Lt. Matt Zander from the SPFD received his COVID-19 booster on Jan. 6. (Metro Wire photo)

Medical College of Wisconsin offers answers on vaccine

By Denise Lockwood and Brandi Makuski

With cases on the rise and COVID-19 vaccines stagnant, public health officials want state residents to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the COVID-19 Delta variant.

In Portage Co., 50.1 percent—or about 35,429 residents—have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 47 percent of all residents have completed the series.

Answers about the COVID-19 Vaccine

Questions by Denise Lockwood with answers from Dr. Michael O. Frank, Medical College of Wisconsin

Q. Should people get a vaccine, even if they have medications that they’re allergic to?

Yes, the only thing that would make you not get a vaccine would be if you are allergic to one of the components of the vaccine, which is really rare. Like, polyethylene glycol is the only one that is in other things. So if people have a lot of allergies like environmental allergies or food allergies, they are not more likely to have trouble with the COVID vaccine.

So that is not a concern at all. In fact, there was recently a study that showed that people who had allergic reactions to the first dose of the vaccine were still not more likely to have a reaction to the second dose. So even having a reaction to the first dose isn’t a reason not to get a second dose.

Q. If someone has an autoimmune disease, should they get the vaccine?

Some autoimmune diseases are also not a contraindication to getting the vaccine. And that’s partly because there isn’t evidence that the vaccine would trigger an autoimmune disease or worsen it. But it’s also because — as long as people with autoimmune diseases have some immune dysfunction as part of their immune-compromised — they’re more likely to get COVID. And they’re more likely to get sick if they get it.

Q. If you got the Pfizer vaccine should you get the Maderna booster since it is being touted as being more effective against the Delta variant?

We’ll be recommending a third dose for people who didn’t respond to the first two, and that we’re pretty much talking about being immuno-compromised people here, but even then it’s going to be a third dose of the same thing.

Q. Has the CDC recommended that people get a booster or is that something in the works?

No, they have not right now. That’s in the works, I’m making a guess because I’ve seen the data on the benefit of it and my guess is that probably in the next few weeks. They’re going to come out with a recommendation for a booster, but let me be clear, I think it’s going to be a booster for people who are immune-compromised. I’m not talking about a booster for everybody.

Q. Wisconsin has a pretty high rate of vaccination, but not in cities like Milwaukee and Racine. So with those particular areas, how should we be thinking about this?

If everybody got vaccinated, this wouldn’t be a concern because even if people did get Delta, once they’re vaccinated, they’re unlikely to get sick. And it becomes like the cold. And we don’t shut things down for colds. So what we should do is get everybody vaccinated, and then this problem goes away even though the virus won’t. At this point, if you have enough people vaccinated, you don’t need to shut things down.

And you’re right, there’s a lot of variabilities, even in a state that overall has a high vaccine rate and overall, relatively speaking, it has a low COVID rate right now even with Delta. And those two things go together – the high vaccine rate and the low COVID rate.