In a world where misinformation is far too common, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting with four local doctors this week aimed at clarifying the current state of the pandemic.

Organizers said the meeting was designed to help participants gain peace of mind and distinguish what is fact or fear.

Chamber CEO, Laurel Rosen thought inviting four proven medical officials could ensure Santa Monica knows what and who to believe.

Dan Uslan, Clinical Chief, Infectious Diseases and Clinical Professor, UCLA Health discussed why booster shots are being offered and why they’re only being offered to certain groups. He also said that fully vaccinated people can still spread Delta, but they are less infectious for a shorter period of time.

The immune response from the vaccines does wane over time and that is why many people have proposed, about six to eight months after those initial injections, booster shots for certain groups. However, vaccines do remain effective against hospitalizations and retain that impact longterm.

“Like everything we do in medicine, there’s benefits and there’s risks. So the benefits of giving a booster dose are fairly clear; the benefits are things like preventing COVID-19 cases, preventing hospitalizations and deaths, and possibly preventing transmission,” Uslan said. “We know that there is some data that suggests that the virus vaccines work fairly well to prevent transmission, why not just give booster doses to everyone? Why focus on select groups like the immunocompromised? Well there are risks like everything we do and the risks of getting boosters to everyone, are really things like miocarditis which is inflammation of the heart or other rare events that have been reported to occur after mRNA vaccines, and if those events occur, one in every 500,000 or 1 million doses of the vaccine, it does not sound like a lot but when you’re talking about 200 million people vaccinated in the United States, those numbers add up very quickly.”

Dr. Mana Baskovic, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center said that vaccines do not make men or women less fertile and should be taken, even if pregnant or expecting to be pregnant. She said menstrual abnormalities are seen after taking the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are temporary side effects.

“We know that the vaccine does not have any effects on fertility, we’ve looked at men semen analysis, we’ve looked at it before they’ve received the vaccines and then followed up several weeks later,” Baskovic said. “Several months after the vaccine has been given, we’ve seen absolutely no change, no change whatsoever. In that same point with their female counterparts as well you know we have many women who are struggling with infertility or who have had poor pregnancy outcomes and we’re still very confidently recommending the vaccine because we haven’t seen any effect.”

Priya R Soni MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center went over infections in children. She noted that the delta variant seems to be infecting them more than the early variant did.

Luckily, children’s cases are dropping according to data from local schools in Southern California. A lot of the cases in children are coming from unvaccinated parents and children are typically not spreading it child to child, according to Dr. Soni.

“And we have seen an increase in kids being hospitalized in areas where the vaccination rates in adults are much lower. And when we look at the overall sort of infectivity and sort of complications that arise from kids that are in the hospital,” Soni said. “They do seem to pick it up a bit more. The Delta variant does seem to transmit a bit more in kids, but we aren’t seeing as much complicated disease in children.”

Dr. Kimberly Petrick, Kaiser Permanente Santa Monica Family Medicine Physician discussed telehealth and how it’s usage has trended during the pandemic. During the strictest of lockdowns, data showed that 80% of people were using telehealth. However, that number has fallen off. It was an even 50/50 split but now only 35% of people are using telehealth as a preferred method.

“Members can also have primary and specialty care providers as we already mentioned, but also videos with things like ER doctors for things like flu, stomach ache, minor injuries that can actually prevent members from having to come into the emergency for non-emergency room visits, email is another form of secure telehealth messaging with the capability to send photos,” Petrick said. “Think of this also as a great means of care for non urgent questions and follow up with visual tools such as follow up to pinkeye or rashes, for example, and keeping on board is also embedded with at home or on the go, where members can access lab results, schedule appointments request refills and so much more.”

The video will be posted on the Chamber of Commerce website:

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