Answers to COVID-19 FAQs

 

Dear TPS Members, 

We know you are hard at work vaccinating Texas children and families. The TPS team has created a fact sheet for you to share with parents to answer their questions (be on the lookout for the Spanish version which is coming soon!). 

As we head into the second winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to share several COVID-19 updates with you. There are more tools in our toolbox this winter, but the pandemic continues to evolve. Below you will find FAQs, webinar opportunities, and other vaccine communication tools.

Download our Fact Sheet for parents and families! FAQs on the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children (English, Spanish) 

Here's what you need to know:

What do we know about the Omicron variant so far? 

  • For the week ending on Dec. 25, the Omicron variant represented up 58.6% of cases nationwide (up from 22.5% the previous week). It is now the dominant variant in the U.S., data in the coming weeks will show if this trend continues or if Delta and Omicron co-exist and circulate among different populations. CDC officials warned that the rapid spread in the U.S. could lead to a peak in infections as early as January. 
  • Omicron is a highly transmissible variant and is infecting roughly 2-3x as many people as Delta, but scientists are still working to determine how much more contagious Omicron is. This increase in transmissibility means you should be wearing high quality masks, limiting the duration and distance of interactions with others, testing often, and reduce risk indoors with improved ventilation and limiting group size. 
  • Complete mRNA series with a booster dose (or a prior COVID-19 infection) have shown to provide strong protection against an infection with Omicron. Those without a booster are likely protected against severe disease. A preprint study from South Africa suggests reinfection is more likely with Omicron. Yesterday, Pfizer and BioNTech reported early data that showed 3 doses of its mRNA vaccine offer significant protection and two doses showed a large drop in antibody levels against Omicron. Breakthrough cases may also be more likely. Other research suggests those who have had a COVID-19 infection and get Pfizer's two-dose series have protection from Omicron.
  • There are reports of mild illness so far, but it is still early. Data from South Africa, Scotland and  England indicate a lower percentage of Omicron infections lead to hospitalizations. Hospitalizations lag behind increases in cases. Even if Omicron proves to be milder, its contagiousness will lead to many infections and subsequent hospitalizations.
  • Current therapeutics like sotrovimab (GSK) will probably remain effective, but Omicron appears to be resistant to monoclonal antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly (distribution of these treatments has been paused). New antiviral pills (Paxlovid and molnupiravir) should be effective against Omicron. For those who are hospitalized with Omicron infections, there are also a number of treatments available. 
  • Continue to mask, encourage vaccinations, washing your hands, distancing, and taking precautions.
  • For more detailed updates, we recommend subscribing to Your Local Epidemiologist. 
  • The WHO announced Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26. It has proceeded to spread rapidly across the globe and within the U.S. Omicron has a unique combination of about 50 mutations, including over 30 mutations on the spike protein. 
What updates have there been to booster guidance?
  • The CDC recommends all adults receive a COVID-19 booster shot (at least 2 months after a J&J COVID-19 vaccine, or at least 6 months after an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine). People can mix and match vaccines by choosing which COVID-19 vaccine to receive for a booster shot.
  • Boosters of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine are also strongly recommended for teens 16+. The FDA expanded the EUA to include booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 16-17 year-olds and the CDC also expanded its recommendations to include teens 16+.
  • Everyone who is eligible should get a booster shot as soon as possible. Do not wait for any proposed variant-specific boosters, protect yourself now!
  • There are currently no updates on booster shots for children under 15 years-old. 
  • Everyone is still considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-shot series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine. 
Will there be COVID-19 vaccine deliveries during the holidays? 
  • COVID-19 vaccine deliveries will be suspended from Thursday, December 23 through Monday, December 27.
  • Please place all orders in the VAOS by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 17.
  • Any orders placed after the Dec. 17 deadline will be delivered starting Tuesday, December 28th in the order in which they were received

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What advice should I give to families concerned about holiday celebrations?
  • Keep your celebrations to people who are fully vaccinated to protect unvaccinated children and people with weakened immune systems. Encourage eligible friends and family to get vaccinated or get their booster shot now!
  • Take precautions. If you or your guests have symptoms, stay home.  While indoors, you should wear a mask and open windows if you can, or get together outdoors when possible. Keep the guest list and visits short to reduce risk. Use at-home rapid tests before being with other families. The safest way to celebrate with unvaccinated family or friends is virtually, but take steps to protect your family by wearing masks. And of course, continue to wash your hands! 
  • Public health experts are still discouraging travel for those who are not fully vaccinated, but if you do decide to travel with children who are not fully vaccinated - choose the safest option for your family and minimize exposure by wearing a mask, using a private vehicle, and avoiding large groups. If traveling by air, wait until lines have thinned out and wear good masks (KN95, etc.).
What is the Pfizer "Gray Cap" formulation?
  • COVID-19 vaccine providers will be able to order the adult/adolescent vaccine with the gray cap beginning December 23, 2021. This formulation will eventually replace the purple cap formulation.
  • The gray cap uses a different buffer than the purple cap, which makes it more stable. This allows for the vaccine to be stored in a refrigerator for up to 10 weeks.
  • This formulation will not require dilution. Each vial has 6 doses of vaccine and can be ordered in 300 dose/packs.
  • To learn more about the gray cap vaccine, check out the Dec. 7 DSHS Vaccine Provider Webinar
  • Register to become a COVID-19 vaccine provider here.

              

Where can I learn more about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines? 

Last updated 1/3/2022