to ask. The Israeli study showed that there was significant protection that folks with prior infection got. But we should always be cautious, and I would say a little bit suspicious, about relying on a single study to tell you what's really going on. We've actually done broader analyses, looking at papers from all over the world that have been published on the impact of prior infection with COVID-19, and they show actually significant variability. Some have shown that overall you seem to have decent protection but if you're in an older age group, you actually have markedly less protection from prior infection. Others have shown again that if you have severe infection, that you get a lot of protection. That if you only had mild infection, protection is much more variable. And so, given all of these, looking at all the data in totality is why we've come to this recommendation that even if you had a prior infection, it still makes sense to get vaccinated and not to rely on that prior infection to protect you from COVID.

Bill Walsh: Okay. Dr. Murthy, thanks so much — oh, go ahead.

Vivek Murthy: Bill, sorry, one last thing just to mention the Glenda. Just for you — it might give your son some additional comfort — is there is now very clear data from Kentucky, from New York and other places that tell us that if you got prior infection and you get vaccinated on top of that, you really boost your protection to very, very high levels. In fact, if you're looking at people who are infected with COVID-19 in the past, those who didn't get vaccinated were more than twice as likely to get reinfected with COVID compared to those who did get vaccinated.

Bill Walsh: Hmm. Very interesting. Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for that clarification and for all of your time today. This has been a really informative discussion. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in the discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today's Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, November 19th. 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 December 9 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time for another live event, answering your questions about the coronavirus. We hope you can join us. Thank you and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[00:00:00] 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.

[00:00:20] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:00:21] AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership 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. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, the pandemic is proving once again to be frustratingly persistent. Over the past week, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been trending up in about half the states as cold weather sets in and people are spending more time indoors. The good news is that the U.S. vaccination rates continue to increase, albeit slowly, and nearly 70 percent of Americans have at least one dose. Also, the FDA's recent authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is encouraging. Yet COVID-19-related misinformation continues to spread, stoking fears and confusion, particularly among older adults. And as families prepare to gather for the holidays, many are turning their attention to the health and mental well-being of their loved ones and family caregivers.

[00:01:35] Today we'll be talking to a very special guest, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, M.D., U.S. Surgeon General, to discuss these issues and more. If you've participated in one of our tele-town halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us by phone, if you'd like to ask a question of Dr. Murthy, 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. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

[00:02:14] Hello. If you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, 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 questions in the comments section. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded, and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staffer and get in the queue to ask your question live. Or, if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, place your question in the comments.

[00:03:09] Now I'd like to welcome our distinguished guest, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. and MBA. Dr Murthy is the 19th and 21st Surgeon General of the United States. His mission as the nation's doctor is to restore trust by relying on the best scientific information available; providing clear, consistent guidance and resources for the public; and ensuring we reach our most vulnerable communities. Welcome, and thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Murthy.

[00:03:42] Vivek Murthy: Well, thank you, Bill. I really appreciate you having me on today.

[00:03:45] Bill Walsh: All right, well we're delighted to have you. Let's dive right in. In the first week it was available, some 900,000 children ages 5 to 11 got COVID vaccines. Still, many parents and grandparents are weighing the risks and the benefits, and even some fully vaccinated adults are struggling with the decision to vaccinate young children. Why do you think that is, and what can you say that would give them some confidence in the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

[00:04:18] Vivek Murthy: Well, that's a great question, Bill. And I'll just say, even though I'm the Surgeon General and I'm a physician, I think about this first and foremost as a dad. I'm a parent to two young children who are under the age of 12, which means up until recently, there hasn't been a vaccine available for them. And my wife and I, when we were thinking about this decision, we wanted what every parent wants, which is to make sure that our kids are safe and that they're protected. And so I certainly think if parents out there, grandparents out there, have questions about the vaccine, that's perfectly okay. It's reasonable. You just have to get your questions answered from credible and reputable sources, because there is a lot of misinformation out there.

[00:04:57] A few things I would say, though, to parents and grandparents who are considering the vaccine for their kids and grandkids. Number one, it's important to know that the vaccine that's available for children 5 through 11 is specifically designed for kids. It's a lower dose than what the adults get. It's about a third of the dose. And the trials, the clinical trials that were done to study the impact of the vaccine were also specifically designed for kids in the 5 through 11 age group. And the thousands of participants in those trials helped us understand two critical things about the vaccine. Number one, it's highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in kids, more than 90 percent effective. The second is that it has a really strong safety profile. There were no serious adverse effects that were seen among children. Where they did experience side effects it was soreness in the arm, fatigue, headache, a fever that lasted for a day or two, but then resolved, leaving children with protection. Just one last thing that's important I think to consider here, too, which is the consequences of not getting vaccinated. You know, we've been through quite a lot, all of us, with this pandemic, and it's still not over yet unfortunately. We made a tremendous amount of progress, with nearly 195 million people fully vaccinated now in the country who are protected from the worst outcomes of COVID. But we still have many who are not vaccinated, and those include our children.

[00:06:18] Now as winter approaches, we're seeing cases starting to go up, especially in cold-weather parts of the country. And that's not surprising, because as people go indoors, there's a greater chance of spread indoors. And we also know that the virus is more easily transmitted in cold, dry air. But that's why it makes it all the more important for us to strongly consider getting our kids vaccinated now, because we don't want them to be subject to infection and to risk from COVID over the coming weeks. And we have a chance, if we start now, to start their protection early. The last thing I'll just say is this, timing wise. If you get your child or your grandchild, maybe you start that vaccination process this week, you can have him or her ready actually and fully vaccinated by Christmas time, which, I know for my family, we're planning to take our kids to visit their grandparents during Christmas, the Christmas holidays, and we're really excited for our son to be fully vaccinated for that.

[00:07:18] Bill Walsh: That's a great point. You know, I think travel during the holiday season is on everyone's mind. Let me just follow up very quickly. Which vaccines are now available for kids ages 5 to 12. And also, you noted that the kid's vaccine was a lower dose than the adult. But how does it compare to the one that was approved for kids 12 and older?

[00:07:44] Vivek Murthy: Well, that's a great question, Bill. Well, the vaccine that's available for children 5 through 11 is the Pfizer vaccine. Some out there may know that there are three vaccines available now in the United States, one made by Pfizer, another one made by Moderna, and a third made by Johnson & Johnson. So this is the Pfizer vaccine. It turns out that the Pfizer vaccine is also the vaccine that's available for children 12 and up, but the dose for kids 12 and up is higher than the 5-to-11 dose. In fact, the dose for kids 12 and up is the same as the adult dose. So again, the current vaccination that was announced for children 5 to 11, this is specifically designed for this age range.

[00:08:27] Bill Walsh: Okay, thanks for that. Now you alluded to this earlier. You know, many families, grandparents help keep the families healthy and whole, through childcare, tutoring, financial support, or other guidance. But it can be really delicate to discuss some parental decisions like vaccines. Do you have any advice to offer grandparents?

[00:08:49] Vivek Murthy: Well, absolutely. And I know sometimes this can be delicate to navigate, especially when you're trying to be helpful but you don't want to overstep the parents' sort of decision-making. Look, as a parent myself, we negotiate this all the time with my parents, with my kids' grandparents because they participate in some of the decision-making that we make for our children's health. So it's not always easy. But here's one thing I do know. During this time, we've asked so much of parents, so much has been hoisted upon them. They've had to not only be parents, but they've had to become teachers as distance learning was required for many kids during the pandemic. They've had to telework many times in the process and figure out how to do all that. They've had to take care of so much more than is usually on their plate, and that's been taxing. And so any help and support in making decisions, getting information, I think can often be quite a service to parents.

[00:09:44] But here's a couple of things I would recommend. One is to approach the conversation, one, just with an ear to listening. It could vary — a lot of people may have heard various things about the vaccines, and they have questions, they have concerns. Trying to understand what the parents' concerns are is one important part of it. I think the second is to try to gently and empathetically raise your concerns or your suggestions. If you're concerned about your grandchild's exposure to COVID-19 — especially if they're going to be traveling for the holidays or if they're in communities where there's still a lot of spread of COVID-19 — and being able to gently share those concerns but also direct parents to credible sources of information is also very important. And there are a number of credible sources you can point parents to. Those include talking to their own doctor, going to their local children's hospital for advice, talking to their local department of health, going to the CDC website. There are places that are assigned space that can provide people with answers to their questions.

[00:10:49] And finally, I would just say this also. You know, sometimes it's a really interesting thing about all of us as human beings, our psychology, we tend to over-weight the cost of action and under-weight the cost of inaction. And the reason that becomes relevant here is sometimes we might not think there's a cost to waiting to get vaccinated, but there actually is a cost. And we know, for example, with a lot of COVID around — and they're somewhere between 75,000 to 80,000 people who are getting infected every day in this country; that's a lot of COVID-19 — that means a lot of people who are potentially exposed as well. The risk to our kids is not negligible. In fact, during this pandemic, we've lost hundreds of children to COVID-19. We've had thousands of kids who have been hospitalized. We've had thousands who have developed something called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is one of these conditions where multiple organ systems, including the heart, are affected. And beyond all of that, we know that COVID has forced many of our kids to miss play dates and time with grandparents, caused them to miss school as well as youth sports. So the cost to our children has been substantial.

[00:12:01] So just because children overall do better than older adults when it comes to COVID does not mean that COVID is harmless in them. And if anyone tries to sort of tell you that COVID is just the flu or just like a bad cold, that's absolutely not true. We've learned that the hard way, through a very, very difficult experience these last 20, 22 months. So those are some things that might be worth raising with parents. But I do think — and I want to emphasize this — I do think grandparents have a very, very important role here to play. I know many of them out there have played extraordinarily important roles during this pandemic in providing so much of this support and extra help, and not just practical support but emotional support that many parents like me needed. I don’t know if I could have made it through this pandemic without my parents, without my children's grandparents. They were an integral part of caring for our kids and making sure we had the support to make the right decisions for them as well.

[00:12:58] Bill Walsh: Yeah. I think a lot of people feel that way. Well, thank you so much for that. Let me shift gears and talk a little bit about boosters. In these programs in the past, we've gotten a lot of questions about boosters, and hopefully you can offer some clarity. News outlets are reporting booster shot authorization will be expanded to include all adults. Can you talk about that? And also whether it's safe to mix the vaccines. Say getting a different booster than the initial full cycle. Some have suggested mixing the vaccine types can actually strengthen the immune response. What are your thoughts?

[00:13:36] Vivek Murthy: Well, I'm really glad you asked, Bill, because boosters are an especially important topic right now as winter approaches. And let me just step back for a second and just talk about the purpose of boosters for a moment. Number one, vaccine boosters are not unusual. We have boosters for many vaccines that people commonly get. A classic example is the tetanus shot. It doesn't mean that the vaccine that you got in the beginning doesn't work. In fact, the purpose of the booster is to extend the strong protection that people have already been getting from the vaccine. We just want to keep that going, and we know that the vaccines have already been instrumental in saving many people's lives, preventing them from ending up in the hospital. So again, we want to continue that. As of right now, people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago or more are eligible to get boosters. People who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines more than six months ago and who fall into a high risk category are also eligible to be boosted.

[00:14:34] And now what does it mean to be in a high-risk category? Well, right now that means you're either above 65, you've got other medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or obesity, or you live or work in a place where you're more exposed to COVID-19. Maybe you work in a hospital or you're a teacher in a school or you work in a grocery store. Those would all be examples. Now, if that sounds like a lot of people, it is. It's about 100 million people who are eligible for boosters right now. And I would urge anyone who is eligible to please get boosted as soon as you can, because we — especially with winter coming, cases going up —we want people to have protection. If you're planning to travel for the holidays or get together with family, this is another layer of precaution that you can add to make sure you stay safe, but also you prevent yourself from transmitting the virus to other people.

[00:15:22] Now finally, when it comes to the decision the FDA and CDC are working on right now, they're considering expanding the eligibility even further. So it would be all adults 18 and up that would be eligible for a booster shot. And they will make that decision actually very, very soon. They were expecting it within days here, but the bottom line is there are millions of people who are still eligible who have not gotten boosted. About 30 million have gotten boosted so far. That leaves about another 70 million who are eligible.

[00:15:52] And lastly, with the mix and match, as you mentioned, it is actually now permissible to mix and match your vaccines. So if you got boosted with Pfizer, for example, and you went to get your ... or sorry, if you got your primary series with Pfizer and then you went to get boosted and they only had, let's say, Moderna, it would be okay for you to get a dose of Moderna. And similarly, vice versa. If you got Moderna and they only had Pfizer available, it's okay to get a dose of Pfizer. When it comes to Johnson & Johnson, some people have asked the question, should I go ahead and get a Johnson & Johnson booster or should I get boosted with Pfizer or Moderna? Because there's some data from Europe that showed that boosting with the mRNA vaccines, of which Pfizer and Moderna are a type of mRNA vaccine, that might be beneficial for folks who got a vaccine like J&J first. And the truth is, there's data showing that if you get boosted with Johnson & Johnson, that you actually get boosted to a very high level of protection. There's also data showing that if you got Johnson & Johnson, then you get boosted with the mRNA, that boosts your antibody levels up to a very, very high level.

[00:16:54] So the bottom line is whichever pathway you go down, you should get strong protection from the boosters. And that's what we really want for everyone, especially going into this holiday season.

[00:17:04] Bill Walsh: Right. Okay, thanks very much for that, Dr. Murthy, And as a reminder to our listeners, to ask your question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad. And we're going to get to those live questions shortly. But before we do, I want to bring in Nancy LeaMond. Nancy is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer here at AARP. Welcome, Nancy.

[00:17:26] Nancy LeaMond: Well, thank you. I’m delighted to be here with Dr. Murthy and you, Bill.

[00:17:29] Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. Now, in addition to sharing the most current coronavirus information, we'd like to take a few minutes to update our listeners on timely issues facing Congress in a segment we call Fighting for You. This week is a big one, with a lot happening on Capitol Hill that will affect older Americans. Nancy, what can you tell us?

[00:17:53] Nancy LeaMond: Well, this is a big week, in many respects the biggest we've seen in years, with a lot to celebrate. First, President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on Monday, and we're expecting the House to vote very soon, maybe tomorrow or this weekend, on the budget reconciliation package, which includes a number of AARP priorities.

[00:18:18] Bill Walsh: Okay. So two huge pieces of legislation. Well, first, let's talk about the reconciliation package, which is also known as the Build Back Better Act. What do people need to know about that?

[00:18:30] Nancy LeaMond: Well, we're urging Congress to vote yes on this package that will lower prescription drug prices for millions of older Americans by finally allowing Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices. AARP has fought hard for this, and we're happy to see Congress finally reaching a deal to tackle the skyrocketing costs seniors pay for prescription drugs. In addition to Medicare being empowered to negotiate drug prices for the first time, the bill also penalizes drug companies that increase their prices faster than the rate of inflation. And it also adds a hard cap on what seniors pay out of pocket for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. I can't stress enough what this would mean to older Americans to finally get some relief from skyrocketing prescription drug costs.

[00:19:23] Bill Walsh: Okay, so a lot of big news on the prescription drug front. What are some of the other provisions in the Build Back Better Act that AARP is fighting for?

[00:19:32] Nancy LeaMond: Well, obviously, the prescription drug relief is a huge victory, and we simply can't overstate that enough. But as you say, there are other important health-related changes, including in the package, AARP has strongly supported the bill's addition of a hearing benefit to the Medicare program, as well as critical investments in home- and community-based services. So more older Americans are able to choose where they live and how they age. We also support the inclusion in the House bill of paid leave, which will offer much-needed help to working family caregivers, who are also struggling to balance paid employment and caring for their loved ones. The bill also makes individual health coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans aged 50 to 64. And finally, the bill makes a significant investment in housing, which is critical to older adults, who will benefit from the construction and repair of affordable and age-friendly housing options.

[00:20:37] Bill Walsh: Okay. Well, thanks for that update. Let's talk about the other big piece of legislation, the new bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law this week. This includes more good news for older Americans. Can you share some of the highlights?

[00:20:52] Nancy LeaMond: Sure. The infrastructure bill will help millions of Americans 50 and older stay connected to their communities, both in person and online. The package includes several AARP priorities, namely investments to expand access to high speed internet. It'll also help us improve roadway and pedestrian safety, as well as expand public transit. Nearly 15 percent of older adults have no access to high-speed internet and almost 7 out of 10 outlive their ability to drive, both of which limit their ability to access health care and jobs and stay connected in communities. AARP is fighting to ensure that all Americans have affordable, reliable internet access, wherever they live, and benefit from a range of safe and accessible transportation options, regardless of their age or their ability.

[00:21:50] Bill Walsh: All right. So it sounds like a lot of positive changes there for older Americans. Is the battle over yet?

[00:21:58] Nancy LeaMond: Well, there are a lot of important positive changes, but we have to keep going, and it's going to take efforts from all of us. AARP can't thank our members enough for raising your voices. Activists sent 300,000 emails and made 9,000 phone calls to Capitol Hill within a few days demanding that Congress make good on its promise to lower drug prices. And for those of you who are on the call today who helped us out, we really appreciate it. Your voices were heard loud and clear and are the reason prescription drug prices made it back into the bill. AARP will continue our full-court press as the reconciliation bill makes its way through the House and the Senate and completes its long and winding process to becoming law. But as you pointed out earlier, Bill, it's shaping up to be a very good week.

[00:22:51] Bill Walsh: All right, well, thank you so much, Nancy LeaMond, for that update. We really appreciate it. Now it's time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Vivek Murthy. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question live. And if you'd like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

[00:23:21] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:23:22] Now I'd like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

[00:23:29] Jesse Salinas: Thanks. I'm so glad to be here, Bill.

[00:23:30] Bill Walsh: All right, who do we have on the line first for the Surgeon General?

[00:23:35] Jesse Salinas: Our first question today is going to be from Ralph in New York.

[00:23:39] Bill Walsh: All right, Ralph. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:23:43] Ralph: Yes. Good afternoon and thank you for having me. My question has to do with the anti-vax movement. I understand that the virus can be really put to bed by a high participation of getting vaccinated against it. Yet there's so many people that are worried about theoretical or possible, very faint possibility, of getting a reaction, and they'd rather not get the vaccination. Yet the cost of that is the real side effect, which could be death by not getting the vaccination. It's like misplaced priorities. So why is it so pervasive, the anti-vax sentiment, and then, what can be done about it?

[00:24:31] Bill Walsh: Yeah, thanks so much, Ralph. You know, it seems some days that the only thing more persistent than COVID is the reluctance by some folks to get the vaccine to it. Dr. Murthy, can you address that ongoing concern?

[00:24:46] Vivek Murthy: Well, sure, Bill, and first, Ralph, thank you for that question. I'm thinking maybe one of our strategies should be to send you out on the road because you seem to have a very clear understanding of the trade-offs here. Because you're exactly right. You know, it's very interesting and concerning to me how some people focus on the very, very low risks of getting vaccinated while ignoring the very, very high risks of not being vaccinated. And unfortunately, we have seen the price of that trade-off time and time again. We lost over 750,000 people in our country to this virus, which is just absolutely astounding. And we are losing more than a thousand every day now. So clearly, we have work to do.

[00:25:26] Your question though about why this sentiment is as prevalent as it is. It's a few things that are happening. I think one, we know that there's a tremendous amount of misinformation that has proliferated during this time that's led some people to even believe that COVID's not real. I've had health care workers tell me that they have brought people in who are extraordinarily sick and have been admitted to the ICU, and they still don't believe that they had COVID, because they've been told that there's no such thing or that it's not real. And so there's a lot of misinformation about COVID, about the vaccine, about precautions, about masks, which have led people to move in a direction that's often in counter to their health interests.

[00:26:11] There are few things feeding this as well. I think one, we know that one thing that's different now versus 10, 15 years ago is the proliferation of technology platforms on which people can share information. And unfortunately, while there's a lot of good that comes from these technology platforms, many of them have done a poor job of understanding the spread of misinformation on their site and have, unfortunately, allowed extraordinary proliferation of this misinformation. There's some tech sites, for example, some of the social media platforms, which have algorithms which inadvertently serve up more and more misinformation to people if they consume an initial article that may not be reputable or may be false, because the algorithm tells them, hey, do they like that article? They read it. Maybe they should get more of it. So you can see how this can become counterproductive very quickly.

[00:27:03] But there are a couple of other factors at play here as well, Ralph. One is the fact that we are living in a time of extreme polarization, and the reason that matters is because polarization, whether it's political polarization or polarization for other reasons, actually enables the spread of misinformation, because when people become distrustful and angry towards those who don't share their belief or life experiences, we can find ourselves looking to believe anything that proves the other side is wrong, even if that information is false or if it's misleading. And so that's why it has been seen time and time again that polarized environments are fertile grounds for misinformation to spread.

[00:27:46] And then the last thing is just fear, Ralph. This is a time where a lot of people are worried. Either they're seeing what's happening with regard to health and the impact on our kids and our schools and our economy, and they're worried. And when people are fearful, it's also a dangerous time, when misinformation can take root, because some people will take advantage of that fear and will try to sell people a narrative that may or may not be true, but may be economically beneficial to the person disseminating that misinformation, or politically beneficial. So it's a complicated and unfortunate environment. But here's one thing that gives me hope, something that we've seen time and time again. Which is that we can break through a lot of that is when people hear information from sources they trust. A lot of people may not trust the government, they may not trust a large company, but they may trust their doctor, or the nurse who takes care of them, or a family member who's well informed, or a faith leader from their congregations every Sunday. These trusted voices have extraordinary impact and outsized impact right now, which is one of the reasons why one of the things I've been working on that we have been building here in government is something called the COVID-19 Community Corps, which is a consortium of more than 16,000 churches and synagogues and YMCAs and local and sort of state-level networks, as well as doctors, nurses and other organizations that are coming together because they want to do everything they can to make sure people have accurate information about COVID-19.

[00:29:19] So, anyway, I just want you to know, Ralph, that you, as an individual, all of us have people in our life who trust us. That means we have power through our voice and the power to help get them accurate information. That's what it's going to take for us ultimately to break through that misinformation and end this pandemic.

[00:29:34] Bill Walsh: Okay, very good. Thank you, Doctor. Jesse, let's take another question.

[00:29:39] Jesse Salinas: Yep, we've got a lot of response on social media today, Bill. So the next question is from Luanne on Facebook, and she asks, "What percentage of fully vaccinated people are having breakthrough cases of COVID."

[00:29:50] Bill Walsh: Can you address that, Dr. Murthy, the rate of breakthrough infections?

[00:29:56] Vivek Murthy: Sure. So one of the things that we started seeing is, in the original trials, what we saw was that the vaccines were highly effective. In fact, in the case of the mRNA vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna vaccines in particular — they were more than 90 percent effective at preventing infection. What we started to see as time went on is it is a combination of waning immunity, meaning after about six months we saw the protections of the vaccines was starting to go down a bit. But we also saw that with the delta variant that there were more breakthroughs. And the delta is the latest version of COVID-19 that caused the surge that took place over the summer. But here's the really good news: We found, number one, that the vaccines have since by and large been very effective at preventing people from experiencing the worst of COVID, and those include hospitalization and death. So bottom line is it still saves your life, it keeps you out of the hospital. But we also found that with boosters, you can restore that high level of protection, even against mild to moderate infection. And that's one of the reasons that we are strongly recommending that people who are eligible get boosted. We've got 100 million people are eligible right now. Anyone who got J&J more than two months ago, people who got Pfizer or Moderna more than six months ago, and who fall into a higher-risk category: above 65, have other illnesses, where they live and work in a place where they're more exposed to COVID-19.

[00:31:19] Bill Walsh: Okay, Jesse, who do we have up next?

[00:31:23] Jesse Salinas: We'll take one more from social media. We've got somebody named Lisa Spirit from YouTube, and she says, "My 9-year-old grandson is not vaccinated. I want to know if I can see them over the holidays. Do they need to take a rapid COVID test on the same day they're coming to my house? Or what do you suggest?"

[00:31:38] Bill Walsh: Hmm, Doctor, what do you suggest? Lisa wants to visit with her 9-year-old grandson.

[00:31:45] Vivek Murthy: Oh, well, first of all, I'm so glad, Lisa, that you're going to have a chance to see your grandson. My kids are going to be able to see their grandparents over the holidays. I'm very excited about that, too. They are as well. So there's a couple of things you can do to make sure you're safe. If your 9-year-old, for example, is coming to visit, keep in mind your 9-year-old now has the chance to get vaccinated because we have a vaccine for 5 through 11-year-olds. And so getting him or her vaccinated as soon as possible would be the most important thing I could recommend.

[00:32:15] The second thing I would say is you can absolutely use testing as a way to reduce your risk even further. And so testing, for example, on the day that your grandson arrives would be one way to help reduce risk. Is testing a 100 percent reliable? No, but is it pretty darn good at helping us understand if somebody's got a high level of virus in them? Yes, it is. So I would certainly get them tested as well.

[00:32:39] And I would think about your circumstance as well. You know, if you're above 65, if you've got other medical conditions, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease that might make you feel that you're at higher risk, then you can also go the extra mile and make sure you're wearing masks when you're in indoor settings together. And if you need to be indoors, let's say to eat, then try as best you can to improve the ventilation, having a portable air filter there. Or having other means like opening windows, et cetera, to improve air circulation is yet another way to further reduce risk.

[00:33:13] Bill Walsh: Okay, great tips there. Jesse, let's take another call.

[00:33:17] Jesse Salinas: Yep. We're going to bring on Donna from Ohio.

[00:33:20] Bill Walsh: All right. Hey, Donna. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:33:25] Donna: So if you have had COVID and you got a vaccine three months later, do you still need to get the booster shot?

[00:33:35] Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy?

[00:33:37] Vivek Murthy: Well, Donna, that's a great question. So if you had COVID and then you got a vaccine dose three months later, you should have a good degree of protection against the virus, which is great. But what we're recommending is that if you are more than six months out from your last shot — and bring up, for example, let's just say you got one of the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna — if you're more than six months out of from your last shot, we're still recommending at this time that you get boosted if you fall into one of those higher-risk groups that we talked about before: over 65, you've got other illnesses or you live or work in a place where you're higher risk for getting COVID. So I would still recommend doing that. Again, the risk side effects of these vaccines are, the risk is very low. The benefits are very high, especially with winter coming, holiday gatherings coming, it's a good time to have that extra protection.

[00:34:28] Bill Walsh: Okay. Thanks to our listeners and those of you on Facebook and YouTube for your questions. We're going to get to more of those questions soon. And remember, if you'd like to ask a question, go ahead and press *3 on your telephone keypad, or drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Also, if you'd like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

[00:34:57] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:34:58] Dr. Murthy, you know, we've seen a lot of news recently about a surge in COVID cases abroad, cases in Europe have surged about 50 percent over the past month. And you know, as I said at the outset, rates are also up in this country. How worried should Americans be of rising cases abroad, and is the increase in this country likely to continue?

[00:35:24] Vivek Murthy: Well, it's a really important question. And one thing we've seen is that what happens in other countries and other parts of the world with COVID ultimately has an impact on us. This is a global pandemic, and it's emphasizing, reminding us how interconnected we are. I think as winter approaches, there are a couple of things we have to keep in mind in the United States. One is that we are starting to see a rise in cases, and we should anticipate that may continue for some time. How bad it gets, how much it rises, really depends on us and what we do together over the coming days and weeks.

[00:35:59] Now, what is driving this increase? Well, it's a couple of things. Number one, it's the fact that we're getting to cold-weather season, and when the cold comes, people go indoors and indoors is a perfect setup for the virus to spread. The other factor is that in cold, dry air, it's easier for the virus to spread. So that's also contributing. Then finally you keep this in mind. We know that for people who got vaccinated a while ago, that one thing that may be contributing here is some waning immunity, which is why we're encouraging people to go out and get a booster shot if you are eligible for one. And if you are not vaccinated, this is absolutely, absolutely the right time to get vaccinated as quickly as you can, because you have no protection, really, if you're not vaccinated. Of course, you've got your natural immune system, but we've seen how many people have had severe illness and have died from this virus over the past couple of years, almost a couple of years now.

[00:36:55] So the bottom line is, cases may continue to go up for some period of time this winter, but if you get vaccinated, and it's particularly if you get boosted, you can give yourself a high degree of protection certainly against the worst outcomes of COVID like hospitalization and death.

[00:37:11] Bill Walsh: Right. All right, thanks for that, Dr. Murthy. Now next week, of course, families will be spending time together around the dinner table, and historically, this is an opportunity to take the measure of the health of our family members, and in particular our aging loved ones. What should we be looking for? What questions should we be asking?

[00:37:34] Vivek Murthy: Well, Bill, I think this is such an important topic that we don't discuss often enough, which is the fact that this pandemic has taken a real toll on our mental health and our emotional well-being. We focus so much on hospitalizations, on other physical aspects of COVID-19, but gosh, I worry most, or just as much I should say, about the mental and emotional toll on all of us. And this is not always easy to see, right? You can't always tell from what people post on social media or from the brief conversation you may have over the phone about how people are really doing. So if you have the opportunity to get together with family face-to-face, an experience which I think we appreciate even more now after the many months of this pandemic, I would certainly use that as a chance to really check in with people and to ask how they are doing. Now, when you say how are you, 99 percent of the time people don't give you the honest answer. Sometimes you've got to pause, you've got to wait, you've got to listen for the real answers. Sometimes you've got to dig a little bit deeper. But this is a time for us to remind people that they have people in their lives who care about them, who are there for them, who are willing to listen to them, and who are there to support them.

[00:38:48] One of the things we can also do is to be open about how we are doing. Sometimes a moment of honesty or transparency from us can inspire others to be open and honest as well. I would say, before you leave and come back home, make a plan to stay in touch on a regular basis. You know, it's great to get together once a year for the holidays, but sometimes it's that five-minute call in between that's done on a regular basis that can really provide a lifeline for so many others. When it comes to strengthening our relationships with each other — something that I think this pandemic has reminded us that we have to do because our relationships are our lifeline — it turns out that it is the quality of time we spend that really matters, not the quantity of time alone. And that five minutes of conversation where we're truly present with someone, where we're listening undistracted by our phones or other devices, when we're showing up just to truly understand how they are, that could be more powerful than an hour or two hours of distracted conversation. So it turns out at the end of the day, when we look at the number of wounds people have sustained during this pandemic, I want to remind everyone that we all have the power to help each other heal simply by showing up, by being present and by lending our support.

[00:40:12] Bill Walsh: Yeah. I think that's a great point. You know, some of the less visible concerns of this pandemic have been the most insidious. And one of the most insidious has just been the burnout. I mean I'm sure you've seen it in the health community among medical and health workers. We've seen it a lot in family caregivers. Their jobs were difficult enough pre-pandemic, and they've gotten even more challenging during the pandemic. Do you have any advice for them? Some tips or best practices to help take care of themselves?

[00:40:44] Vivek Murthy: I mean, this is such a real cost of this pandemic, the burnout that you mentioned. You know, in my own family, my grandmother is 90 years old, and my mother is the primary caregiver with some help from my father and my sister. And I look at the toll on my mom and on the family over this past year and a half of having no external help, just having to be there day in and day out, and take care of my grandmother who's had a number of health problems. And that burnout's real. You know, I see it up front in my own family. And I know millions of others are experiencing this as well.

[00:41:20] You know, I think if you're one of those people out there who's struggling with this kind of burnout, a couple of things I would offer. Number one, please know that you are not alone. The fact that you may be feeling burned out doesn't mean that you are somehow weak, or that you can't rise to the occasion, or that you just don't have what it takes to care for your family. What you're going through is a very real and understandable phenomenon that many other people are going through during this pandemic. You've been asked to do an extraordinary amount. And I want people to know that. The second thing, though, is just to remember that one of our most powerful sources of healing is our connection to one another with our relationships. And we might think, gosh, with the burdens of caregiving, I just don't have time to go visit other friends or to have that one hour catch-up conversation. And that's very real. But the good thing about the fact that we are hardwired to connect with one another is sometimes even just a few minutes on the phone or via FaceTime with someone we care about, that alone can give us a significant boost. But it requires us to take that five minutes, to be fully present and not distracted during those conversations, and to just allow ourselves to be open. But the returns can be absolutely amazing.

[00:42:37] And the third thing, last thing I'll point out is just that moments of solitude can also be very renewing for people who are struggling with anxiety, with depression, with burnout, from this pandemic. And now this might be counterintuitive, because I just said that relationships and social connection is very powerful for healing, but solitude is very different from loneliness. You know, solitude is the time we spend by ourselves where we're at peace or we're calm, that it's a time that renews us. And that might be five minutes that we spend sitting on our doorstep feeling the breeze against our face. It might be a short walk that we take through the woods, in our house, near our house. It might be five minutes, as you said, listening to music that calms us or inspires us, or reading something that reminds us of who we want to be. However we spend those few minutes, whether it's praying, meditating, reading, listening, taking those five minutes is something that I would encourage everyone to do whether it's at the beginning, end or middle of your day. It's not being selfish. It's doing what you need to do to support and sustain yourself during a very, very challenging time.

[00:43:46] Bill Walsh: Right. Okay, that you for that, Dr. Murthy. Now I have another question for you. Maybe it's an unanswerable question, but I know it's on the minds of all of our members and many people around the country. It's how does this pandemic end? What are the milestones that tell us that we're moving beyond COVID's grip?

[00:44:06] Vivek Murthy: Well, that is the right question. And one thing I do want to tell people is that we have made tremendous progress over this past year and a half. I know it may not always feel like that as you read the headlines in the paper, and you see that there are still thousands of cases that are taking place a day. But here's what I would keep in mind. Last year at this time, we didn't have a vaccine that was available. We were seeing cases surging and being followed by hospitalizations and deaths rising at an extraordinary clip. And we didn't have really powerful oral medications also that were game changers. But here's where we are now. We've got not only one but three vaccines. We have 195 million people who are fully vaccinated. That means that 195 million people are protected against the worst outcomes of COVID. We've got now 28 more million people in our children, 5 through 11, who are eligible for vaccines. We've got our kids back in school. We're learning how to actually gather for the holidays. And we've got two oral medications that can be taken by mouth that are on the horizon that are going through the FDA review process but have been shown to dramatically reduce your chances of getting seriously ill if you get COVID.

[00:45:19] All of this is really good news, but for this pandemic to end, here's what we need to see. We need to see the severity of COVID dramatically reduced, and we can do that with vaccines and oral medicines. We just need more people to get vaccinated. We've got about 60 million people in our country who are eligible but not yet vaccinated. We need to close that gap. The second thing that we need to see come down are the sheer number of cases. And there, too, we can reduce those cases as we get up there in terms of our vaccination rates. And if we continue to take precautions judiciously, especially when case levels are high, and those precautions include things like wearing masks then when we're outside our homes and indoor settings. So these are the ways that we can get there. We will get there, though. This pandemic will end. That doesn't mean COVID will 100 percent disappear, but we will learn to knock it down so that it's far less dangerous to us than it is right now, and we see the tools to do that on the horizon.

[00:46:20] So all of that, just to say, as tough as things are, I am hopeful that we, and optimistic that we, will get to the end of this pandemic, and I'm more confident in that now than I was a year ago.

[00:46:32] Bill Walsh: All right. Well, we all very much appreciate your optimism. Now it's time to address more of your questions with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff to ask your question live. Jesse, who do we have next on the line?

[00:46:54] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next caller is Leonard from Arizona.

[00:46:57] Bill Walsh: Hey, Leonard. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:47:02] Leonard: Nice to talk to you, Dr. Murthy, and Nancy LeaMond. I have a question about — I'm 85, my wife's 79. We had our Pfizer shots in January, second shots in February, boosters in September. Can we expect that we will be getting a COVID shot next year and every year after consistent with what we do with the flu and not with what we've done with other diseases, like we got our childhood immunizations?

[00:47:39] Bill Walsh: Right. Thanks for that question, Leonard. Dr. Murthy, this is a question on a lot of people's minds. So once they've gotten their regimen of shots and boosters, what can they expect in the future?

[00:47:52] Vivek Murthy: Well, Leonard, it's a really good question. And first of all, I'm so glad that you and your wife got vaccinated early in the year and that you got boosted in September. That means that you have a high degree of protection now against the worst of COVID. That's great, great news going into the holidays. As to whether you're going to need another shot next year or not, the truth is, we don't know yet. What we have to do is continue to follow people like you and understand more about what their experiences are as the months progress. But if we do see any indication that protection is dropping, that might be a signal that people do need an additional shot, and so they might end up being like the flu shot, where you may have to get something, a booster every year. Or it could end up being like the hepatitis B vaccine, where you get three doses at zero, one and six months, and then you're good for many years. But time will tell which course we go down, but this I can tell you. If it turns out that regular booster shots are needed, we will have the supply to do that, we will have the mechanisms to deliver it, because that's what we built over this past year: tens of thousands of locations for people to get vaccinated, the manufacturing capacity to generate what our country needs for protection.

[00:49:09] Bill Walsh: Great. Thank you very much, Dr. Murthy. Jesse, let's take another call.

[00:49:13] Jesse Salinas: Yep, we're going to take Lillian from Illinois.

[00:49:16] Bill Walsh: Lillian, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:49:20] Lillian: My question is, I had the Johnson & Johnson shot. There's no, very little information given out on the Johnson & Johnson booster in the area where I live. I am refusing to take any other booster other than Johnson & Johnson. So why is the information on the others, Pfizer and the others, given so often, and Johnson & Johnson doesn't get the equal coverage?

[00:50:01] Bill Walsh: Well, let's ask the nation's top doctor. Dr. Murthy, can you talk a little bit about progress on the J&J booster? And also, you talked earlier about mixing and matching booster regimens. Can you address that again?

[00:50:24] Vivek Murthy: Absolutely. Well, Lillian, I am so glad that you asked this question, and I've heard from many people like you, Lillian, who have gotten the J&J shot and have been wondering what they should do for their booster. I agree, a lot of times when you hear the news, it seems like they're primarily talking about Pfizer and Moderna, and not enough about Johnson & Johnson. So let me tell you what the recommendation is for Johnson & Johnson. The good news is that boosters are available now for people who got the J&J shot. And if you got your Johnson & Johnson shot two months ago or more, you are eligible for that booster. Now, you could get boosted with Johnson & Johnson if that's your preference, or you could get boosted with a Pfizer or Moderna shot. A lot of people are sort of choosing what works best for them, but what the trials have shown is that if you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as your booster, then you will have a significant increase in your protection against COVID. If you get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine as your booster, then you will also have a marked increase, a really big increase in the antibody levels, which are the soldiers, if you will, that protect your body from COVID-19 infection.

[00:51:40] So whichever path you go down, you will get more protection than you have right now. And again, if you're more than two months out, I would urge you to go ahead and get that booster as soon as you can. You can get it at the same place that you got your J&J shot, most likely in any pharmacy, a lot of doctor's offices have the vaccines now. And if you're not sure where to go, you can check out vaccines.gov on the internet, and then just put in your zip code there, it'll give you locations where you can get an additional booster.

[00:52:09] Bill Walsh: Okay. Very good. Thank you for that. Jesse, let's take another call.

[00:52:14] Jesse Salinas: Yep. Our next caller is going to be Michael from California.

[00:52:17] Bill Walsh: Hey, Michael, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:52:22] Michael: Hi there. If someone has received three doses of the vaccine and takes immune suppressive medication, it is safe for that person to attend an indoor performance such as a play or a musical? Thank you.

[00:52:36] Bill Walsh: Hmm, what do you say to that, Dr. Murthy. Any advice if people have been vaccinated but want to attend indoor events?

[00:52:48] Vivek Murthy: Well, it's a great question, Michael. And if I heard Michael correctly, I believe he said he was immunocompromised as well. If you are immunocompromised, we know that in general that means that you're at higher risk, and first of all, you should absolutely get the vaccine. The CDC has also authorized people to get an additional dose, a third dose if they got two doses of the mRNA vaccine, so a third dose to make sure that they get an extra boost, if you will, in terms of protection. And on top of that, you are eligible, like everyone else, for a booster shot when you're six months out. And so I would urge people to do that. But when it comes to what is safe, afterward, we know that some folks who are immunocompromised will mount a really good response to the vaccine, but others may not. It depends in part on things like how immunocompromised are you. Are you, for example, on a low dose of steroids, or are you on some very powerful chemotherapeutic medications that may suppress your bone marrow and your production of immune cells. So if you have questions just about how much at risk you are, given specific illnesses you may have, you can always talk to your doctor to get advice. But if you are concerned, I would certainly say that if you're going to attend an indoor gathering, making sure that you wear a high-quality mask would be a good idea. That could be an N95 or a KN95 mask, making sure that you're washing your hands well, carry some hand sanitizer with you. And then, get in and get out as quickly as you can. But I would probably err on the side of safety, especially if you have a serious immune condition that reduces your protection.

[00:54:35] Bill Walsh: Okay. Jesse, let's take another call.

[00:54:38] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next question is going to be from Glenda in Florida.

[00:54:42] Bill Walsh: Hey, Glenda, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:54:46] Glenda: Thank you so much. My question is, if you've had COVID, and you had very mild case of it. My son and his family had it last winter, very mild, they don't think they need to get the immunizations. My opinion is, I think they do. They said a study out of Israel said people that had had the COVID had a higher immunity than people who had the immunization. I just need clarification on that.

[00:55:24] Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy, can you help with that?

[00:55:27] Vivek Murthy: Absolutely. Glenda, I'm so glad you asked this question, because you're not the only one who has it, and the bottom line is you are right, and I'll explain to you why. It turns out that people who have prior infection from COVID, they do mount an immune response, and that does give them some protection against future COVID episodes. Now, the big question, though, Glenda, is how much protection do they get? How long does that last? And does the amount of protection differ based on how old they are, how severe their infection was, or what other medical conditions they have. One thing that we have seen in the data, which is interesting and somewhat concerning, is that especially for people who have milder infections like your son did and his family, the amount of protection they develop in terms of antibodies is quite variable. Some develop a high degree of protection, but there are many who don't. And so I would be concerned if your son and others in your family had a mild infection last winter, meaning almost a year ago, and that they still may not have adequate protection right now. It's one of the reasons, given how many open questions there still are about the protection you get from prior infection. That's the reason that myself, the CDC and many other scientists inside and outside government have highly recommended that people pursue the path of vaccination because that is the tried-and-true pathway to getting maximum protection based on what we understand today. Now could that change down the line as we understand more? It might, but for right now, based on what we understand, vaccination is the pathway to go down.

[00:57:11] Finally, let me just say one thing about that Israeli study that your son pointed out, because it's a reasonable question to ask. The Israeli study showed that there was significant protection that folks with prior infection got. But we should always be cautious, and I would say a little bit suspicious, about relying on a single study to tell you what's really going on. We've actually done broader analyses, looking at papers from all over the world that have been published on the impact of prior infection with COVID-19, and they show actually significant variability. Some have shown that overall you seem to have decent protection but if you're in an older age group, you actually have markedly less protection from prior infection. Others have shown again that if you have severe infection, that you get a lot of protection. That if you only had mild infection, protection is much more variable. And so, given all of these, looking at all the data in totality is why we've come to this recommendation that even if you had a prior infection, it still makes sense to get vaccinated and not to rely on that prior infection to protect you from COVID.

[00:58:15] Bill Walsh: Okay. Dr. Murthy, thanks so much — oh, go ahead.

[00:58:18] Vivek Murthy: Bill, sorry, one last thing just to mention the Glenda. Just for you — it might give your son some additional comfort — is there is now very clear data from Kentucky, from New York and other places that tell us that if you got prior infection and you get vaccinated on top of that, you really boost your protection to very, very high levels. In fact, if you're looking at people who are infected with COVID-19 in the past, those who didn't get vaccinated were more than twice as likely to get reinfected with COVID compared to those who did get vaccinated.

[00:58:49] Bill Walsh: Hmm. Very interesting. Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for that clarification and for all of your time today. This has been a really informative discussion. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in the discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of today's Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, November 19th. 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 December 9 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time for another live event, answering your questions about the coronavirus. We hope you can join us. Thank you and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Teleasamblea de AARP sobre el coronavirus: Respuestas a sus preguntas Vacunas, desinformación y bienestar mental

 

 

Participan:

 

Vicealmirante Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA: cirujano general de EE.UU.

 

Nancy LeaMond: invitada especial, vicepresidenta ejecutiva, directora de promoción y participación, AARP

 

Jesse Salinas: organizador, vicepresidente, AARP

 

Bill Walsh: moderador, vicepresidente, AARP

 

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, soy el vicepresidente de AARP Bill Walsh y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre el coronavirus. Antes de comenzar, si desean escuchar a esta reunión telefónica en español presionen asterisco y cero en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

 

[En español]

 

Bill Walsh: AARP, una organización de membresía no partidista y sin fines de lucro, 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.

 

A medida que nos acercamos al Día de Acción de Gracias, la pandemia está demostrando una vez más ser frustrantemente persistente. Durante la semana pasada, los casos de COVID-19 y las hospitalizaciones han tenido una tendencia al alza en aproximadamente la mitad de los estados a medida que se acerca el clima frío y la gente pasa más tiempo en espacios cerrados.

 

La buena noticia es que las tasas de vacunación en EE.UU. continúan aumentando, aunque lentamente, y casi el 70% de las personas tienen al menos una dosis. Además, la reciente autorización de la FDA de la vacuna Pfizer para niños desde los 5 hasta los 11 años es alentadora.

 

Sin embargo, la desinformación relacionada con la COVID-19 continúa propagándose, avivando temores y confusión, particularmente entre los adultos mayores. Y mientras las familias se preparan para reunirse durante las fiestas, muchos están poniendo su atención en la salud y el bienestar mental de sus seres queridos y cuidadores familiares.

 

Hoy hablaremos con un invitado muy especial, el vicealmirante Vivek Murthy, médico cirujano general de EE.UU. para discutir estos temas y otros. Si ya participaron en una de nuestras teleasambleas, saben que es similar a un programa de entrevistas de radio y tienen la oportunidad de hacer sus preguntas en vivo.

 

Para aquellos de ustedes que se unan a nosotros por teléfono, si desean hacerle una pregunta al Dr. Murthy, presionen asterisco tres en su teléfono para comunicarse con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y su pregunta y los colocará en una cola para hacer esa pregunta en vivo. Si se unen a Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar su pregunta en los comentarios.

 

Hola, si acaban de unirse, soy Bill Walsh, de AARP, y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre la pandemia mundial de coronavirus. Estamos hablando con el cirujano general de EE.UU., el Dr. Vivek Murthy, y recibiremos sus preguntas en vivo. Para hacer su pregunta, presionen asterisco tres. Y si se unen a Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar sus preguntas en la sección de comentarios. También nos acompañará mi colega de AARP, Jesse Salinas, quien ayudará a facilitar las llamadas de ustedes hoy.

 

Este evento se está grabando y pueden acceder a la grabación en aarp.org/elcoronavirus 24 horas después de que terminemos. Nuevamente, para hacer su pregunta, presionen asterisco tres en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP y entrar en la cola para hacer su pregunta en vivo. O si se unen a Facebook o YouTube, coloquen su pregunta en los comentarios.

 

Ahora me gustaría dar la bienvenida a nuestro distinguido invitado, el cirujano general de EE.UU. Vivek H. Murthy, MD y MBA. El Dr. Murthy es el 19no. y 21er. cirujano general de Estados Unidos. Su misión como médico de la nación es restaurar la confianza al recurrir a la mejor información científica disponible, brindar orientación y recursos claros y coherentes para el público, y asegurar que lleguemos a nuestras comunidades más vulnerables. Bienvenido y muchas gracias por acompañarnos, Dr. Murthy.

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, gracias, Bill. Realmente agradezco que me haya invitado hoy.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Bueno, estamos encantados de tenerlo aquí. Vamos a empezar. En la primera semana que estuvo disponible, algunos 900,000 niños de entre 5 y 11 años recibieron las vacunas contra la COVID-19. Aún así, muchos padres y abuelos están sopesando los riesgos y los beneficios. E incluso algunos adultos completamente vacunados están luchando con la decisión de vacunar a los niños pequeños. ¿Por qué cree que sucede eso? ¿Y qué puede decir que les dé algo de confianza en la vacuna para niños de 5 a 11 años?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, esa es una gran pregunta, Bill. Y solo diré, aunque soy el cirujano general y soy médico, pienso en esto ante todo como padre. Soy padre de dos niños pequeños menores de 12 años, lo que significa que hasta hace poco no había una vacuna disponible para ellos. Y mi esposa y yo, cuando pensamos en esta decisión, queríamos lo que todos los padres quieren, que es asegurarnos de que nuestros hijos estén seguros y protegidos.

 

Y por eso creo que los padres y abuelos tienen preguntas sobre la vacuna lo que está perfectamente bien. Es razonable. Solo deben recibir respuestas a sus preguntas de fuentes creíbles y de buena reputación porque hay mucha información errónea por ahí. Algunas cosas que les diría a los padres y abuelos que están considerando la vacuna para sus hijos y nietos son las siguientes.

 

Número uno, es importante saber que la vacuna que está disponible para los niños de entre 5 y 11 años está creada específicamente para niños. Es una dosis más baja que la que reciben los adultos. Es aproximadamente un tercio de la dosis. Y los ensayos, los ensayos clínicos que se realizaron para estudiar el impacto de la vacuna, también fueron creados específicamente para niños en el grupo de 5 a 11 años. Y los miles de participantes de esos ensayos nos ayudaron a comprender dos aspectos fundamentales de la vacuna.

 

Número uno, es altamente eficaz para prevenir la COVID-19 en niños con más del 90% de eficacia. Lo segundo es que tiene un perfil de seguridad realmente fuerte, no se observaron efectos adversos graves entre los niños. Cuando tuvieron efectos secundarios, fueron dolor en el brazo, fatiga, dolor de cabeza, fiebre que duró uno o dos días, pero luego dejaron a los niños con protección.

 

También hay una última cosa que es importante considerar aquí, que son las consecuencias de no vacunarse. Sabe, todos hemos pasado por muchas cosas en esta pandemia. Y todavía no ha terminado, lamentablemente. Hemos progresado mucho, con casi 195 millones de personas completamente vacunadas en todo el país que están protegidas contra los peores resultados de la COVID-19.

 

Pero todavía tenemos muchos que no están vacunados, entre ellos, nuestros hijos. Ahora que se acerca el invierno, vemos que los casos comienzan a aumentar, especialmente en las zonas frías del país. Y eso no es sorprendente, porque a medida que la gente se queda puertas adentro, hay una mayor probabilidad de propagación en espacios cerrados. Y también sabemos que el virus se transmite más fácilmente en el aire frío y seco.

 

Pero es por eso que es aún más importante para nosotros considerar seriamente vacunar a nuestros hijos ahora, porque ya sabe, no queremos que estén expuestos a infecciones y corran el riesgo de contraer COVID-19 en las próximas semanas. Y tenemos una oportunidad si comenzamos ahora, para comenzar su protección temprano.

 

Lo último que diré es que en este momento, si logra que su hijo, su nieto, tal vez comience su proceso de vacunación esta semana, en realidad puede tenerlo vacunado, en realidad completamente vacunado para la época de Navidad, lo cual... en mi familia, estamos planeando llevar a nuestros hijos a visitar a sus abuelos durante las vacaciones de Navidad, y estamos muy emocionados de que nuestro hijo esté completamente vacunado para eso.

 

Bill Walsh: Ese es un gran punto. Sabe, creo que viajar durante la temporada navideña está en la mente de todos. Permítame hacer un seguimiento muy rápido, ¿qué vacunas están disponibles ahora para niños de entre 5 y 12 años? Y también, mencionó que la vacuna de los niños era una dosis más baja que la de los adultos. Pero, ¿cómo se compara con la que fue aprobada para niños mayores de 12 años?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, esa es una gran pregunta, Bill. Bueno, la vacuna está disponible para niños de 5 a 11 es la vacuna Pfizer. Algunos pueden saber que hay tres vacunas disponibles ahora en Estados Unidos, una fabricada por Pfizer y otra fabricada por Moderna, y una tercera fabricada por Johnson & Johnson. Entonces esta es la vacuna Pfizer.

 

Resulta que la vacuna Pfizer también es la vacuna que está disponible para niños de 12 en adelante, pero la dosis para niños de 12 en adelante es más alta que la dosis para niños de 5 a 11 años, el impacto de la dosis para niños de 12 en adelante es el mismo que la dosis para adultos. Entonces, nuevamente, la vacunación actual que se anunció para los niños menores de 11 está creada específicamente para este rango de edad.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias por eso. Ahora, mencionó esto antes. Sabe, en muchas familias, los abuelos ayudan a mantener a las familias sanas y unidas por medio del cuidado de los niños, tutoría, apoyo financiero u otra orientación, pero puede ser muy delicado discutir algunas decisiones de los padres, como las vacunas. ¿Tiene algún consejo que ofrecer a los abuelos?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Por supuesto. Y sé que a veces esto puede ser algo delicado de abordar, especialmente cuando está tratando de ser útil, pero no quiere imponerse a los padres en la toma de decisiones. Mire, yo como padre, negociamos esto todo el tiempo con mis padres, con los abuelos de mis hijos, ya que participan en algunas de las decisiones que tomamos para la salud de nuestros hijos. Así que no siempre es fácil.

 

Pero hay una cosa que sé, y es que durante este tiempo, les hemos pedido tanto a los padres, se les ha impuesto tanto, que no solo han tenido que ser padres, sino que han tenido que ser maestros, ya que durante la pandemia se requería el aprendizaje a distancia para muchos niños. Han tenido que trabajar de forma remota, muchas veces han tenido que descubrir cómo hacer todo, han tenido que ocuparse de mucho más de lo que habitualmente se ocupan.

 

Y eso ha sido agotador y, por lo tanto, cualquier ayuda y apoyo para tomar decisiones y obtener información, creo que a menudo puede ser un gran servicio para los padres. Pero aquí hay un par de cosas que recomendaría. Una es abordar la conversación solo con el oído para escuchar. Es posible que muchas personas hayan escuchado varias cosas sobre la vacuna y que tengan preguntas y estén preocupados por tratar de entender. Pero las preocupaciones de los padres son una parte importante de eso.

 

Creo que lo segundo es tratar de plantear con amabilidad y empatía sus inquietudes o sugerencias, si está preocupado por la exposición de su nieto a la COVID-19, especialmente, si ellos viajarán durante las vacaciones, o si están en comunidades donde todavía hay mucha propagación de COVID-19.

 

También es muy importante poder compartir esas preocupaciones con amabilidad, pero también orientar a los padres hacia fuentes confiables de información. Ya sabe, hay una serie de fuentes confiables que puede mencionar a los padres, entre ellas, hablar con su médico, ir al hospital infantil local para pedir consejo, hablar con el Departamento de Salud local, visitar el sitio web de los CDC, hay lugares que están basados en la ciencia que brindan a las personas respuestas a sus preguntas.

 

Y finalmente, también diría esto. A veces hay algo realmente interesante sobre todos nosotros como seres humanos, nuestra psicología, tendemos a sobrestimar el costo de la acción y subestimar el costo de la inacción. Y la razón que cobra importancia aquí es que a veces no pensamos que esperar vacunarse tiene un costo, pero en realidad sí tiene un costo.

 

Y sabemos, por ejemplo, con tantos casos de COVID-19, cerca de 75 a 80,000 personas que se infectan todos los días en este país, son muchos casos de COVID-19. Quiero decir que para muchas personas que también están potencialmente expuestas, el riesgo para nuestros hijos no es insignificante. De hecho, durante esta pandemia, hemos perdido cientos de niños a causa de la COVID-19; hemos tenido miles de niños que han sido hospitalizados.

 

Hemos tenido miles, que han contraído algo llamado síndrome inflamatorio multisistémico, que es una de estos trastornos en los que se ven afectados múltiples sistemas de órganos, incluido el corazón. Y más allá de todo eso, sabemos que la COVID-19 ha obligado a muchos de nuestros hijos a perderse juegos con amigos y con los abuelos, además de faltar a la escuela, así como a los deportes juveniles.

 

Entonces, el costo para nuestros hijos ha sido sustancial. Entonces, solo porque a los niños en general les va mejor que a los adultos mayores cuando se trata de COVID-19 no significa que la COVID-19 sea inofensiva para ellos. Y si alguien trata de decirle que la COVID-19 es solo gripe o simplemente un resfriado fuerte, eso realmente no es cierto. Lo hemos aprendido de la manera más difícil, mediante una experiencia muy, muy difícil estos últimos 20, 22 meses.

 

Entonces, esas son algunas de las cosas que valdría la pena plantearle a los padres. Pero creo, y quiero enfatizar esto, que los abuelos tienen una función muy, muy importante que desempeñar aquí. Sé que muchos de ellos han desempeñado una función extraordinariamente importante durante esta pandemia al brindar gran parte de este apoyo y una ayuda adicional y no solo apoyo práctico, sino también apoyo emocional, que muchos padres necesitaban, como yo.

 

No sé si podría haber sobrevivido a esta pandemia sin mis padres, sin los abuelos de mis hijos. Fueron una parte integral del cuidado de nuestros hijos y de asegurarnos de que tuviéramos el apoyo para tomar las decisiones correctas para ellos también.

 

Bill Walsh: Sí, creo que mucha gente se siente así. Bueno, muchas gracias por eso. Permítanme cambiar de tema y hablar un poco sobre los refuerzos. En estos programas hemos recibido muchas preguntas sobre los refuerzos y, con suerte puede ofrecernos algo de claridad.

 

Los medios de comunicación dicen que la autorización de la vacuna de refuerzo se ampliará para incluir a todos los adultos. ¿Puede hablar sobre eso, y también si es seguro combinar las vacunas, por ejemplo, recibir un refuerzo diferente al del ciclo completo inicial? Algunos han sugerido que combinar los tipos de vacunas en realidad puede fortalecer la respuesta inmunitaria. Entonces, ¿qué cree?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, me alegro de que haya preguntado eso Bill, porque los refuerzos son un tema especialmente importante en este momento, ahora que se acerca el invierno. Y permítame dar un paso atrás un segundo y hablar un momento sobre el propósito de los refuerzos.

 

Número uno, los refuerzos de vacunas no son inusuales. Tenemos refuerzos para muchas vacunas que la gente suele recibir. Un ejemplo clásico es la vacuna contra el tétanos. No significa que la vacuna que recibió al principio no sea eficaz. De hecho, el propósito del refuerzo es extender la fuerte protección que las personas ya han recibido de la vacuna. Solo queremos que siga así.

 

Y sabemos que las vacunas ya han sido fundamentales para salvar la vida de muchas personas y evitar que terminen en el hospital. De nuevo, queremos continuar con eso. Por el momento, las personas que recibieron la vacuna Johnson & Johnson hace dos meses o más ya pueden recibir un refuerzo.

 

Las personas que recibieron la vacuna Pfizer o Moderna hace más de seis meses y que se encuentran en una categoría de alto riesgo también pueden recibir un refuerzo. ¿Y ahora qué significa estar en una categoría de alto riesgo? Bueno, en este momento, eso significa que o está por encima de los 65 años, o tiene otros trastornos médicos como enfermedades cardíacas, diabetes u obesidad, o vive o trabaja en un lugar donde está más expuesto a la COVID-19.

 

Tal vez trabaje en un hospital, o sea profesor en una escuela o trabaje en una tienda de comestibles. Todos esos serían ejemplos. Ahora, si eso suena a mucha gente, se trata de cerca de 100 millones de personas que ya pueden recibir los refuerzos en este momento. E insto a todos los que cumplan con el criterio a que reciban un refuerzo tan pronto como puedan, porque nosotros, especialmente con los casos que se acercan en el invierno, queremos que la gente tenga protección.

 

Si planea viajar durante las vacaciones o reunirse con la familia, esta es otra capa de precaución que puede agregar para asegurarse de mantenerse seguro. Pero también evita transmitir el virus a otras personas. Ahora, finalmente, cuando se trata de la decisión en la que la FDA y los CDC están trabajando ahora, están considerando expandir aún más el criterio.

 

Por lo tanto, todos los adultos de 18 años o más podrían recibir una vacuna de refuerzo. Y tomarán esa decisión en realidad, muy, muy pronto. Lo estaban esperando dentro de unos días. Pero la conclusión es que hay millones de personas que todavía reúnen los requisitos, ahora hemos recibido un refuerzo, alrededor de 30 millones han recibido un refuerzo hasta ahora, lo que deja alrededor de otros 70 millones que pueden recibirlo.

 

Y veo que la combinación como mencionó, en realidad ahora se permite mezclar y combinar las vacunas. Entonces, si recibió un refuerzo de Pfizer, por ejemplo, y fue a buscar su... oh, lo siento, si recibió su vacuna principal de Pfizer, y luego fue a recibir un refuerzo y solo tenían, digamos, Moderna, estaría bien que reciba una dosis de Moderna. Y viceversa, de manera similar, si recibió Moderna y ahora tenemos Pfizer disponible, está bien recibir una dosis de Pfizer.

 

Cuando se trata de Johnson and Johnson, algunas personas han hecho la pregunta, ¿debo recibir un refuerzo de Johnson & Johnson? ¿O debería recibir un refuerzo de Pfizer, Moderna? Porque hay algunos datos de Europa que indican que el refuerzo con las vacunas de ARNm de Pfizer, Moderna o con un tipo de vacuna de ARNm podría ser eficaz para las personas que recibieron una vacuna como J&J primero.

 

Y la verdad es que hay datos que muestran que si recibe un refuerzo de Johnson & Johnson, en realidad recibe un refuerzo a un nivel muy alto de protección. También hay datos que muestran que si recibió Johnson & Johnson y recibe un refuerzo de una vacuna de ARNm, aumentan los niveles de anticuerpos hasta un nivel muy alto. Entonces, la conclusión es que, sea cual sea el camino que haya recorrido, debe obtener una fuerte protección de los refuerzos y eso es lo que realmente queremos para todos, especialmente en esta temporada navideña.

 

Bill Walsh: Correcto. Bueno. Muchas gracias por eso Dr. Murthy. Y como recordatorio a nuestros oyentes para que hagan su pregunta, presionen asterisco tres en el teclado de su teléfono. Y vamos a llegar a esas preguntas en vivo en breve. Pero antes de que lo hagamos, quiero traer a Nancy LeaMond. Nancy es la vicepresidenta ejecutiva y directora de Promoción y Participación aquí en AARP. Bienvenida, Nancy.

 

Nancy LeaMond: Bueno, gracias. Estoy encantada de estar aquí con el Dr. Murthy y con usted, Bill.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Estamos encantados de tenerla aquí. Ahora, además de compartir la información más reciente sobre el coronavirus, nos gustaría tomarnos unos minutos para actualizar a nuestros oyentes sobre los problemas oportunos que enfrenta el Congreso en un segmento que llamamos “Luchar por ti”. Esta semana es muy importante, con todas las cosas que suceden ahora en el Capitolio que afectarán a los adultos mayores. Nancy, ¿qué puede contarnos?

 

Nancy LeaMond: Bueno, esta es una gran semana. En muchos aspectos, lo más grande que hemos visto en años con mucho que celebrar. Primero, el presidente Biden firmó el lunes el proyecto de ley de infraestructura bipartidista, y esperamos que la Cámara vote muy pronto, tal vez mañana, este fin de semana, sobre el paquete de reconciliación presupuestaria, que incluye una serie de prioridades de AARP.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, entonces dos grandes leyes. Bueno, primero, hablemos del paquete de reconciliación, que también se conoce como la Ley de Reconstrucción. ¿Qué necesita saber la gente sobre eso?

 

Nancy LeaMond: Bueno, estamos instando al Congreso a que vote a favor de este paquete que reducirá los precios de los medicamentos recetados para millones de adultos mayores al permitir finalmente que Medicare negocie ciertos precios de medicamentos. AARP ha luchado mucho por esto y nos complace ver que el Congreso finalmente llega a un acuerdo para abordar los costos vertiginosos que pagan las personas mayores por los medicamentos recetados.

 

Además de que Medicare está facultado para negociar los precios de los medicamentos por primera vez, el proyecto de ley también penaliza a las compañías farmacéuticas que aumentan sus precios más rápido que la tasa de inflación. Y también fija un límite estricto a lo que las personas mayores pagan de su bolsillo por los medicamentos recetados con la Parte D de Medicare. No puedo enfatizar lo suficiente lo que esto significaría para los adultos mayores para finalmente obtener algo de alivio de los altos costos de los medicamentos recetados.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas noticias importantes en el frente de los medicamentos recetados. ¿Cuáles son algunas de las otras disposiciones de la Ley de Reconstrucción por las que lucha AARP?

 

Nancy LeaMond: Bueno, obviamente, el alivio de los medicamentos recetados es una gran victoria, y simplemente no podemos resaltar eso lo suficiente. Pero, como dice, hay otros cambios importantes relacionados con la salud incluidos en el paquete. AARP ha apoyado firmemente la adición en el proyecto de ley de un beneficio de audición para el programa Medicare, así como también inversiones críticas en servicios basados ​​en el hogar y la comunidad para que más adultos mayores pueden elegir cómo viven y cómo envejecen.

 

También apoyamos la inclusión en el proyecto de ley de licencia remunerada, que ofrecerá ayuda muy necesaria a los cuidadores familiares que trabajan y que también luchan por encontrar un equilibrio entre el empleo remunerado y el cuidado de sus seres queridos.

 

El proyecto de ley también hace que la cobertura de salud individual sea más asequible y accesible para millones de personas entre 50 y 64 años. Y finalmente, el proyecto de ley hace una inversión significativa en la vivienda, que es fundamental para los adultos mayores que se beneficiarán de la construcción y reparación de viviendas asequibles y adecuadas para las personas mayores.

 

Bill Walsh: Bueno, gracias por esa actualización. Hablemos de la otra gran legislación, el nuevo proyecto de ley de infraestructura bipartidista que se convirtió en ley esta semana. Esto incluye más buenas noticias para los adultos mayores. ¿Puede compartir algunos de los aspectos más destacados?

 

Nancy LeaMond: Claro, el proyecto de ley de infraestructura ayudará a millones de personas y mayores de 50 a mantenerse conectados con sus comunidades, tanto en persona como en línea. El paquete incluye varias prioridades de AARP, a saber, inversiones para ampliar el acceso a internet de alta velocidad.

 

También nos ayudará a mejorar la seguridad vial y peatonal, así como a expandir el transporte público. Casi el 15% de los adultos mayores no tiene acceso a internet de alta velocidad, y entre 7 a 10 de ellos no tienen capacidad para conducir, lo que limita su capacidad para acceder a la atención médica y a sus trabajos y mantenerse conectados y en las comunidades. AARP está luchando para garantizar que todas las personas tengan acceso a internet asequible y confiable dondequiera que vivan, y se beneficien de una variedad de opciones de transporte seguras y accesibles, independientemente de su edad o capacidad.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, parece que hay muchos cambios positivos para los adultos mayores. ¿Ya terminó la batalla?

 

Nancy LeaMond: Bueno, hay muchos cambios positivos importantes. Pero tenemos que seguir adelante. Y va a requerir esfuerzos de todos nosotros. AARP no puede agradecer lo suficiente a nuestros socios por alzar su voz. Los activistas enviaron 300,000 mensajes electrónicos e hicieron 9,000 llamadas telefónicas al Capitolio en unos pocos días para exigir que el Congreso cumpliera su promesa de reducir los precios de los medicamentos.

 

Y para aquellos de ustedes que están en la llamada hoy, quienes nos ayudaron, realmente se los agradecemos. Sus voces se escucharon alto y claro, y son la razón por la que los precios de los medicamentos recetados volvieron a aparecer en la ley. AARP continuará con la presión judicial completa mientras el proyecto de ley de reconciliación se abre paso en la Cámara y el Senado y finaliza su largo y tortuoso proceso para convertirlo en ley. Pero, como señaló antes, Bill, se perfila como una muy buena semana.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Bueno, muchas gracias, Nancy LeaMond, por esa actualización. Realmente lo apreciamos. Ahora es el momento de abordar sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus con el Dr. Vivek Murthy. Como recordatorio, presionen asterisco tres en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP y compartir su pregunta en vivo. Y si desean escuchar en español, presionen asterisco cero en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

 

[En español]

 

Bill Walsh: Ahora me gustaría traer a mi colega de AARP Jesse Salinas para ayudar a facilitar sus llamadas hoy. Bienvenido, Jesse.

 

Jesse Salinas: Gracias. Me alegro mucho de estar aquí, Bill.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, ¿a quién tenemos primero en la línea para el cirujano general?

 

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra primera pregunta de hoy será de Ralph en Nueva York.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, Ralph, bienvenido al programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

 

Ralph: Sí, buenas tardes. Y gracias por invitarme. Mi pregunta tiene que ver con el movimiento antivacuna. Entiendo que el virus realmente puede ser eliminado si se logra, ya sabe, una alta participación de las personas que se vacunan contra él. Sin embargo, hay muchas personas que están preocupadas por la posibilidad teórica o posible muy débil de tener una reacción y prefieren no vacunarse. Sin embargo, el costo de eso son los efectos secundarios reales, que podrían ser la muerte por no recibir la vacuna. Es una prioridad no lógica. Entonces, ya sabe, ¿por qué está tan generalizado el sentimiento antivacuna y luego qué se puede hacer al respecto?

 

Bill Walsh: Sí. Muchas gracias, Ralph. Ya sabe, a veces parece que lo único más persistente en la COVID-19 es la negativa de algunas personas a ponerse la vacuna. Dr. Murthy, ¿puede abordar esa preocupación actual?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, claro, Bill, y en primer lugar, gracias por esa pregunta. Creo que tal vez una de nuestras estrategias debería ser tenerlo como vocero, porque parece que tiene una comprensión muy clara de estas cosas. Porque tiene toda la razón.

 

Sabe, es muy interesante y preocupante para mí cómo algunas personas se enfocan en el riesgo muy, muy bajo de vacunarse mientras ignoran los riesgos muy, muy altos de no vacunarse. Y, desafortunadamente, hemos visto el precio de esa compensación una y otra vez, hemos perdido a más de 750,000 personas en nuestro país por este virus, que es absolutamente asombroso. Y ahora estamos perdiendo más de 1,000 cada día. Claramente, tenemos trabajo por hacer.

 

En cuanto a su pregunta sobre por qué este sentimiento es tan frecuente, están pasando algunas cosas. Creo que, por un lado, sabemos que hay una enorme cantidad de información errónea que ha proliferado durante este tiempo y que ha llevado a algunas personas a creer incluso que la COVID-19 no es real. Trabajadores de la salud me han dicho que han traído a personas extremadamente enfermas y han sido admitidos en la UCI y todavía no creen que tengan COVID-19, porque les han dicho que no existe tal cosa o que no es real. Entonces, hay mucha información errónea sobre la COVID-19, sobre la vacuna, sobre las precauciones, sobre las mascarillas, lo que ha llevado a las personas a moverse en una dirección que a menudo va en contra de su salud.

 

Hay pocas cosas que alimentan esto también, creo que una de ellas es la diferencia que hay ahora en comparación con hace 10, 15 años, es la proliferación de plataformas tecnológicas en las que la gente puede compartir información. Y desafortunadamente, si bien hay muchas cosas buenas que provienen de estas plataformas tecnológicas, muchas de ellas han hecho un mal trabajo al apoyar la propagación de información errónea en su sitio y, lamentablemente, han permitido una proliferación extraordinaria de esta información errónea.

 

Hay algunos sitios de tecnología, por ejemplo, algunas de las plataformas de redes sociales, que tienen algoritmos que, inadvertidamente, brindan más y más información errónea a las personas que leen un artículo inicial que puede no ser, ya sabe, de buena reputación, puede ser falso, porque el algoritmo les dice, oye, si te gusta ese artículo, lo leen, tal vez deberían leer más. Entonces puede ver cómo esto puede volverse contraproducente muy rápidamente.

 

Pero hay un par de otros factores en juego aquí también, Ralph, uno es el hecho de que vivimos en una época de polarización extrema. Y la razón es que la polarización, ya fuera polarización política o la polarización por otras razones, en realidad, permite la difusión de información errónea. Porque ya sabe, cuando la gente es desconfiada y se enoja con aquellos que no comparten sus creencias, o carecen de experiencias cívicas o de vida, ya sabe, podemos encontrarnos buscando creer cualquier cosa que pruebe que la otra parte está equivocada, incluso si esa información es falsa o engañosa. Por eso se ha visto una y otra vez que los entornos polarizados son un terreno fértil para que se difunda la información errónea.

 

Y luego lo último es este miedo, Ralph. Este es, ya sabe, es un momento en el que mucha gente está preocupada, o ve lo que sucede con respecto a la salud y el impacto en nuestros hijos y nuestras escuelas, en nuestra economía, y están preocupados. Y cuando la gente tiene miedo, también es un momento peligroso en el que la desinformación puede echar raíces, porque algunas personas se aprovecharán de ese miedo y tratarán de venderle una narrativa que puede o no ser cierta, pero que puede ser económicamente beneficiosa, ya sabe, para la persona que difunde esa información errónea o políticamente beneficiosa. Entonces, ya sabe, es un entorno complicado y desafortunado.

 

Pero aquí hay algo que me da esperanza, cuando algo que hemos visto una y otra vez, que es que podemos superar mucho de eso, es cuando las personas escuchan información de fuentes en las que confían. Es posible que muchas personas no confíen en el Gobierno, puede que no confíen en una gran empresa, pero puede que confíen en su médico, o en la enfermera que los atiende, o en un miembro de la familia que esté bien informado o en un líder religioso, ya sabe, de su congregación todos los domingos.

 

Estas voces de confianza tienen un impacto extraordinario y enorme en este momento, que es una de las razones. Una de las cosas en las que he estado trabajando y que hemos estado construyendo aquí en el Gobierno es algo llamado el núcleo de la comunidad COVID-19, que es un consorcio de más de 16,000 iglesias y sinagogas, y centros del YMCA, a nivel local y estatal, como sabe, médicos, enfermeras y otras organizaciones que se están uniendo porque quieren hacer todo lo posible para asegurarse de que la gente tenga información precisa sobre la COVID-19.

 

De todos modos, solo quiero que sepa, Ralph, que usted, como individuo, y todos tenemos personas en la vida que confían en nosotros, eso significa que tenemos poder a través de nuestra voz y el poder para ayudarlos a obtener información precisa. Eso es lo que vamos a necesitar en última instancia, para poner fin a esa información errónea y poner fin a esta pandemia.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Gracias, doctor. Jesse, hagamos otra pregunta.

 

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Hoy tenemos muchas preguntas en las redes sociales, Bill. Entonces, nuestra siguiente pregunta es de Luanne en Facebook, y dice, ¿qué porcentaje de personas completamente vacunadas están teniendo casos de COVID-19 importantes?

 

Bill Walsh: ¿Puede responder eso, Dr. Murthy, la tasa de infecciones progresivas?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Claro. Una de las cosas que empezamos a ver, bueno, las pruebas originales, lo que vimos fue que las vacunas eran muy eficaces. De hecho, en el caso del ARNm, las vacunas, las vacunas de plasma de Moderna en particular, demostraron una eficacia de más del 90% en la prevención de infecciones. Lo que comenzamos a ver a medida que pasaba el tiempo, es como una combinación de inmunidad menguante, lo que significa que después de unos seis meses, vimos que las protecciones de las vacunas comenzaban a disminuir un poco.

 

También vimos que con una variante delta, que era más agresiva y delta es la última versión de COVID-19, lo que provocó el aumento que tuvo lugar durante el verano. Pero aquí están las buenas noticias. Encontramos que, primero, las vacunas, en general, han sido muy eficaces para prevenir que las personas experimenten lo peor de la COVID-19 y eso incluye hospitalización y muerte. Entonces, la conclusión es que aún le salvó la vida y lo mantiene fuera del hospital.

 

Pero también descubrimos que con los refuerzos, se puede restaurar ese alto nivel de protección incluso contra una infección leve a moderada. Y esa es una de las razones por las que recomendamos encarecidamente que las personas que respondan al criterio para recibir un refuerzo lo hagan, y que lo hagan 100 millones de personas que reúnen los requisitos en este momento, cualquier persona que recibió la vacuna de J&J hace más de dos meses, las que recibieron la vacuna de Pfizer o de Moderna hace más de seis meses y que caen en una categoría de alto riesgo, son mayores de 65, que tienen otras enfermedades, o que viven y trabajan en un lugar donde están más expuestos a la COVID-19.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

 

Jesse Salinas: Tomamos otra las redes sociales. Tenemos a alguien llamada Lisa Spirit de YouTube. Y dice: “Mi nieto de nueve años no está vacunado. Quiero saber si puedo verlo durante las vacaciones, ¿debe hacerse una prueba rápida de COVID-19 el mismo día que viene a mi casa? ¿O qué sugiere?"

 

Bill Walsh: Doctor, ¿qué sugiere? Lisa quiere pasar tiempo con su nieto de nueve años.

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, en primer lugar, me alegro mucho, Lisa, de que tenga la oportunidad de ver a su nieto allí. Mis hijos van a poder ver a sus abuelos durante las vacaciones, yo también estoy muy emocionado por eso y ellos también lo están. Así que hay un par de cosas que puede hacer para asegurarse de estar a salvo.

 

Si su niño de nueve años, por ejemplo, viene de visita, tenga en cuenta que ahora su nieto de nueve años tiene la oportunidad de vacunarse porque tenemos una vacuna para niños desde 5 hasta 11 años. Entonces, vacunarlo lo antes posible sería lo más importante que yo podría recomendar. Lo segundo que diría es que absolutamente puede utilizar las pruebas como una forma de reducir aún más su riesgo.

 

Y entonces, hacer la prueba, por ejemplo, el día en que llega su nieto sería una forma de ayudar a reducir el riesgo. ¿Las pruebas son 100% confiables? No, son buenas, ya sabe, para ayudarnos a saber si alguien tiene un alto nivel de virus. Sí, lo son. Así que ciertamente también les haría la prueba.

 

Y también pensaría en su circunstancia. Ya sabe, si tiene más de 65, si tiene otras enfermedades como diabetes, obesidad, enfermedades cardíacas, enfermedades pulmonares que podrían hacerla sentir que tiene un mayor riesgo, entonces también puede hacer un esfuerzo adicional y asegurarse de usar mascarilla cuando estén juntos en ambientes cerrados.

 

Y si necesita estar en espacios cerrados, digamos que para cenar, luego haga lo mejor que pueda para mejorar la ventilación, como tener un filtro de aire portátil y tomar otras medidas, como abrir ventanas, etc. para mejorar la circulación del aire, es otra forma para reducir aún más el riesgo.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, buenos consejos. Jesse, tomemos otra llamada.

 

Jesse Salinas: Sí, vamos a traer a Donna de Ohio.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Hola, Donna, bienvenida al programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

 

Donna: Entonces, si ha tenido COVID-19 y recibió una vacuna tres meses después, ¿todavía necesita recibir la vacuna de refuerzo?

 

Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy.

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, Donna, esa es una gran pregunta. Entonces, si tuvo COVID-19 y luego recibió una dosis de vacuna tres meses después, debería tener un buen grado de protección contra el virus, lo cual es excelente. Pero lo que recomendamos es que si pasaron más de seis meses desde su última dosis, por ejemplo, digamos que recibió una de las vacunas de ARNm de Pfizer o Moderna.

 

Si han pasado más de seis meses después de su última dosis, seguimos recomendando en este momento que reciba un refuerzo si cae en uno de esos grupos de mayor riesgo de los que hablamos antes, mayores de 65, si tiene otras enfermedades o si vive o trabaja en un lugar donde tiene un mayor riesgo de contraer COVID-19.

 

Así que todavía recomendaría hacer eso. Nuevamente, el riesgo de tener efectos secundarios de estas vacunas es muy bajo. Los beneficios son muy altos, especialmente con las próximas reuniones navideñas del invierno, pero es un buen momento para tener esa protección adicional.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias a nuestros oyentes y a aquellos de ustedes en Facebook y YouTube por sus preguntas, pronto responderemos más. Y recuerden, si desean hacer una pregunta, presionen asterisco tres en el teclado de su teléfono o publiquen la pregunta en la sección de comentarios en Facebook o YouTube. Además, si desean escuchar en español, presionen asterisco cero en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

 

[En español]

 

Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy, sabe, hemos visto muchas noticias recientemente sobre un aumento en los casos de COVID-19 en el extranjero, los casos en Europa han aumentado alrededor de un 50% durante el último mes. Y, como dije al principio, las tasas también están subiendo en este país. ¿Cuán preocupados deberían estar los estadounidenses por el aumento de casos en el extranjero? ¿Y es probable que continúe el aumento en este país?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, es una pregunta muy importante. Y una cosa que hemos visto es que lo que sucede en otros países y otras partes del mundo con la COVID-19, en última instancia, tiene un impacto en nosotros. Esta es una pandemia mundial y hace hincapié en recordarnos lo interconectados que estamos. Creo que, a medida que se acerca el invierno, hay un par de cosas que debemos tener en cuenta en Estados Unidos.

 

Una es que estamos empezando a ver un aumento de casos y debemos anticipar que puede continuar durante algún tiempo, y cuánto aumente realmente depende de nosotros y de lo que hagamos juntos durante los próximos días y semanas. Ahora bien, ¿qué está impulsando este aumento? Bueno, son un par de cosas.

 

Número uno, es el hecho de que estamos llegando a la temporada de frío. Y cuando llega el frío, la gente se queda en el interior de la casa y los espacios cerrados son una configuración perfecta para que el virus se propague. El otro factor es que es más fácil que el virus se propague en aire frío y seco, por lo que eso también contribuye. Y finalmente, ten esto en cuenta.

 

Sabemos que para las personas que se vacunaron hace un tiempo, una cosa que puede estar contribuyendo aquí es una inmunidad menguante, por lo que alentamos a las personas a recibir una vacuna de refuerzo si responden al criterio. Y si no está vacunado, este es absolutamente el momento adecuado para hacerlo lo más rápido posible porque realmente no tiene protección, si no está vacunado. Por supuesto tiene su sistema inmunitario natural, pero hemos visto cuántas personas han tenido una enfermedad grave y han muerto a causa de este virus en los últimos casi dos años.

 

Entonces, la conclusión es que los casos pueden continuar aumentando durante algún tiempo durante el invierno. Pero si se vacunan, y especialmente si reciben el refuerzo, pueden adquirir un alto grado de protección, ciertamente contra los peores resultados de la COVID-19, como la hospitalización y la muerte.

 

Bill Walsh: Correcto. Muy bien. Gracias por eso, Dr. Murthy. Ahora, la semana que viene, por supuesto, las familias pasarán tiempo juntas alrededor de la mesa. Y, tradicionalmente, esta es una oportunidad para conocer el estado de salud de los miembros de nuestra familia y en particular de los seres queridos mayores. ¿Qué deberíamos buscar? ¿Qué preguntas deberíamos hacernos?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, Bill, creo que este es un tema muy importante que no discutimos con suficiente frecuencia, que es el hecho de que esta pandemia ha tenido un impacto real en nuestra salud mental y nuestro bienestar emocional. Nos centramos tanto en las hospitalizaciones como en otros aspectos físicos de la COVID-19, pero, Dios mío, me preocupo más, o lo mismo, debería decir, sobre el costo mental y emocional que sufrimos todos.

 

Y esto no siempre es fácil de ver, ¿verdad? Siempre puede saber por lo que las personas publican en las redes sociales o por la breve conversación que pueda tener por teléfono sobre cómo les está yendo realmente a las personas. Entonces, si tiene la oportunidad de reunirse con la familia cara a cara, lo cual creo que apreciamos aún más ahora después de muchos meses de esta pandemia, ciertamente la usaría como una oportunidad para verificar realmente con la gente y preguntar cómo están.

 

Ahora, ya sabe, cuando dice ¿cómo está? Sabe que el 99% de las veces, la gente no da una respuesta honesta. A veces tiene que hacer una pausa, tiene que esperar, tiene que escuchar la respuesta real. A veces tiene que profundizar un poco más. Pero este es un momento para recordarle a la gente que tienen personas en su vida, que se preocupan por ellos, que están ahí para ellos, que están dispuestos a escucharlos y que están ahí para apoyarlos.

 

Una de las cosas que también podemos hacer es ser sinceros sobre cómo lo estamos haciendo. A veces, un momento de honestidad o transparencia nuestra puede inspirar a otros a ser francos y honestos también. Yo diría que antes de irse y regresar a casa, hagan un plan para mantenerse en contacto con frecuencia.

 

Sabe, es genial reunirse una vez al año durante las vacaciones. Pero a veces es esa llamada de cinco minutos que se realiza de forma regular la que realmente puede proporcionar un salvavidas para muchos otros cuando se trata de fortalecer nuestras relaciones entre nosotros. Es algo que creo que esta pandemia nos ha recordado que tenemos que hacer porque nuestras relaciones son nuestro salvavidas.

 

Resulta que lo que realmente importa es la calidad del tiempo que pasamos, no la cantidad de tiempo a solas. Y luego cinco minutos de conversación en los que estamos realmente presentes con alguien a quien escuchamos sin distraernos con nuestro teléfono u otro dispositivo, y nos presentamos solo para saber realmente cómo están, eso puede ser más poderoso que una hora, dos horas de conversación distraída.

 

Entonces, al final del día, después de ver la cantidad de heridas que la gente ha sufrido durante esta pandemia, ya sabe, quiero recordarles a todos que todos tenemos el poder de ayudarnos unos a otros a sanar simplemente visitando, estando presente y prestando nuestro apoyo.

 

Bill Walsh: Sí, creo que es un gran punto. Algunas de las preocupaciones menos visibles de esta pandemia han sido las más insidiosas, y una de las más insidiosas ha sido el agotamiento. Quiero decir, estoy seguro de que lo ha visto en la comunidad de la salud, entre médicos y trabajadores de la salud. Lo hemos visto mucho en los cuidadores familiares, sus trabajos eran bastante difíciles antes de la pandemia y se han vuelto aún más desafiantes durante la pandemia. ¿Tiene algún consejo para ellos, algunos consejos o mejores maneras para ayudar a cuidarse a sí mismos?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, creo que este es un costo real de esta pandemia, el agotamiento que mencionó. Sabe, en mi propia familia, mi abuela tiene 90 años, y mi madre es la principal cuidadora con algo de ayuda de mi padre y mi hermana, y miro el costo para mi madre y la familia, ya sabe, de que este último año y medio no haya tenido ayuda externa, solo por tener que estar allí día tras día y cuidar de mi abuela ha tenido una serie de problemas de salud.

 

Y ese agotamiento es real, lo veo en mi propia familia. Y sé que millones de personas también están viviendo esto. Sabe, creo que si es una de esas personas que están luchando contra este tipo de agotamiento, un par de cosas que ofrecería son número uno, por favor, tenga en cuenta que no está solo.

 

El hecho de que se sienta agotado no significa que sea de alguna manera débil, que no pueda estar a la altura de las circunstancias, o que simplemente no tenga lo necesario para cuidar a su familia. Lo que está atravesando es un fenómeno muy real y comprensible que atraviesan muchas otras personas durante esta pandemia, le han pedido que haga una cantidad extraordinaria y quiero que la gente lo sepa.

 

Sin embargo, lo segundo es recordar que una de nuestras fuentes de sanación más poderosas es nuestra conexión entre nosotros con nuestras relaciones. Y podríamos pensar, Dios mío, con la carga de ser cuidador, simplemente no tengo tiempo para ir a visitar a otros amigos o tener esa conversación de una hora para ponerme al día. Y eso es muy real.

 

Pero lo bueno del hecho de que estamos programados para conectarnos entre nosotros es a veces incluso unos minutos por teléfono o por FaceTime con alguien que nos importa, eso por sí solo puede darnos un impulso significativo. Pero requiere que nos tomemos esos cinco minutos para estar completamente presentes y no distraernos durante esas conversaciones y simplemente permitirnos ser sinceros. Pero los beneficios pueden ser absolutamente asombrosos.

 

Y lo tercero, lo último que señalaré, es que los momentos de soledad también pueden ser muy renovadores para las personas que luchan contra la ansiedad, la depresión, el agotamiento de esta pandemia. Y esto podría ser contrario a la intuición, porque acabo de decir que las relaciones y la conexión social son muy poderosas para la curación. Pero estar solo es muy diferente a la soledad.

 

Ya sabe, estar solo es el tiempo que pasamos solos donde estamos en paz, donde estamos tranquilos, ese es el momento que nos renueva. Pero pueden ser cinco minutos los que pasamos sentados en la puerta de nuestra casa sintiendo la brisa en la cara. Puede ser una caminata corta que hacemos, por el bosque, en nuestra casa, cerca de nuestra casa, puede ser de cinco minutos, escuchando música que nos calma o nos inspira o leyendo algo que nos recuerda quienes queremos ser.

 

Como sea que pasemos esos pocos minutos, ya sea que los usemos para rezar, meditar, golpear, escuchar, tomar esos cinco minutos, es algo que animaría a todos a hacer, pero es al principio, al final o a mitad del día. No es ser egoísta, es hacer lo que tiene que hacer para apoyarse y sostenerse durante un momento muy, muy desafiante.

 

Bill Walsh: Correcto. Bien. Gracias por eso, doctor. Dr. Murthy. Ahora, tengo otra pregunta para usted. Quizás sea una pregunta incontestable. Pero sé que está en la mente de todos nuestros socios y de muchas personas en todo el país. ¿Cómo termina esta pandemia? ¿Cuáles son los indicios para saber que estamos superando las presiones de la COVID-19?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, esa es la pregunta correcta. Y una cosa que quiero decirle a la gente es que hemos logrado un progreso tremendo durante este último año y medio. Sé que no siempre se sentirá así al leer los titulares del periódico y ver que todavía hay miles de casos que están ocurriendo hoy.

 

Pero esto es lo que tendría en mente, cómo el año pasado para este momento no teníamos una vacuna disponible. Vimos casos en aumento, seguidos de hospitalizaciones y muertes que aumentaban a un ritmo extraordinario. Y tampoco teníamos medicamentos orales realmente poderosos que cambiaran las reglas del juego. Pero aquí es donde estamos ahora.

 

Tenemos no solo una, sino tres vacunas. Tenemos 195 millones de personas que están completamente vacunadas, lo que significa que 195 millones de personas están protegidas contra los peores resultados de la COVID-19. Ahora tenemos más de 28 millones de personas en nuestros niños entre 5 y 11 años que pueden recibir vacunas.

 

Conseguimos que nuestros hijos regresaran a la escuela, estamos aprendiendo a reunirnos para las vacaciones. Entonces, tenemos dos medicamentos orales, que se pueden tomar por vía oral, que están en el horizonte y que están pasando por el proceso de revisión de la FDA, y se ha demostrado que reducen drásticamente sus posibilidades de enfermarse gravemente si contrae COVID-19.

 

Todo esto es realmente una buena noticia. Pero para que esta pandemia termine, esto es lo que necesitamos ver, necesitamos ver cómo la gravedad de la COVID-19 se reduce drásticamente. Y podemos lograrlo con vacunas y medicamentos orales. Solo necesitamos que más personas se vacunen, tenemos alrededor de 16 millones de personas en nuestro país que pueden hacerlo pero que aún no están vacunadas, tenemos que cerrar esa brecha.

 

Lo segundo que necesitamos ver es la reducción del gran número de casos. Y allí también podemos reducir esos casos a medida que avanzamos en términos de nuestras tasas de vacunación. Y también al continuar tomando precauciones con prudencia, especialmente cuando los niveles de casos son altos, y esas precauciones incluyen medidas como usar mascarilla, cuando estamos en espacios cerrados, cuando salimos de nuestra casa y ambientes cerrados.

 

Así que estas son las formas en que podemos lograrlo. Llegaremos allí aunque esta pandemia termine, bueno, eso no significa que la COVID-19 desaparecerá al 100%, pero aprenderemos a derribarla para que sea mucho menos peligrosa para nosotros de lo que es ahora. Y vemos las herramientas para hacer eso en el horizonte. Así que todo eso solo para decir que, por duro que sea, tengo la esperanza y soy optimista de que llegaremos a este final de esta pandemia. Y tengo más confianza en eso ahora que hace un año.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Bueno, todos apreciamos mucho su optimismo. Ahora es el momento de abordar más preguntas con el Dr. Vivek Murthy, cirujano general de EE.UU. Como recordatorio, presionen asterisco tres en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con el personal de AARP. Hagan su pregunta en vivo. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora en línea?

 

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Nuestro próximo interlocutor es Leonard de Arizona.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Leonard, bienvenido al programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

 

Leonard: Encantado de hablar con ustedes, Dr. Murthy y Dr. LeaMond. Tenía una pregunta, yo tengo 85, mi esposa, 79. Recibimos nuestras inyecciones de Pfizer en enero, las segundas dosis en febrero, el refuerzo en septiembre. ¿Podemos esperar que vayamos a recibir una vacuna contra la COVID-19 el próximo año y cada año después como lo hacemos con la gripe y no con lo que hemos hecho con otras enfermedades como las vacunas de nuestra infancia?

 

Bill Walsh: Correcto. Gracias por esa pregunta, Leonard. Dr. Murthy, es una pregunta que mucha gente se hace. Entonces, una vez que hayan recibido su régimen de inyecciones y refuerzos, ¿qué pueden esperar en el futuro?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, Leonard, es una muy buena pregunta. Y, en primer lugar, estoy muy contento de que usted y su esposa se hayan vacunado a principios de año y que recibieran el refuerzo en septiembre. Eso significa que ahora tienen un alto grado de protección contra lo peor de la COVID-19. Eso es genial, una gran noticia para ahora en estas fiestas.

 

En cuanto a si necesitará otra inyección el próximo año o no, la verdad es que aún no lo sabemos. Lo que tenemos que hacer es continuar siguiendo a personas como ustedes y comprender más sobre cuáles son sus experiencias a medida que avanzan los meses. Pero si vemos algún indicio de que la protección está disminuyendo, eso podría ser una señal de que la gente necesita una dosis adicional. Y podrían terminar siendo como la vacuna contra la gripe, donde es posible que tenga que recibir algo de refuerzo todos los años.

 

O podría terminar siendo como la vacuna contra la hepatitis B, donde se administran tres dosis a los cero uno y seis meses y luego está bien por muchos años. Pero el tiempo dirá qué rumbo tomaremos. Pero les puedo decir esto, si resulta que se necesitan inyecciones de refuerzo regulares, tendremos mecanismos para administrarlas. Porque eso es lo que construimos durante el año pasado, decenas de miles de lugares para que las personas se vacunen, la capacidad de fabricación para generar lo que nuestro país necesita para su protección.

 

Bill Walsh: Genial. Muchas gracias, Dr. Murthy. Jesse, tomemos otra llamada.

 

Jesse Salinas: Sí, vamos con Lillian de Illinois.

 

Bill Walsh: Lillian, bienvenida al programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

 

Lillian: Mi pregunta es que recibí la vacuna de Johnson & Johnson. Hay muy poca información proporcionada sobre el refuerzo de Johnson & Johnson en el área donde vivo. Me niego a recibir ningún otro refuerzo que no sea Johnson & Johnson. Entonces, ¿por qué se comparte información sobre las demás vacunas de Pfizer y otros con tanta frecuencia y la de Johnson & Johnson no recibe la misma cobertura?

 

Bill Walsh: Bueno, preguntémosle al médico principal del país, el Dr. Murthy. ¿Puede hablar un poco sobre el progreso en un refuerzo de J&J? Y también habló anteriormente sobre la combinación de regímenes de refuerzo. ¿Puede abordar eso de nuevo?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Por supuesto. Bueno, Lillian, me alegra mucho que haya hecho esta pregunta. Y he escuchado de muchas personas como usted, Lilian, que han recibido la inyección de J&J y se han estado preguntando qué deberían hacer para su refuerzo. Estoy de acuerdo, muchas veces cuando escucha las noticias, parece que están hablando principalmente de Pfizer y Moderna y no lo suficiente sobre Johnson & Johnson.

 

Déjeme decirle cuál es la recomendación para Johnson & Johnson. La buena noticia es que los refuerzos ya están disponibles para las personas que recibieron la inyección de J&J. Y si recibió su vacuna Johnson & Johnson, hace dos meses o más, ya puede recibir ese refuerzo. Ahora, podría recibir un refuerzo con Johnson y Johnson, si esa es su preferencia, o podría recibir un refuerzo con una inyección de Pfizer o Moderna.

 

Mucha gente está eligiendo lo que funciona mejor para ellos. Pero lo que han demostrado los ensayos es que si recibe la vacuna Johnson & Johnson como refuerzo, tendrá un aumento significativo en su protección contra la COVID-19. Si obtiene su vacuna Pfizer o Moderna como refuerzo, también tendrá un aumento realmente grande en los niveles de anticuerpos, que son los soldados que protegen su cuerpo de la infección por COVID-19.

 

Por lo tanto, sea cual sea el camino que recorra, obtendrá más protección de la que tiene en este momento. Y nuevamente, si tiene más de dos meses, le insto a que siga adelante y obtenga ese refuerzo tan pronto como pueda. Puede recibirla en el mismo lugar donde recibió la inyección de J&J, lo más probable es que en cualquier farmacia, muchos consultorios médicos tengan las vacunas ahora.

 

Si no está seguro de a dónde ir, puede consultar vacunas.gov en internet, y simplemente ingrese su código postal allí. Le dará ubicaciones donde puede obtener un refuerzo adicional.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Gracias por eso. Jesse, tomemos otra llamada.

 

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima llamada será de Michael de California.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Michael, bienvenido a nuestro programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

 

Michael: Hola. Alguien que haya recibido tres dosis de la vacuna que tome un medicamento inmunosupresor, digamos para que esa persona asista a una actuación en interiores, como una obra de teatro o un musical. Bien gracias.

 

Bill Walsh: ¿Qué le dice Dr. Murthy, algún consejo si la gente ha sido vacunada pero quiere asistir a eventos en espacios cerrados?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bueno, esa es una gran pregunta, Michael. Y si escuché a Michael correctamente, creo que dijo que estaba inmunodeprimido.

 

Bill Walsh: Sí.

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Además, si está inmunodeprimido, sabemos que, en general, eso significa que tiene un mayor riesgo. Y, en primer lugar, es absolutamente necesario que se aplique la vacuna. Sabe que los CDC también han autorizado a las personas a recibir una dosis adicional, una tercera dosis, si recibieron, ya sabe, dos dosis, vacunas de ARNm en la tercera dosis, para asegurarse de que reciban un refuerzo adicional, por así decirlo, en términos de protección.

 

Y además de eso, usted es apto, como todos los demás, para una vacuna de refuerzo cuando pasen seis meses. Por eso, instaría a la gente a que lo hiciera. Pero cuando se trata de lo que es seguro, sabemos que algunas personas inmunodeprimidas tendrán una respuesta realmente buena a las vacunas, pero es posible que otras no.

 

Depende en parte de cosas como qué tan inmunodeprimido está usted. ¿Sabe, por ejemplo, está tomando una dosis baja de esteroides? ¿O está tomando algunos medicamentos quimioterapéuticos muy potentes que pueden inhibir la médula ósea y la producción de células inmunitarias? Por lo tanto, si tiene preguntas acerca de cuánto riesgo corre de forma específica por las enfermedades que pueda tener, siempre puede hablar con su médico para obtener asesoramiento.

 

Pero si está preocupado, ciertamente diría que si va a asistir a una reunión a puertas cerradas, asegurarse de usar una máscara de alta calidad, sería una buena idea una mascarilla N95 o KN95, asegurarse de que se lava las manos y llevar consigo un desinfectante de manos. Y luego, salga lo más rápido que pueda, pero probablemente me inclinaría por el lado de la seguridad, especialmente si tiene una enfermedad inmunitaria grave que reduce su protección.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Jesse, tomemos otra llamada.

 

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Nuestra próxima pregunta será de Glenda en Florida.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Glenda, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Continúe con su pregunta.

 

Glenda: Muchas gracias. Mi pregunta es, si ha tenido COVID-19 y tuvo un caso muy leve, mi hijo y su familia lo tuvieron el invierno pasado, muy leve. No creen que necesiten vacunas. Mi opinión es que creo que sí. Dijeron que un estudio realizado en Israel dijo que las personas que habían tenido COVID-19 tenían una inmunidad más alta que las personas que tenían la inmunización. Solo necesito una aclaratoria sobre eso.

 

Bill Walsh: Dr. Murthy, ¿puede ayudarme con eso?

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Por supuesto. Glenda, me alegra que haya hecho esta pregunta, porque no es la única que la tiene. Y la conclusión es que tiene razón, y le explicaré por qué. Resulta que las personas que tienen una infección previa por COVID-19, tienen una buena respuesta inmunitaria, y eso les da cierta protección contra futuros episodios de COVID-19.

 

Ahora bien, la gran pregunta, sin embargo, Glenda, es, ¿cuánta protección recibieron? ¿Cuánto dura eso? ¿Y la cantidad de protección difiere en función de la edad, la gravedad de la infección o las otras enfermedades que padecen? Una cosa que hemos visto en los datos, que es interesante y algo preocupante, es que especialmente para las personas que tienen infecciones más leves, como su hijo y su familia, la cantidad de protección que adquieren en términos de anticuerpos es bastante variable, algunos adquieren un alto grado de protección, pero hay muchos que no lo hacen.

 

Entonces, me preocuparía si su hijo y otros miembros de su familia tuvieran una infección leve el invierno pasado, es decir, hace casi un año, es posible que ya no tengan la protección adecuada en este momento. Es una de las razones, dada la cantidad de preguntas pendientes que aún quedan sobre la protección que obtiene de una infección previa. Esa es la razón por la que yo mismo, los CDC, y muchos otros científicos dentro y fuera del Gobierno hemos recomendado encarecidamente que las personas sigan el camino de la vacunación, porque ese es el camino probado y verdadero para obtener la máxima protección basada en lo que entendemos hoy.

 

Ahora, ¿podría eso cambiar en el futuro, a medida que entendemos más? Podría, pero por ahora, según lo que entendemos, la vacunación es el camino a seguir. Finalmente, permítanme decir una cosa sobre ese estudio israelí que su hijo señaló, porque es una pregunta razonable. El estudio israelí mostró que hubo una protección significativa para las personas con infección previa, pero siempre debemos ser cautelosos y diría que es un poco sospechoso confiar en un solo estudio para decirle lo que realmente está sucediendo.

 

De hecho, hemos realizado un análisis más amplio que incluyó artículos de todo el mundo que se han publicado sobre el impacto de una infección previa de COVID-19. Y muestran una variabilidad realmente significativa, algunos han demostrado que, en general, parece tener una protección decente. Pero si pertenece a un grupo de mayor edad, en realidad tiene una protección notablemente menor por una infección previa.

 

Otros han demostrado nuevamente que si tiene una infección grave, que obtiene mucha protección, tal vez solo una infección leve, la protección es mucho más variable. Y, teniendo en cuenta todo esto, al observar todos los datos en su totalidad, es por eso que hemos llegado a esta recomendación de que incluso si tuvo una infección previa, todavía tiene sentido vacunarse y no depender de esa infección previa para protegerse contra la COVID-19.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien, Dr. Murthy, muchas gracias. Oh, adelante.

 

Vivek H. Murthy: Bill, debería decir una última cosa para mencionarle a Glenda solo para que pueda darle a su hijo algo de consuelo adicional. Ahora hay datos muy claros de Kentucky, de Nueva York y otros lugares para decirnos que si contrajo una infección previa y además se vacuna, realmente aumenta su protección a niveles muy, muy altos.

 

De hecho, mirando a personas que estuvieron infectadas con COVID-19 en el pasado, las que no se vacunaron tenían más del doble de probabilidades de volver a infectarse de COVID-19 en comparación con las que se vacunaron.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy interesante. Dr. Murthy, muchas gracias por esa aclaratoria y por todo su tiempo hoy. Esta ha sido una discusión realmente informativa. Y gracias a nuestros socios, voluntarios y oyentes de AARP por participar en la discusión.

 

AARP, una organización de membresía no partidista y sin fines de lucro, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores durante más de 60 años. Frente a esta crisis, estamos brindando información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan a protegerse del virus y evitar que se propague a otras personas mientras se cuidan.

 

Todos los recursos a los que se hizo referencia hoy, incluida una grabación del evento de preguntas y respuestas de hoy, se pueden encontrar en aarp.org\elcoronavirus a partir de mañana 19 de noviembre. De nuevo, esa dirección web es aarp.org\elcoronavirus. Vayan allí si su pregunta no fue respondida y encontrarán las últimas actualizaciones, así como información creada específicamente para adultos mayores y cuidadores familiares.

 

Esperamos haber aprendido algo que pueda ayudarlos a ustedes y a sus seres queridos a mantenerse saludables. Únanse a nosotros nuevamente el 9 de diciembre a la 1:00 p.m., hora del este, para participar en otro evento en vivo en el que responderemos sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus. Espero que puedan acompañarnos. Gracias, y que tengan un buen día. Con esto concluye nuestra llamada.

Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered — Vaccines, Misinformation & Mental Wellness

A Conversation With U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D.

With children ages 5 to 11 now eligible for the COVID vaccine and the holidays fast approaching, people want to know how to navigate all the misinformation and stay safe while spending time with loved ones. Vice Admiral Murthy addressed those concerns and others related to vaccine risks, boosters, caregiving, and mental health.

Get the Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation Information from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General.


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


Replay previous AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • April 14Coronavirus: Boosters, Testing and Nursing Home Safety
  • March 24Coronavirus: Impact on Older Adults and Looking Ahead
  • March 10Coronavirus: What We’ve Learned and Moving Forward
  • February 24Coronavirus: Current State, What to Expect, and Heart Health
  • February 10 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Vaccines and Mental Wellness
  • January 27 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Looking Ahead, and the Impact on Nursing Homes
  • January 13 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe During Changing Times
  • December 16 - Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About Boosters, Vaccines & Variants
  • December 9 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Vaccines and Your Health
  • November 18 - Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered — Vaccines, Misinformation & Mental Wellness
  • November 4 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Health & Wellness
  • October 21 - Coronavirus: Protecting Your Health & Caring for Loved Ones
  • October 7 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Flu Vaccines and Wellness Visits
  • September 23 - Coronavirus: Delta Variant, Boosters & Self Care
  • September 9 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, Caring for Loved Ones & New Work Realities
  • August 26 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, New Work Realities & Managing Finances
  • August 12 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe in Changing Times
  • June 24 - The State of LGBTQ Equality in the COVID Era
  • June 17 - Coronavirus: Vaccines And Staying Safe During “Reopening”
  • June 3 - Coronavirus: Your Health, Finances & Housing
  • May 20 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • May 6 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • 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 1 - Coronavirus and The Black Community: Your Vaccine Questions Answered
  • March 25 - Coronavirus: The Stimulus, Taxes and Vaccine
  • March 11 - One Year of the Pandemic and Managing Personal Finances and Taxes
  • February 25 - Coronavirus Vaccines and You
  • February 11 - Coronavirus Vaccines: Your Questions Answered
  • January 28 - Coronavirus: Vaccine Distribution and Protecting Yourself
    & A Virtual World Awaits: Finding Fun, Community and Connections
  • January 14 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying Safe & Coping and Prevention, Vaccines & the Black Community
  • January 7 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe
  • 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