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Dr. Ross answers COVID-19 vaccine questions

LAPLACE — Dr. Reginald J. Ross, internal medicine specialist with JenCare Senior Medical Center, recently joined St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard to answer the community’s questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination.

Millions of vaccines have been administered in the United States, including approximately 1,000 vaccines administered from the JenCare facilities in the New Orleans region. Dr. Ross, an Edgard native and West St. John graduate, hasn’t seen any severe side effects from JenCare patients beyond minor aches and chills.

He assured the public that all three of the approved vaccines currently being administered in the community have proven to be safe.

In response to concerns that the vaccine production was rushed, Dr. Ross said, “All of the regulatory scientific processes and safeguards were still in place. The data was still reviewed by doctors and scientists. What they basically did was cut out a lot of the bureaucratic paperwork.”

While Dr. Ross said any vaccine is better than no vaccine at all, there are differences in the efficacy of the vaccines. The two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both about 95 percent effective in protecting against COVID-19, while the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only about 66 percent effective.

However, the CDC reports that all three vaccines have a high efficacy in preventing serious illness and hospitalization. The CDC is not currently recommending one vaccine over another.

According to Dr. Ross, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA to provide protection. This teaches the body how to make the protein triggering antibody production. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses the DNA inside of a common virus to prime an individual’s immune system response.

Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Individuals should not receive the vaccine while they are fighting a current COVID-19 infection.

“If someone tests positive for COVID but is asymptomatic, wait 10 to 14 days from the day of the positive test,” Dr. Ross said. “If they do become symptomatic, they should wait 10 to 14 days from the last day of symptoms.”

Studies are still being conducted to determine how long immunity will last following COVID-19 vaccination. Dr. Ross said research is being done to determine whether individuals will need booster shots to maintain protection.

He said booster shots are not comparable to annual flu shots, which are new vaccines administered each year to protect against different strains of influenza.

“A booster gives you a little more of what you had before,” Dr. Ross said.

He added that the vaccines currently being administered also provide protection from the COVID variants that have been recorded in the United States and other countries.

Hotard shared with residents that Louisiana has a new vaccine hotline to assist residents with scheduling vaccine appointments and finding vaccine providers in the area, as well as connecting with medical professionals to answer vaccine questions. The hotline can be reached at 1-855-453-0774 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

St. John the Baptist Parish Coroner Dr. Christy Montegut recently reported that, as of the beginning of April, 28 percent of the Parish population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. St. John Parish ranked in the top 5 in the state for the percentage of the population which has received at least one vaccination.

The current COVID-19 vaccine providers in St. John the Baptist Parish are the LaPlace Walmart Pharmacy, Winn-Dixie, LaPlace Drugs, The Urgent Care – LaPlace, Gem Drugs – Reserve, Gulf Coast Occupational Medicine – Reserve and Prime Occupational Medicine in Reserve.

Residents with vaccine appointments can schedule a ride with the River Parish Transit Authority by calling 985-651-1141 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For assistance, dial 211 or visit ldh.gov/covidvaccine/