FAQs and Mythbusters
We know you have many questions about what is happening and how it affects you and your loved ones. Below is a collection of common questions from the community.
Ask the Experts Part 1- Shasta County Doctors Answer Community Questions About COVID-19
In Part 1 of Ask the Experts, Shasta County doctors discuss many topics, including natural immunity versus immunity from the vaccine. They address vaccine side effects and ideas about whether the vaccine alters DNA. The doctors explain who’s most at risk from the virus, answer questions about vaccine ingredients, safety, and how mRNA vaccines work. Lastly, they discuss whether it’s better to catch the virus or to get the vaccine to prevent it.
Part 2 of Ask the Experts will cover treatments for COVID-19, pregnancy, children and COVID-19 risk and masking.
The questions posed were submitted by Shasta County residents, and collected by Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency.
Question: Why were the 2021 COVID-19 death rates higher compared to 2020, even though vaccine was not available for most of 2020?
Answer: The death rate from COVID in 2020 was 69.2 deaths per 100,000 population in Shasta County. The death rate from COVID-19 in 2021 is 192.7 per 100,000. In 2021, the death rate among unvaccinated persons was 209.9 per 100,000 population, and the COVID death rate among vaccinated persons was 38.9 per 100,000 population. (Since the number of people who were vaccinated and unvaccinated changed throughout 2021, epidemiologists used the mid-year populations for vaccinated and unvaccinated to calculate the rates above.)
The risk of death from COVID has decreased by about half in 2021 for vaccinated people, and increased more than five times for unvaccinated people. If everyone in Shasta County had been vaccinated, the overall death rate in 2021 would have been lower than in 2020, even with the Delta variant circulating.
So, the reasons we’re seeing more people dying from COVID in 2021 than in 2020 are:
1) Less than half of our population is vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated are most at risk, along with older adults who are fully vaccinated but have not yet received a booster, because immunity from the vaccine wanes more among elderly persons in the months after receiving the initial vaccine series than among younger persons. Nearly 90 percent of people who are hospitalized or who die from COVID are unvaccinated, and of the vaccinated people who have died, almost all of them have been overdue for a booster shot.
2) The Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and causes more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people. The Delta variant is by far the most dominant strain in our community, but didn’t arrive in Shasta County, and then become the dominant strain, until 2021. A surge in cases, such as the one Shasta County experienced beginning in September, leads to an increase in hospitalizations, which subsequently leads to an increase in deaths. Patients infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients infected with previous virus strains.
3) As is the case in many places, the community is not using as many precautionary measures as they did in 2020, such as masking, social distancing, and postponing large community events. This causes more people to be exposed to the virus, thereby increasing the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
Question: Is the status of the omicron variant?
Answer: Omicron was designated a new variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 26. This new variant has been identified in eight South African countries, UK, Israel, Germany, Botswana, Hong Kong, and others. For more information, see the Fact Sheet: Omicron Variant from the California Department of Public Health.
Question: Why won’t the Board of Supervisors reject the statewide COVID mandates?
Answer: A county cannot overrule a state mandate. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors has opted to take an educational approach to COVID and has not directed law enforcement to enforce any mandates with fines. However, even though the board has told the governor that it opposes these mandates, the board cannot protect local businesses, organizations or residents from enforcement that may come from a state agency, nor can it protect schools or other entities from potential financial consequences by the state, such as loss of funding. People who disagree with the mandates should contact their state legislator.
Myth: Children are dying from the COVID vaccine.
Fact: No children have died from the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, but more than 600 children nationwide have died from COVID-19 itself.
Myth: Children don’t transmit the disease and they recover fully.
Fact: At the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 primarily affected older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. However, the delta variant is now affecting people of all ages. Most children do not generally become as sick as adults do, but some have become severely ill with COVID-19, particularly those with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, asthma or other conditions. Children can also experience extended COVID illness, called “long COVID,” even when they have mild illness or no symptoms. This is a systemic illness, which means it affects your whole body, and we still don’t know the long-term impacts of COVID-19 in children, including on the heart and nervous system. Children can also spread the disease to people in their family and others who may be at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death.
Question: Why can’t we wait to require children to be vaccinated?
Answer: We are waiting, as there is no mandate for students at this time. COVID-19 vaccine is currently available to youth ages 5-15 under an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The state is not planning to move forward with any student mandate while the vaccines are approved for emergency use. If the vaccine for younger age groups is approved, the state has said it will move forward with a mandate which will take effect at the beginning of the next school term, likely the fall of 2022. The California Health and Safety Code, Section 120338 requires the state to allow personal belief exemptions for any new vaccination requirement that comes from the state Department of Public Health.
Myth: More kids died from flu in 2019 than have died from COVID.
Fact: Since flu deaths in children became nationally reportable in 2004, reported flu deaths in children ranged from a low of 37 (during 2011-2012) to a high of 199 (during 2019-2020). During the 2020-2021 flu season, the CDC received only one report of a pediatric flu death in the United States. The unusually low number of flu deaths and cases last season were largely due to precautions put in place for COVID-19, including masking, physical distancing, reduced travel and increased handwashing. By comparison, more than 600 children nationwide have died from COVID-19, even with those precautions in place. Deaths in children are unusual for both the flu and COVID-19, but they do happen, and both are preventable with vaccine.
Myth: Vaccines, masking and contact tracing do not work.
Fact: All of these interventions are standard, proven ways to slow the spread of communicable disease.
Myth: People who get the vaccine are still getting sick, so it’s not helping.
Fact: Nationally, unvaccinated people had a 6.1 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and an 11.3 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 (see graphic below). In Shasta County, more than 90 percent of people who have been hospitalized for COVID or who have died from COVID in the past 3 months have been unvaccinated.
Question: Why can't you tell us where a patient lives, or where they have been?
Answer: We always need to balance patient privacy with the need to protect the public's health. In some instances, we may need to be specific about the location of a cluster of COVID cases, but in most cases, issuing isolation orders for the COVID patient and quarantining their close contacts is adequate to contain the spread.
We have community transmission here, so it should be assumed that people could contract it anywhere. The virus is spread through close contact with an infected person, so please stay home as much as possible, stay physically distanced when you do go out, wear face coverings, wash hands frequently, and stay home when sick. If you are in a store, gym, restaurant, etc. where most people are not wearing face coverings, we would recommend that you go back at a less busy time or choose another store or restaurant.
Our county has been broken into six regions so people can see how COVID is affecting various parts of the county. Groups needed to be as close to 20,000 people as possible to comply with privacy requirements, so census tracts were grouped together.
Question: What is the status of monoclonal antibody infusion treatment that was approved for Emergency Authorization Use?
Answer: COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics can be used to treat non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at high risk of progressing to severe illness or being hospitalized. These treatments mimic your immune system’s response to SARS-CoV-2 (the infection that causes COVID-19).
This therapy is not a replacement for vaccination. Vaccines help prevent infection and prevent severe illness in breakthrough cases. The community still needs to get vaccinated to break the virus' chain of transmission.
Shasta HHSA and medical provider partners are working together to increase capacity for providing this medication. Supply of the therapy is limited nationwide and administering the treatment is an involved process not readily available in all clinical settings. To reduce the strain on our busy hospitals and conserve limited supply, it is preferred that people get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is indicated for a specific group of high-risk patients shown to benefit from the treatment:
Patients are required to meet certain criteria and receive a referral from their physician.
Myth: The vaccine is not safe for Black, Latino and other minority communities.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials that included people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions, to make sure the vaccines are safe and effective for everyone. Everyone who participated in the vaccine’s trials (as early as March 2020) were closely followed after receiving their vaccine and reported no long-term effects. Click here to learn more about the different vaccines and their clinical trials.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines cause adverse reactions.
Fact: Common side effects are usually mild and occur 1-2 days after vaccination. Local side effects include pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Other side effects include fever, fatigue, mild headache, chills, and body aches. These side effects are a sign of the body’s normal response to the vaccine when building immunity. Not everyone may experience side effects; either way, the vaccines have proven to be effective for all of us. Click here to learn more.
Myth: It is unnecessary for young, healthy people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: As more adults and teens aged 16 and up become vaccinated, our focus shifts to our younger population, as they remain susceptible. The more vaccinations get into the arms of those eligible, the more we stop the spread of COVID19 and shrink the pool of people vulnerable to it. When anyone is vaccinated against COVID-19, no matter what age, they are not only protecting themselves, but also helping to stop the spread to their friends, older family members, and everyone who works hard to keep our communities safe and open.
Myth: The Pfizer vaccine was not well tested for youth age 5 and up.
Fact: Pfizer’s phase three clinical trials enrolled 2,260 adolescents 12 to 15 years of age and 4,500 children 5-11 years of age in the United States and demonstrated over 90 percent efficacy in both trials. The researchers recorded 18 cases of symptomatic coronavirus infection in the placebo group, and none among the children who received the vaccine, indicating that it was highly effective at preventing symptomatic illness. More information on the clinical trials can be found here.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines are going to be a mandatory requirement from the government.
Fact: There is currently no mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement from either the state or federal government. Once more and more Californians see how safe and effective the COVID19 vaccines are, we hope they will voluntarily opt to receive them.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines cause death.
Fact: Over 324 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from 12/14/20 through 6/28/21. During this time, VAERS received 5,718 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines. However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.
Myth: Those pregnant or trying to conceive cannot and should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: If you are pregnant, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19. Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. However, there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people. Click here to learn more.
Myth: The COVID vaccine contains COVID and will give you COVID.
Fact: The vaccines do not contain coronavirus and cannot give you COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus. Click here to get a better understanding on how the vaccines work.
Question: What treatments are available for COVID?
Answer: Vaccination against COVID-19 is the only medication to prevent infection. There is no other drug or medication that is effective and approved to prevent you from getting COVID-19. Click here to learn about the treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective and have either approval or emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating SARS CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.