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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Covid-19

In Elemental. More on Medium.

The simple answer to the question on everyone’s mind

Photo: Andrea Lightfoot/Unsplash

Herd immunity to Covid-19 is an enigma. It’s universally sought after regardless of party affiliation, religious creed, or level of vaccine acceptance. Think about it. Are you pro-herd immunity or anti-? Pro, of course! At the same time, it’s so poorly understood. How many people does it require? Is it permanent or temporary? Will it actually change anything? When can I take this frickin mask off?!?


If you’re confused by the latest recommendations, you’re not alone

Three mask-wearing individuals in different colored boxes (green, yellow, and red) indicating varying levels of Covid-19 risk.
Three mask-wearing individuals in different colored boxes (green, yellow, and red) indicating varying levels of Covid-19 risk.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on masks. The updated recommendations for when to wear a mask combine vaccination status and a color-coded schema to assign varying levels of risk — green being safest, yellow less safe, and red the least safe — to different activities.


But perfectly average days no longer terrify me, and that’s incredible

Photo: why kei/Unsplash

On Monday, I crossed a pandemic milestone: I reached the two-week threshold since my second vaccine shot. I am, for all intents and purposes, in the clear. I suspect there will be Covid-19 booster shots coming in the years ahead, and I do not mind this in the slightest because the number one thing I’ve been worried about over the last 14 months — will I get Covid? Will I give it to someone else? Will I get sick? Will they get sick? — is no longer something I am worried about. That was the goal, wasn’t it? …


A vaccine reporter distills what we know now, how boosters work, and some (fun) lessons in immunology

A white man wearing a salmon colored shirt in a car and wearing a blue surgical mask is receiving a vaccine through the window from a Black nurse wearing scrubs, blue gloves, an N95 masks, and a blue handkerchief with polka dots.
A white man wearing a salmon colored shirt in a car and wearing a blue surgical mask is receiving a vaccine through the window from a Black nurse wearing scrubs, blue gloves, an N95 masks, and a blue handkerchief with polka dots.
Photo: Alex Mecl/Unsplash

A lot of articles and discussions have been popping up on the topic of booster shots for Covid-19 vaccines: Will we need them? Why will we need them? When will we need them? I’ve noticed an unsettling trend among the articles I’ve been reading about boosters. Many suggest we’re almost certainly going to need booster shots, but none provide actual data to support that claim. The articles are highly speculative.


A closer look at what it really means and some common misconceptions

Photo: Macau Photo Agency/Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us familiar with terms more frequently used in infectious disease journals than in common parlance. But in conversations with patients, friends, and family, I’ve noticed that understanding of these terms is often inaccurate or incomplete. This is especially true when it comes to the concept of herd immunity.


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Risk assessment is hard. Nearly every situation has a range of different variables that affect risk, and only some of these variables can be quantified. Others we have to estimate, and in the human brain, emotions inevitably get tangled up in the process of trying to make those estimations and come to an overall idea of how risky something is or isn’t.


A long history of dismissing women’s experiences in medicine may be limiting reported side effects in clinical trials

a Black woman wearing a blue sleeveless top receives a bandaid after receiving a vaccination from a white-appearing woman whose face is away from the camera
a Black woman wearing a blue sleeveless top receives a bandaid after receiving a vaccination from a white-appearing woman whose face is away from the camera
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Vaccine trials include tens of thousands of people in phase 3 to ensure that even rare side effects are more likely to be detected. But once the vaccine is authorized and millions of people have begun receiving it, sometimes researchers learn about other even rarer side effects not captured in the trials. But scientists could also miss a side effect if they simply don’t ask about it — or don’t record it when participants report it.


The J&J pause seems scary, but it helps rebuild the transparency and trust we need

Photo: Roger Starnes Sr/Unsplash

I’m writing weekly for Medium about my experiences as an emergency medicine doctor during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can read my previous posts on vaccine passports, why this summer will be really weird, and more, here.


It’s too soon to know what specifically caused the blood clots — that’s the biggest reason the vaccine administration was paused

An illustration of the inside of a red blood vessel with a clump of red blood cells traveling through it.
An illustration of the inside of a red blood vessel with a clump of red blood cells traveling through it.
Image by Mecder

The CDC and FDA jointly recommended pausing administration of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine Tuesday April 13, sending a lot of people into a tailspin of questions about what the suspension means and whether the vaccine is safe. Here’s an explainer that answers as many of those questions as carefully as is currently possible — no doubt more answers will come every day.

What happened?

On April 13, the FDA and CDC jointly announced a recommendation that administration of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine pause to allow investigation of a possible safety concern. Out of 6.8 million doses of the…


There will be no dramatic end to the pandemic, but we can at least look for these four signs that it’s under control

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers/Getty Images

After a dark, lonely winter — when cases of Covid-19 ravaged the globe, surpassing 2 million deaths in mid-January, and with new variants cropping up — we seem to have begun emerging from the absolute worst. Spring’s fate is up in the air, but the ramped-up vaccine program under the new administration is sending hopeful signals. Seeing more and more friends and family posting vaccine selfies on social media amid climbing vaccination rates makes the end of the pandemic feel a little more tangible, in some ways.

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