We’re devoted to arming you with the information you need during the COVID-19 pandemic, which now includes giving you the opportunity to ask questions and get answers in real-time.

Each Monday, Will Stribling, Mississippi Today’s healthcare reporter, is taking the noon hour to answer your questions about COVID-19 through our text line.

Below is a selection of reader questions asked during yesterday’s AMA that were answered by Will.

Visit our Vaccine Guide for more COVID-19 resources.

Want to join the conversation? Sign up for our COVID-19 text line:

Last updated September 13, 2021

In this AMA, Will answered questions about COVID-19 booster shots, the delta variant, testing and more.

Is it true approximately 40 of eligible Mississippians are vaccinated?

Yes! Per CDC data, 40% of Mississippians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 48% of those who are eligible to be vaccinated (12 and up) are fully vaccinated.

Can I take the Moderna booster if my first 2 vaccine shots were Pfizer?

At this time, Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for booster doses.

What are physicians’ recommendations for taking the COVID-19 vaccine boosters at the same time as the flu and pneumonia vaccines? Should they be administered at different times?

You can get them at the same time. Initially, the CDC recommended spacing out the timing, but that guidance has changed.

How likely is it for a vaccinated person to spread the delta variant of COVID-19?

Fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough Delta infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to spread the virus for a shorter time. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people that are infected with Delta have similar viral loads (the amount of virus in their bodies) but that amount decreases quicker if they’re vaccinated.

So much confusion about knowing the difference between Sinus and DELTA.  Sinus  Headache Sinus pressure drip and runny nose fever.  Any help understanding the difference would be great.

Since some cold/flu symptoms are also COVID symptoms, there’s no way to know which you have unless you get tested. You can schedule a free COVID-19 test through MSDH at covidschedule.umc.edu

How can I encourage my vaccine hesitant friends to get vaccinated?

The best you can do is calmly explain why you made the decision you did and listen to the concerns they have. Encourage them to talk to their physician about the vaccine if they have one.

If a person has severe asthma, will the vaccine help COVID?  

Yes! People with asthma need the protection offered by vaccination even more so than people without underlying health conditions that weaken their immune systems.

So what about this statement from the CDC recommending boosters at 8 months?

Studies have shown a decrease in vaccine efficacy after 8 months. Those findings have not been turned into official recommendations yet, but a booster plan for the general population is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Will a booster vaccine be available for all who want it or just a few people?

Currently, a third dose is only recommended for moderately to severely immunocompromised patients, and only those who received either of the mRNA vaccines. We’ll keep you updated as more information on boosters is released in the coming weeks.

Ask Me Anything: August 30, 2021

In this AMA, Will answered questions about COVID-19 breakthrough cases, booster shots, testing and more.

When can I get the booster shot?

This story will tell you everything you need to know about booster shots in MS.

Can you get a vaccine with a sinus infection?

Experts are split on this. Most say that if you’re only experiencing mild symptoms from a non-COVID illness, you can go get vaccinated. If you’re experiencing moderate to severe symptoms, it’d be best to consult with your physician first.

What are the best vitamins to take to fight against COVID-19? 

There are no vitamins that will prevent COVID or help you fight off an infection. Getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself.

How long do you have to wait as a cancer patient to get your Pfizer booster after two vaccines?? About to start chemo 

That’s a question without an easy answer. You would need to discuss this with your physician. Here’s some good information on this issue from the American Cancer Society.

Is this the largest number of cases reported in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic? Or is this the number of cases from over the weekend?

It’s the number of cases from over the weekend. Monday’s numbers are always the cumulative number of infections/deaths from Fri-Sun.

You can keep up with the COVID-19 data trends here.

I was diagnosed with COVID last December and had the Moderna vaccine in February and March.  Does that give me greater immunity against the Delta variant? 

There are multiple lab studies that suggest the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine works well against the Delta variant. It’s not as effective as it was against the original strain of COVID, but still highly effective at preventing a symptomatic infection, even after one dose! Also, combining the natural antibodies produced after an infection with those created through vaccination offers the best possible protection one can have against COVID-19.

I have an autoimmune illness call sarcoidosis. What is the best vaccine to get?

Either of the mRNA vaccines would be your best options. So Pfizer or Moderna, whichever you can get near you.

Why is it necessary for people who have contracted COVID to get vaccinated? I thought they had natural antibodies.  I have been vaccinated and have not gotten COVID. 

A person who recovers from a COVID-19 infection does develop some natural immunity, but those antibody levels are significantly boosted through vaccination. So it just gives a person the best possible defense against a second infection.

And those people have to wait 90 days to get the vaccine? 

The only people who have to wait 90 days to get vaccinated are people who have been infected and received monoclonal antibody treatment.

In reference to the delta variant, how long does the germ stay active in air and or on surfaces after the infected person has left the area?

The virus can still live on infected surfaces for three days. The problem with delta is that the amount of virus in infected people’s bodies is 1000x higher than with the original strain. Those particles don’t live longer, there are just a lot more of them.

How is hurricane response affecting COVID response or vice versa? 

All Mississippi State Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites are closed today, and sites in central and south Mississippi will remain closed Tuesday. All MSDH offices, county health departments, and WIC centers are closed today as well.

View our Hurricane Ida coverage here.

Will, have you ever seen even a bit of evidence that any of the SEC universities actively reviewed a consideration of mandatory vaccinations? Many of us at a certain North Mississippi flagship state university have deeply admired Indiana University having done so.

No, I have not. I do not think any MS colleges or universities (excluding UMMC) ever seriously considered mandating the COVID vaccine.

How many total cases are there in MS as of right now?

There have been 435,611 cases confirmed in MS since March 2020.

Last updated: September 21, 2021

43% of total population fully vaccinated

1,669

new cases and 477,269 total cases in Mississippi. 98% not vaccinated, 2% fully vaccinated

61

new deaths reported and 9,331 total deaths in Mississippi. 87% not vaccinated, 13% fully vaccinated

88%

of hospitalizations not vaccinated, 12% fully vaccinated.

Where can folks on Medicaid obtain free COVID tests?

Free COVID-19 testing Monday through Friday is available from Mississippi’s Community Health Centers. Contact a center near you or call 601-981-1817 for more information.

All Mississippi State Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites are closed today because of Hurricane Ida though, and sites in central and south Mississippi will remain closed Tuesday. All MSDH offices, county health departments, and WIC centers are closed today as well.

How can you get COVID-19 if you’re fully vaccinated? 

The vaccines are highly effective at preventing a COVID infection, even more so at preventing hospitalization and death among breakthrough cases. No vaccine is 100% effective though, so there will always be those who experience an illness they’ve been vaccinated against.

Ask Me Anything: August 23, 2021

Update: Immunocompromised Mississippians can now receive booster shots.

Can the vaccination later sterilize young people?

Currently, no evidence shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.

Here’s a link with more info on this.

I had COVID in March just wondering if I would still have antibodies? I got the vaccine.  

Current data tells us that the natural antibodies developed after a COVID infection don’t start to weaken until eight months after the infection. Pairing natural antibodies with vaccination is by far the most robust protection you can have, though, so you did the right thing by getting the vaccine. You will likely need to get a booster shot eight months after receiving your second dose though. More details about what the booster program will look like in Mississippi should be released in the coming weeks.

Are they going to close anything down to stop the COVID?

Gov. Tate Reeves vehemently opposes any shutdown orders, and they’re very unpopular on the local level as well, so you’re unlikely to see any shutdowns here in Mississippi to limit the spread. Mask mandates at the local level are a possibility, but still very slim.

Do you think the FDA approval will have a positive affect on MS vaccinations?  Will we see any vaccine mandates for public schools and colleges?

I hope so! There are a lot of folks who’ve said that they were waiting for FDA approval, so we’ll see if they stay true to that. The vaccination rate in Mississippi has increased significantly each week over the past month, so I’m interested to see if we see an even higher increase than normal over the next few weeks.

Can I get a booster Im 79 years old and had my 2 KD Moderna on February 9 2021  

More details about what the booster program looks like in Mississippi will come out in the coming weeks. We’ll be sure to cover that as more info becomes available. It’s looking like healthcare workers will get the first boosters, and you’d be in the second group of older folks who were vaccinated early this year.

Update: As of Aug. 24, immunocompromised Mississippians can now receive booster shots.

I had the Johnson and Johnson shot. Can I get a booster of another shot?  

More details about what the booster program looks like in Mississippi will come out in the coming weeks. We’ll be sure to cover that as more info becomes available.

Health experts say that boosters are likely to be needed for people who got J&J and that more data should be available in the next several weeks. Whether that will be a Johnson booster, or one of the mRNA vaccines, I don’t know.

Here’s an article that goes into more detail on this issue.

Does the covid vaccine have a form of sulfa in it?  

Information from the manufacturer states that sulphonamide antibiotics are not used in the manufacturing process of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the vaccine soon be a requirement or will it stay our choice? Im vaccinated but just curious..

Some businesses, mostly in the healthcare field, are requiring their employees to get vaccinated and some colleges outside Mississippi are requiring it of their students. The U.S. military will move to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all service members now that the Pfizer vaccine has full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson announced today.

There isn’t going to be any kind of public mandate that covers everyone.

What side effects should I expect from my booster shot in November?  

None any different than the side effects (if any) that you experienced when getting the vaccine originally. More info.

Do I need to take a Covid test after I have Covid 19 to return to society?

No, you should be fine to “return to society” after the 10-14 day quarantine period after testing positive for the virus. More info.

I have had the Johnson vaccine. Do I need to get antibody tested and maybe a Booster. I am 70 and has asthma  

Getting your antibody levels tested is a great idea for everyone, especially if you’re older and/or immunocompromised. If your antibody levels are low, you can ask your doctor about getting a booster shot.

Update: As of Aug. 24, immunocompromised Mississippians can now receive booster shots.

How long should a vaccinated person who was exposed to COVID quarantine? And how long should a vaccinated person with mild or no symptoms who tested positive quarantine?  

In both situations, a 14-day quarantine period is recommended. In Mississippi, per an order from State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, infected people are required to quarantine for at least 10 days. Those who fail to comply with the order could face a fine or jail time.

More info.

My husband plans to get the vaccine today. When will he need to get the second dose. What are studies showing that may be the safest. He is 46 and as we know has not had Covid ever.  

He should get his second dose two weeks after receiving the first dose. Two weeks after that, he’ll have developed really robust protection against the virus.

When will boosters be available?  

More information on what the booster program will look like in Mississippi should come out in the coming weeks. We will keep y’all updated as new information becomes available.

Update: As of Aug. 24, immunocompromised Mississippians can now receive booster shots.

Should 86 year get 3rd vaccine b4 8 months?

You can talk to your doctor about testing your antibody levels to see if a booster is needed before they are rolled out for everyone.

I got an email this morning from someone purporting to be an MD. He said that there have been extensive severe side effects with the Moderna vaccine. Are these allegations true?  

That isn’t true at all. COVID-19 vaccines have been subjected to the same rigorous process for evaluating safety and effectiveness as any other vaccine approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More safety information about the vaccines can be found here.

How long should a vaccinated person who was exposed to COVID quarantine? And how long should a vaccinated person with mild or no symptoms who tested positive quarantine?  

In both situations, a 14-day quarantine period is recommended. In Mississippi, per an order from State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, infected people are required to quarantine for at least 10 days. Those who fail to comply with the order could face a fine or jail time.

More info.

If you have been vaccinated and get the virus can you get it again for the second time?  

Yes, it is possible, but exceedingly rare.

Which vaccine would you recommend for someone in there early 30s?  

Either of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) offer the best protection. Pfizer was granted full FDA approval today if that would factor into your decision. That’s the one I got.


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Will Stribling covers healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.