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    COVID Vaccinations and Approval of Booster Shots

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.

    (Editor’s Note: To mark this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, the San Francisco Bay Times is launching a new column by Eduardo Morales, Ph.D. The longtime Executive Director of AGUILAS, an HIV prevention program for Latino gay/bisexual men, Dr. Morales has received numerous awards. They include the 2009 American Psychological Association (APA) Award for Distinguished Contributions to Institutional Practice, the 2009 Latino Business Leadership Award presented by the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Latino Psychological Association 2006 Star Vega Distinguished Service Award, and many others.

    He also received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (2009), a Certificate of Honor from Mayor Gavin Newsom (2009), and additional honors.

    Dr. Morales was a Fulbright Specialist from 2010 to 2015 and was elected as an APA Fellow member as well as a Fellow of the twelve Divisional Associations of APA. Fellow status is an honor bestowed upon APA members who have shown evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology. In this column, though, Dr. Morales will address a wide variety of issues, and particularly those impacting the Latinx and LGBTQ communities.)

    The largest number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 infections in the U.S. are among persons who never got vaccinated. Even though you may have gotten vaccinated, it is possible to become infected with COVID. Being vaccinated helps to minimize the symptoms related to COVID infections. The Delta variant of COVID is highly contagious and easily transmittable. The usual recommendations of proper hand washing and use of hand sterilization products, as well as wearing a multi-layered mask, such as a KN95, help to protect from being infected, even if you have been vaccinated.

    For those who have not been vaccinated, it is good to speak to your health provider about your concerns and questions. Keeping the dialogue open can assist in helping you feel more confident about being vaccinated. Given the millions of persons who are vaccinated, very few persons had a reaction to the different COVID vaccines. This is about keeping our friends, family, and residents protected from being COVID infected. This is not about politics, civil rights, or party politics. It is about our health, public safety, and protecting others.

    The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. has finally officially approved certain COVID vaccinations. This moves it from an emergency use authorization to being regular approved for use. More and more businesses and municipalities are adopting requirements and verification to prove you have been vaccinated in order for you to access and use services. Some businesses are requiring vaccinations of their workers and regular proof of testing negative for COVID in order to maintain a safe work environment.

    Use of public transportation is a privilege, and not a civil right. Traveling via airlines, particularly for international travel, increasingly requires verification of COVID vaccinations and COVID test results within about 48 to 72 hours. This is true before you travel, including going to and returning from different countries. Masks are required in all types of public transportation, including airlines.

    Always keep a record of proof of COVID vaccination with you. The California Health Department has a website where you can download verification and proof of your COVID vaccination. Everyone who is vaccinated in California can now request a digital COVID-19 Vaccination Record. To receive your record, go to: https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov/

    Be sure to use the email or cell phone number you used when you received your vaccine. It takes less than a minute to complete the request and your record is sent by email or text within seconds. You can take a screenshot of your record or print it out. It also includes a QR code that makes your digital COVID vaccination record readable by a QR scanner. You can also call 833-422-4255if you are having trouble obtaining verification or if you lost your COVID vaccination card.

    At AGUILAS in San Francisco, we are gradually attempting to increase our services in person by using the health precautions indicated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Federal Health Resource and Services Administration (HHS). Proof of COVID vaccination is recommended. For those who have yet to be vaccinated, AGUILAS staff is available to answer questions to address hesitancies to be COVID vaccinated by program participants.

    What About Getting COVID Booster Shots?

    It is logical to assume that after a certain time period the potency of COVID vaccination tends to be reduced. Currently, some of the published COVID study data indicate that 8 months after the second dose of COVID vaccination, consideration for a booster shot may be indicated. To maintain a high level of efficacy, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is examining various studies in order to provide a recommendation about COVID booster shots. This is especially true for those with compromised health symptoms such as HIV/AIDS, those with immune deficiencies, those with compromised health symptoms, and the elderly.

    On Friday, September 17, vaccine advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended emergency use booster authorization for people 65 and older, for people at high risk of severe infection, and for health care workers and certain others at higher risk.

    As with the course and biology of viruses, more COVID variants are possible and expected. At this time our best protections are recommendations for COVID vaccinations, for wearing a mask, preferably KN95 that has 5 layers, and for keeping hand sterilization products with us at all times and using them frequently to minimize risk. Here again, check with official health websites for updated recommendations as well as with your local health departments in order to be informed.

    This information, together with consulting your health provider, will help you to make a determination about getting a COVID booster shot. This may be in your best health interest for maintaining protection from COVID infections and its serious symptoms that may have long-term effects.

    Although many schools and universities opened this fall, several throughout the country have closed classes or entire schools due to COVID outbreaks. Updated information may be found at: https://tinyurl.com/79feruk2

    It is anticipated that about 20% of schools will probably close during 2021 due to COVID outbreaks as a result of the inconsistencies across the nation on implementation of the recommended guidelines.

    Eduardo Morales, Ph.D., is a founder of AGUILAS, where he serves as Executive Director. He is also a retired Distinguished Professor at Alliant International University and is the 2021 President of the National Latinx Psychological Association.

    Published on September 23, 2021