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Talk To Us: COVID Questions

NC Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen answers BPR's listener question during Wednesday's coronavirus task force briefing

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in our weekly segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.   

This week's question comes from Kelsey Lahr of Asheville.

“I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and I'm worried that I'm not adequately protected, especially now that the mask mandates have been dropped. My understanding was that the less effective Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be fine, as long as we kept at precautions like masking and social distancing, which have now pretty much fallen by the wayside. Can I, or should I get a dose of one of the more effective RNA vaccines for better protection?”

Good question to find out. We asked North Carolina Health Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohenduring Wednesday'scoronavirus task force briefing.

“Thanks for that question, Helen.  First, I want to start by sharing - I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” says Cohen.  “All three vaccines are free, they're safe, and all three are effective at preventing COVID and preventing you from giving COVID to others. You have to remember that these vaccines were both researched and put into clinical trials at different points in this pandemic, so it is really hard to look at effectiveness side by side of these vaccines.”

Effective protection: “What we know isall of these vaccines are incredibly effective again at protecting you and others. It's why I made the decision to get that vaccine for myself. And so what I would say is that if you are vaccinated with any of those vaccines, you can feel protected. And theCDC guidance is if you've taken any one of those three vaccines that you no longer need to be wearing a mask and doing social distancing, either indoors or outdoors. If you are un-vaccinated though, you are still at risk.”

“I want to just remind folks to continue to wear masks indoors if you are un-vaccinated. But if you have the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are protected and we encourage folks to get the first vaccine that is available to them.  For some folks getting the Johnson & Johnson is really advantageous because it is one shot and then they are done.”

Booster in the future? “I want to  one address the question about boosters. I think that is something the scientific community will continue to evaluate whether we will need boosters for any of the three vaccines. We'll look at two different factors:  how long your immunity lasts with these vaccines. And does this virus change, which would make us need to get a different type of  protection as we go forward.”

“ I have said before,”says Cohen, “I think boosters will likely be necessary in the future, similar to how we get a flu shot every year. I don't know if that will be  this year in 2021, or in the coming year, but that's what the scientific community will continue to evaluate as we go forward, thank you.”

Do you have a COVID vaccine question you'd like answered record a voice memo and send it to voices@bpr.org or use the talk to us feature on the free BPR mobile app. I'm Helen Chickering BPR news.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.