Covid-19 Vaccines – A Conversation with Medical Professionals

Henderson physician Dr. Ati Hakimi and CSN Biology Department Chair Dr. Matthew Mahrt answer your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and why it’s important to get vaccinated during this pandemic.

The COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against every variant so far. Even with more breakthrough cases reported with the Delta variant, the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization.

FDA approves Pfizer vaccine, health officials hope authorization boosts vaccination rates

The Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is the first to receive full approval from the FDA. The vaccine will now be marketed as Comirnaty and is approved for those ages 16 and older.

TO WATCH THE VIDEO AND READ THE FULL ARTICLE CLICK HERE

The vaccine is still available under emergency-use authorization for kids ages 12 to 15. As well as a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

Southern Nevada health officials said Monday’s approval puts the Pfizer vaccine on the same level as regular immunizations for children and adults across the country.

“For all the naysayers that have had concerns about it not being approved by the FDA that they should feel confident and they should feel comfortable that it is now approved,” said Dr. Ati Hakimi MD, family physician with Vegas Direct Primary Care.

As the nation battles the most contagious variant yet, delta. The FDA gives approval to Pfizer as the first Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr. Fermin Leguen with the Southern Nevada Health District said the approval only confirms what health officials have been saying for months: the vaccine is safe and effective.

“Some organizations are waiting for the full approval of the vaccine so they could request or mandate the vaccine for their operation. Now they can incorporate that as well,” Dr. Leguen said.

County officials say right now they can’t predict if the approval will boost traffic at vaccination sites. But they hope it does.

The Stan Fulton drive-thru vaccination and testing site at UNLV will continue to offer 300 doses daily of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. They’ll adjust as needed.

A spokeswoman with CVS Pharmacy tells News 3 only one type of Covid-19 vaccine is offered at pharmacies giving the shot. When registering, people can see which store offers which vaccine.

In a statement, CVS said “we’re fully prepared to meet any increase in demand resulting from full FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and expected regulatory approval of booster shots beginning in the fall. We’ve administered more than 30 million COVID-19 vaccines across the country, and immediately began offering third doses to immunocompromised individuals when authorized to do so.”

As for other SNHD partners, Dr. Leguen said there shouldn’t be an issue with people asking for a specific vaccine.

“We have more than one vaccine available at any of our sites, whether its Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson,” Dr. Leguen said.

Dr. Hakimi added that full FDA approval is a rigorous process that goes beyond approving medication but manufacturing as well.

“We hope that we’ll be a source of comfort for them to know that there is all of this extensive data and research and manufacturing approval that has gone into this,” Dr. Hakimi said.

Nevada partners with pharmacies to increase provider access to COVID-19 vaccines

Nevada’s State Immunization Program has announced a new initiative to boost Covid-19 vaccinations across the state by pairing pharmacies with local doctors to get more shots in the arm.

To read the full article and video, please click here:

The pharmacy depot program will allow pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Smiths to distribute vaccines in small amounts to enrolled providers.

Right now, less than half of Nevadans are fully vaccinated, that’s according to the CDC.

“Increasing points of access is the overall goal in boosting those rates,” said Kristy Zigenis, Covid-19 program manager with the Nevada State Immunization Program.

So, the Nevada State Immunization Program is partnering with the Nevada Board of Pharmacy to pilot the Pharmacy Depot Program. To get Covid-19 vaccines into the hands people trust most.

“We have discovered that some providers didn’t think they could vaccinate their patients due to the minimum required order sizes,” Zigenis said.

Through federal guidelines, providers can order a required minimum of the Covid-19 vaccine. Zigenis said that’s somewhere between 100 to more than 1,000 doses.

RELATED | Clark County passes 5,000 COVID-19 deaths

But through the new program, doctors will be able to request *small* amounts of vaccine from more than 140 pharmacies across the valley, without wasting unnecessary stock.

“For a provider that has a smaller practice, it was just too much to manage. And so, they just wouldn’t sign up to provide the vaccine,” Zigenis said.

Dr. Ati Hakimi MD with Vegas Direct Primary Care is one of those small practices with 150 patients.

“I would love to be able to give vaccines,” Dr. Hakimi said.

Dr. Hakimi said getting the vaccine is vital in keeping the virus from mutating. And doctors can provide an environment patients are comfortable in.

“Because we do have a relationship with our patients right so we want to be there for them and take that opportunity when they do have the questions to ask and answer them but if they want that vaccine right then and there, we can give it to them,” Dr. Hakimi said.

Zigenis said if providers have a refrigerator that can maintain the appropriate temperatures to store the vaccine, there shouldn’t be any barriers.

But according to Dr. Hakimi, storing and refrigerating vaccines such as Pfizer takes time and money.

“We have been trying to work with entities such as Immunize Nevada and the health department to enable us to do that but with this new program I think it will be invaluable for us smaller practices to actually get that going,” Dr. Hakimi said.

For more information and to enroll in the Pharmacy Depot Program, click here.

Questions answered: Who, what, when and where of booster shots

Today, President Biden announced plans to recommend all fully vaccinated Americans get a COVID booster shot for better protection.

We break down what this means for you and Nevada:

To Read The Full Article And View Video Click Here

Who:

Per the Biden administration, this would be all fully vaccinated Americans 18 and up who had the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Federal officials say more data needs to be collected with Johnson & Johnson before an official decision.

This follows an earlier decision from the CDC to OK booster shots for those with weak immune systems.

What:

A third, so-called “booster shot”.

This isn’t a “new” formula–but rather the same vaccine. The only reaction that’s different is the one from your body.

“People think the booster shots are a new formulated shot against the variants. It’s not. It’s the same shot we got earlier in the year,” Family Physician Dr. Daliah Wachs said. “Getting that extra boost reminds your antibodies: ‘Hey guys, remember, you need to be on the lookout for this.'”

Doctors say you should stick with whatever dose you previously had. That means if you got a Moderna shot 8 months ago–your booster should be Moderna too.

When:

With FDA approval, the rollout would begin on September 20th.

It would first be available to those who had the second dose at least 8 months prior. (Those who got their second shot at or before January 20th would be eligible on September 20th, those who got it in February would be eligible in October and so forth) Officials with the Southern Nevada Health District say this is a normal timeline for boosters.

Of course, all of this depends on approval from the FDA to ensure third doses are safe. That’s expected within a few weeks.

Where:

Currently, COVID vaccines are available throughout multiple locations in the valley, including dozens of pharmacies.

SNHD tells News 3 it has the capacity to provide additional vaccines to the public. A spokesperson says SNHD will continue to monitor the demand and is prepared to open additional or larger clinic sites if needed.

Why:

In his address, President Biden said the possibility of booster shots has been discussed for several months.

Family Physician Dr. Ati Hakimi says this is due to two variables: most vaccines wane in efficacy over time, and most viruses also mutate.

“We have discovered with the research, about 6 to 8 months is when it starts to wane,” she said. “This virus is so smart and it’s mutating.”

A recent study of 10 million New Yorkers shows vaccine effectiveness decreased from 92 percent in May to 80 percent in July.

So far, the vaccines have done their jobs fending off serious disease and death. While breakthrough cases are documented, the vast majority of those hospitalized with COVID-19 remain unvaccinated locally and nationally.

However, doctors fear another variant—stronger or deadlier than Delta–could emerge.

That could be concerning, says Dr. Hakimi, with vaccine protection fading as the months go on.

“So that 90 percent will start to become maybe 70, 80, possibly 60 percent,” she said. “So if you get that booster you will get yourself back up there to get the antibodies that will fight for you.”

Health professionals argue the idea is to keep immunity high and be proactive against future variants.

“It’s actually the best time to be proactive with these boosters instead of being reactive,” Dr. Hakimi said.

In a recent press conference with health officials, Dr. Anthony Facui, infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, said studies show a ten-fold increase of antibodies after a third dose of the mRNA vaccines.

“You don’t want to find yourself behind playing catch up,” he said. “Better stay ahead than chasing after it.”

Not everyone agrees

However, not all doctors are on the same page on boosters. Just earlier this year, the World Health Organization asked wealthy countries to pump the break on boosters as thousands in the world still haven’t received a single dose.

“We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing.

Other doctors suggest the data points to only giving some populations—including the immunocompromised and elderly—a third shot.

“These data support giving additional doses of vaccine to highly immunocompromised persons and nursing home residents, not to the general public,” Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center and a former adviser on the pandemic to the administration told the New York Times. “We’ll be better protected by vaccinating the unvaccinated here and around the world.”

“If you look at the whole, unvaccinated populations could be worse to public health, than those who have had two shots but might need some more immunity,” said Dr. Wachs earlier this month.

Ask your Doctor

In the next few weeks and months ahead, Dr. Hakimi says the best person to ask for advice for the booster shot is your personal doctor. And in the meantime, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, she urges you to do so to help out our community.

“If we want Vegas to come back to how we had Vegas, then we all have to be on board,” she said.

Nevada doctors see rise in telehealth appointments

Tele-health, or virtually visiting your doctor via phone or video chat, has been around for years.

But as many people gravitated for more *at-home* options over the last year, this realm of medicine boomed during the pandemic — and health insurance providers — along with physicians — are taking note.

You can read the full article HERE

COVID-19 breakthrough infections: Local physician explains rare cases, encourages vaccine for protection

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Though someone contracting COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated is rare, it can happen, so 8 News Now spoke with a local doctor about the role immunization plays in community defense.

You can view the full video HERE

Concierge Medicine: Exploring Direct Primary Care

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada ranks nearly dead last nationwide — 48 out of 50 — when it comes to the number of doctors per population. But while we have a serious doctor shortage, there are options for care.

They could change your healthcare journey and help you nix the long wait at a provider’s office.

“I’ve had years of that, and I was ready for a change,” said Trina Morella, a Direct Care patient.

The change for her was leaving traditional insurance-based healthcare and moving to Direct Primary Care (DPC).

“I can’t see patients in 10 minutes, that’s not quality care,” said Dr. Ati Hakimi, a Direct Care physician.

She was also frustrated by the system, so she opened her own practice and welcomed patients, like Morella.

Hakimi is a DPC doctor, which some call concierge or retainer-based medicine. It shifts most of the financial responsibility to the patient, in exchange for improving your healthcare experience.

It costs anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 a year. Hakimi even offers house calls.

“It’s quality, it’s affordable, it’s completely transparent,” the doctor explained, “there’s no hidden fees. It’s just that flat fee once a month, and people have all access to me.”

Hakimi negotiates rates directly with drug manufacturers and providers, including imaging, which may be cheaper than using insurance.

“I can order an x-ray tomorrow for $25, a CT scan for about $150, an MRI, $200,” she shared.

This approach may require you to think about health insurance differently.

“So, you don’t use your car insurance to put gas in it to maintain it; you don’t use your homeowner’s insurance and paint your house to make it look nice,” Hakimi compared.

Morella noted, “You can still have your healthcare insurance, and it covers your big items that you need … It has to be the right fit for you, and this was the right fit for me.”

Concierge medicine has both its critics and supporters. While the patient-centered benefits of quicker care access and better relationships are attractive, some people say the model does not promote health equity.