Doctor to immunocompromised: 'You should be getting your booster shot'

Dr. Adam Brown, an Emergency Physician at Envision Healthcare, discusses the latest on COVID-19 bosster shots.

Video Transcript

- I mean, just over in New Jersey, they're about to have the mandate that all teachers be vaccinated, and yet there are people who think that that's a mistake. What would you say-- I'm making an assumption. Correct me if I'm wrong. I believe you believe in the vaccine.

ADAM BROWN: Absolutely.

- What would you say to those who still don't buy into the fact that these vaccines have been in development for 20 plus years, the mRNA, and that it was a godsend that they were available to then create this particular COVID-19 vaccine? What do you say to people who don't listen to science and reason?

ADAM BROWN: Well, just on your last point, this really is a medical miracle, that we were able to take the information that we've had over the past two decades and have all of our agencies working together to get us a vaccine in record time. But what's important for folks to recognize is that the safety procedures, the clinical trials, the number of people who were tested with the vaccine have been followed, just like they have been with other type of medications.

But back to your original question about what I would say is I understand that there's a lot of fear out there. There's a lot of information coming at people from multiple different sources about the vaccine, about the virus, about masks. One of your commentators just mentioned that. But the fact is is that these vaccines are safe. And when you look at our hospitals, you look at the people who are, sadly, dying from COVID-19, they are primarily, with a high percentage, those who are unvaccinated.

- And when you hear people still have these kinds of vaccine hesitancies, what are the main arguments that they're still making? And what would you say to those individuals?

ADAM BROWN: Well, some have mentioned the FDA. Waiting for the FDA to approve the vaccine is one of those concerns. But again, this vaccine went through three clinical trials, or three phases of clinical trials. And now, more than 4 billion doses of the vaccine have been delivered around the world, with very, very low incidence of any type of side effects to other individuals.

There have been women who are thinking about getting pregnant, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, but the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology came out forcefully talking about the safety of the vaccine, that it did not cause any damage to the fetus or to the chances of a woman getting pregnant, or to men who want to have children, as well. So there's no fertility issues that are there. As a matter of fact, if someone were to get pregnant and get COVID-19, the risk of having preterm labor or complications to the fetus are much higher.

So I start going over some of these details, showing people the evidence of what we're seeing in some of our hospitals, what many of my friends and colleagues have been seeing, and then also talking about the real facts that are out there staring in front of us if you can find them. We want to make sure that people can get that information from trusted sources. So that's what I've been telling people.

- From your role as Envision Healthcare's COVID-19 national task force chair, when you speak to colleagues nationwide, the issue of masks-- look, for adults, it's uncomfortable. My glasses fog up. I get it. What about kids, though? Realistically, to expect a 12-year-old to sit in a mask in a school for eight hours, what do we know about the ability to require a 12-year-old to do that? And are there potentially effects to their oxygen intake? The long-term impact of that.

ADAM BROWN: So it's a really good question. I'll take the last one first, about oxygenation or carbon dioxide levels. The studies have shown that this is not one of concern for kids over the age of five, or actually over the age of two. There's not a concern for kids wearing masks, and that it's quite safe for them. But can a 12-year-old continue to do what we need them to do in this public health crisis? I think the answer is yes, if it's modeled appropriately from the adults that are around them.

We have kids playing sports all the time. They wear gloves to play baseball. They wear helmets when they're hitting a ball. They're wearing helmets when they wear-- when they play football. And they're wearing their seat belts from sitting in their car seats. Kids do tend to comply when the behavior is modeled by the parents.

And so we do know that masks are very safe for kids. We also know that kids can spread and can get the virus. And so from an adult perspective, we need to do our part to ensure that we are protecting the most vulnerable, and that being the unvaccinated, those under 12. But we also need kids, who can be reservoirs of this virus, to also wear masks, as well. So I agree that sometimes dealing with teenagers and those who are over the age of 12, around 12, can sometimes be difficult, but we know that when we model those behaviors and especially make the argument for the reasons why, kids do comply.

- I realize that this is a rather new conversation, but as we're now getting to the point about talking about booster shots, as people get close to that eight-month mark, when the US is recommending that a booster shot get taken by a person, should people be concerned about going out, being in crowded areas at that time, if that's when efficacy may be starting to wane and warrant that booster?

ADAM BROWN: You know, that's an excellent question because what we are seeing is that there are a number of breakthrough infections that are occurring, and it tends to be, just as you mentioned, after that seven, eight-month mark. You know, we saw studies coming out of Israel, and even some studies coming out of the UK, that showed that, while the vaccine still remains very effective, there is a slight decrease in the number of protecting antibodies or that immune system in the body, and therefore, that does put us at risk for breakthrough infections.

So what my advice to people has been is this, is follow the CDC guidance. If you are immunocompromised, if you are someone that falls into that category of moderately or severely immunocompromised, you should be getting your booster shot. And if you're someone like me, who's coming up on your eight-month anniversary of your second dose of vaccine, you should be considering getting a booster shot, because we know that the risk of having breakthrough infections is increasing.

And so I think the administration or the US government, CDC advice here, and other governments' advice, has been to look at the science, see that there is waning antibodies, and kind of saying, hey, we need to do something now to start protecting people in the future, because as we're seeing, this spread is very fast and furious, and we want to do everything that we can to protect our citizens of the United States.

- You know, doctor, there are already lines again here in some of the pharmacies in Manhattan, as people go to get their booster shots. And some of these people are fudging the details about being immunocompromised, because you're not supposed to do that until eight months after your second shot. I want to ask you, looking forward, we talk a lot about Delta. Article today said get ready for Lambda. Do we know anything about this Lambda variant?

ADAM BROWN: So we do know a little bit about the Lambda variant. That was first found over in Japan. And one of the things that does concern me about Lambda is that it tends or it was shown in the lab to evade the vaccine. And so that's a big concern for us. But I want to make sure folks understand something. This process of virus mutation is not a new one. The flu is a great example of that. Remember, every year, we end up having to get a new flu vaccine because of mutations that occur with the virus.

What's different about Delta is it's so darn fast, or COVID, it's so darn fast, and it's spreading so fast. And so that's making it even harder for us to keep up with those changes. And so will Lambda be Delta plus? Well actually, excuse me, there is a Delta plus, but will Lambda be the next variant that we have to really worry about, or will Delta plus be the next variant that we have to worry about. We're going to have to wait and see.

But here's what we do know. What we do know is that we can get to herd immunity, we can really blunt down the amount of virus that is circulating out there, and we can reduce the chance for mutations happening in the first place. So that's a big strategy that we need to make, not only in the short term, but in the long term to protect ourselves, and also, frankly, the rest of the world from getting these really severe and concerning mutations and variants.

- Dr. Adam Brown, we appreciate your insight today on Yahoo Finance. And in these difficult times, we can all use a little bit of brevity. So I will share with you that the team has been Slacking a thumbs up for your gray and white color scheme in your office--

ADAM BROWN: Hey, thanks.

- --or your home. It's very much liked.