Flu Season Ahead Image

The COVID Community Tracker will no longer appear in The Messenger since transmission levels continue to remain low. But, remain diligent with hand washing, staying home when ill, and social distancing from others that appear unwell because . . .

Flu is Here!

The first “Flu View” from the CDC already shows high levels of influenza in Tennessee. Now is the time to get a vaccination if you haven’t already. Remember it takes about 2 weeks to develop adequate antibody levels for protection, so don’t delay!

Age                        Recommendation

6 mos.-6 yrs.:      1 or 2 doses based on whether child has had flu vaccine in past

≥ 7-49 yrs.:          1 dose of any influenza vaccine

≥ 50-64 yrs.:       1 dose of any injectable influenza vaccine

≥ 65 yrs.:              1 injection of high dose influenza vaccine

The flu vaccine administered as a nasal spray (Flumist®) is NOT recommended in people < 2 or ≥ 50 years of age or anyone with a condition that compromises the immune system. Flumist® is a weakened version of the live virus.

Pneumonia can develop along with or subsequent to a viral infection. Particularly at risk are those ≥ 65 years of age, as well as people of any age with compromised immune system, or other conditions that increase risk. If you fall into one of these categories make sure you are also up to date on the pneumonia vaccine. There is a new version so recommendations have been updated to include it.

Recommendations for Pneumonia Vaccine

  • Age ≥ 65 and no previous pneumococcal vaccine: One dose of the new PCV20
  • If PCV20 vaccine not available: One dose of PCV15 followed by one dose of PPSV23 at least 1 year later.
  • Age ≤ 64 and special situations to warrant vaccination: discuss with your healthcare provider.
  • If you have already received a dose of PCV13 and/or PPSV23 discuss with your healthcare provider to decide whether you might need a new version.

Additional information can be found at www.cdc.gov/vaccines, including precautions/contraindications for each and complete schedules for all adult and childhood vaccinations.

Submitted by: Vicky Shelton, D.Ph.

The CDC has issued new guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated. You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or 2 weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If you are fully vaccinated:

  • you can now gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • you can now gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks if any of them or anyone they live with is not at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • you do not need to quarantine or get tested after exposure to someone with COVID-19 unless you have symptoms (or unless you live in a group setting).

Precautions have not changed for other situations!

Much has been learned but questions like those below still remain. Real world vaccine studies should continue to provide answers that will allow more updates to CDC recommendations.

  1. How long is the vaccine effective?

Some people who had a COVID-19 infection became re-infected after 90 days. Scientists feel protection from the vaccines will last longer because of how they work but more time is needed to determine.

  1. Is the vaccine effective against new variants of the virus?

Viruses survive by mutating. Early data show vaccines may be effective against some mutations, or variants, but not others. Vaccines can easily be modified if needed to create a new version to be effective.

  1. Does the vaccine prevent transmission without infection?

It is possible you could be exposed to the virus and not become ill from it because of protection from the vaccine but you could unknowingly spread it to someone else. Early results show vaccines may help prevent this type of spread.

  1. What threshold is needed to reach herd immunity?

Herd immunity is achieved when enough people are vaccinated or have adequate antibody levels from a previous infection to then limit spread. This threshold is different for different diseases. For example, with measles the threshold is 95% of the population.

  1. How effective is the vaccine in special populations?

Clinical trials are generally conducted in healthy adult volunteers with stable pre-existing conditions. This is especially true when answers are needed quickly. Trials are now being conducted in children and use in real world environments will provide information for other conditions.

Until we know more about these questions, everyone should continue using basic prevention measures when in public or around others with unknown vaccination status or health conditions. We know these mitigation strategies work: wear a well-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.


Submitted by: Vicky Shelton, D.Ph.

Two vaccines are now being offered to prevent COVID-19. Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccines have been released under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. Both are messenger RNA vaccines (mRNA) which work by teaching our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. COVID-19 mRNA works with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity. These vaccines were >90% effective in clinical trials.

Two doses required. Pfizer vaccine is given 3 weeks apart, Moderna vaccine is 4 weeks apart. Both doses must be from the same manufacturer. You will receive a vaccination card with your first dose documenting manufacturer and lot number for the product you received. Take a picture of it to serve as a back-up. You will need to present it when getting the second dose and information from that dose will be added.

Allergic reactions are possible but rare. As with any vaccination, you will be asked to remain in the area for 15 minutes afterwards in case a severe reaction occurs. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, you will need to stay for 30 minutes. Unlike other types of vaccines, these do not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex.

Side effects are most common after the second dose. These flu-like symptoms are usually gone after 36-48 hours. Some vaccine centers are advising to avoid premedicating with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Aleve, Naprosyn, ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) and avoid for 6 hours after the vaccine. This is due to concerns these drugs might decrease your response.

How can I get a vaccine? There is a master plan based on specific groups because of limited availability. These two companies are working to supply not only the U.S. but countries around the world. Three more U.S. companies have a vaccine in clinical trials. Visit COVID-19 Vaccine Information | TN COVID-19 Hub and look at COVID Vaccine FAQs to find “How do I know when it’s my turn to receive the vaccine and how do I register?

Health Departments are scheduling appointments as they receive shipments. You do not have to be vaccinated in the county where you live. However, you should return to the same location for the second dose to ensure it is from the same manufacturer. More information can be found at County Vaccine Information – TN COVID-19 Hub.

Some Health Care Systems are partnering with Health Departments to offer vaccines to the public. Check with Covenant Health at COVID-19 Vaccines for Older Patients I Covenant Health to see when additional vaccination clinics will be available. If your primary care provider is part of the UT Health System you should contact their office to schedule a vaccine appointment at the medical center.

Pharmacies are currently vaccinating long term care and assisted living facilities but should have doses for the public when that phase is completed.

Get the vaccine even if you have had COVID-19. Duration of natural immunity (from actual infection with the virus) is not known. There are reports of re-infections occurring more than 90 days after the initial one.

Continue to wear a mask and follow precautions as before vaccination! It takes about 2 weeks after the second dose to achieve protection. And, there is not enough data at this time to know how long immunity lasts. There is also concern that an immunized person can be exposed to the virus and then shed it to others but not become infected themselves.

Women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy should speak with their doctor. Current guidelines from obstetric organizations recommend the vaccine, stating benefits outweigh risks. However, it is always best to discuss with your doctor to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Remember members of your Parish Health Team are available for help with questions or concerns! You may leave a message with the church office to request a call.

Submitted by: Vicky Shelton D.Ph.; Cathy Goff MSN, RN; and Kathleen Harwell MSN, MBA

Learn more about the Parish Health Ministry Team here.