The Most Common Questions We're Getting About COVID-19 and Vaccines Right Now

The Most Common Questions We're Getting About COVID-19 and Vaccines Right Now

Post Date: Apr 13, 2022

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, there are still a lot of questions and uncertainties surrounding the virus. We’ve come a long way: as of the end of March 2022, new cases are at the lowest they’ve been in six months, and more than 77 percent of Americans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Still, with new vaccine availability and treatment options, as well as changing guidance around wearing masks, new questions are emerging. Community Health Partners Medical Director Stefanie Lange gave us her perspective on some of the most frequently asked questions around COVID-19 in the community.

With mask restrictions lifted, are there situations where I should still wear a mask for my health?

Lange’s best advice?

“Mask up in an any indoor setting when you know there will be a lot of people around – especially places where you’re sharing air with large groups for a long period of time,” Lange said. “In addition, if you have a cold or any symptoms of airborne illness, you should wear a mask in public.”

What kind of mask should I wear?

The most effective masks are N95. The next step down is the KN95 masks, which are still very effective. Surgical masks are next, followed by cloth masks. When you’re picking a mask, weigh your concerns about risk with comfort. Unfortunately, the masks that protect you the best are generally the least comfortable. But if you’re immunocompromised or just concerned about the risks of COVID, a more effective mask may be worth the discomfort.

No matter what mask you choose, it’s still a layer of protection for you and those around you. It still decreases the transmission of the virus, and that’s never a bad thing.

What's the current recommendation for children and vaccines?

“CHP recommends all children over five get the approved vaccines,” Lange said. “The only exception is if they’ve had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past, or if they had a severe reaction to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The FDA approved vaccines for children age five and up in fall 2021. The vaccine for children is just a smaller dose of the adult version, and it’s still administered in two doses. CHP doesn’t currently carry the vaccines for children, but they're available through other resources in the community like Bozeman Health.

Vaccines have not yet been approved for kids younger than five.

What do you think the future will look like for vaccines? Will we have to keep getting boosters for the rest of our lives?

It’s likely that the future with COVID will look similar to how we manage the flu, Lange explained. With more and more tools available to protect against the virus and its symptoms, the hope is that people will be able to return to their daily lives and manage their risk as needed.

“I’m guessing we’ll see better, more strain-specific vaccines coming out that people will need to take on a regular basis to prevent from being infected or experiencing severe symptoms,” said Lange.

What about people who are immunocompromised and can be disproportionately impacted by the virus? What does the future of the pandemic look like for them?

“We’ll still see some people needing to continue to be really cautious,” Lange said. “Fortunately, there are now more preventative treatments you can get if you’re immunocompromised, and we’ll probably see more options.”

There are also several treatments available for COVID that can be taken within the first five or so days to reduce symptoms, severity and length of illness. These have been limited in availability, but we should see that increase significantly. All of these tools will make COVID-19 more manageable in the future for immunocompromised people.

Lange pointed out that how each person manages risk will be very personal. Everyone will need to weigh the risks and benefits of being in large gatherings, wearing masks, and other decisions.

“In many cases, there’s a risk in going back to social activities, but living an isolated life is also unhealthy,” she said.

I'm experiencing long-term symptoms after having COVID-19. What gives?

Long COVID, more officially known as post COVID-19 condition, is simply the collection of symptoms that may arise or linger after a person has COVID. In some cases, they may be new symptoms that pop up after recovery. Or they might just seem like a continuation of your illness, even though you aren’t contagious anymore. The effects might come and go, or you could relapse after a period of time has passed.

One of the most difficult things about long COVID is that symptoms can be really vague. They include brain fog, changes in mood, general fatigue, and lingering lung issues.

"Many patients are asking, 'How long am I going to feel this way?’” Lange said. “The answer is, it's variable. The good news is that the large majority of people do recover over a period of months."

You can read more about recommendations for long COVID here.

Whether you’re battling symptoms of long COVID, or have questions about COVID prevention or treatment, CHP is here to offer support. Make an appointment to get vaccinated, or reach out to your provider to find personal recommendations and advice as you navigate your unique situation.