April 2023: We all know that things are changing with the COVID-19 pandemic. But many patients aren’t entirely sure what that means. Because of significant drops in daily cases, deaths and hospitalizations, the US Department of Health and Human Services is ending the federal Public Health Emergency effective May 11. However, COVID isn’t over. COVID-19 is still a public health threat; highly transmissible variants continue to cause illness and death. Staying on top of vaccinations and testing is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.
Do I Still Need a COVID Vaccine?
As the virus changes and your immunity wanes, it is vital to stay current on immunizations.
Since last fall, patients have had access to the updated bivalent vaccine booster, which combines elements of the original virus strain with components of the now-dominant omicron strain. If you or your child have already received one dose of the bivalent booster, you’re currently up to date on your COVID immunizations. If you haven’t yet received your bivalent booster and it’s been at least two months since you got your primary series vaccine, the CDC recommends a bivalent booster. The CDC does not recommend more than one bivalent booster for most people. However, the FDA is expected to approve a second bivalent booster for seniors 65 and older in the coming weeks. The FDA is also updating vaccines for the fall and winter of 2023 with a new booster campaign planned in the fall.
What If I Haven’t Received or Completed My Primary Series
If you’re not yet vaccinated, it’s not too late–even if you’ve already had a COVID infection. Research shows that getting a COVID booster after a COVID infection provides additional protection and helps keep you healthy. Wait at least three months after a COVID infection to get your vaccine.
Will I Need to Pay for Vaccines and Tests in the Future?
Vaccine coverage will change with the end of the Public Health Emergency. However, many Americans will continue to pay nothing out of pocket for COVID vaccines. Like other preventive care costs, most private insurance companies will continue to cover COVID vaccines. However, you may have a copay under certain plans. Most Americans will also no longer be able to order free at-home tests from the federal government. However, many insurance companies will continue to cover in-office testing and reimburse payments for at-home tests. Talk with your insurer about coverage and copays for COVID vaccines, PCR and at-home tests.
Should I Still Test for COVID if I Have Symptoms?
If you have COVID symptoms, testing remains an essential way to show community care. You should also test if you have been exposed to COVID-19 and don’t have symptoms (wait five days before testing). The CDC also recommends a precautionary test if you will be in contact with someone at high risk for severe illness from COVID. An online project created by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Institutes of Health whentotest.org can help you assess risk levels and make decisions about testing before and after gatherings, travel and events. Testing options include:
- Rapid antigen tests, including at-home tests
- Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs), including PCR tests performed in a lab, detect viral genetic material. These tests are more reliable but require an office visit.
Do I Need to Wear a Mask at My Doctor’s Office?
The CDC recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 isolate themselves from others and wear a high-quality mask if they cannot isolate. At Comprehensive Primary Care, masks are encouraged but no longer required unless patients have a respiratory illness, fever or other potential COVID symptoms.
Questions About COVID? Your Primary Care Provider Can Help
Comprehensive Primary Care continues to offer COVID-19 testing at all of our offices. In addition, we encourage patients who test positive for COVID with a home test to schedule a telemedicine visit to discuss treatment options. If you need your COVID booster, we are happy to answer any questions. However, we encourage patients to schedule COVID boosters with their local pharmacy because of limited vaccine supplies in our offices.