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People’s Pharmacy: Breakthrough COVID-19 infections from wedding

Aug. 4, 2021 Updated Wed., Aug. 4, 2021 at 12:25 p.m.

A health worker shows a vial of the Moderna vaccine in Quilmes, Argentina, on Tuesday.  (Gustavo Garello/Associated Press)
A health worker shows a vial of the Moderna vaccine in Quilmes, Argentina, on Tuesday. (Gustavo Garello/Associated Press)
By Joe Graedon, M.S.,</p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. My healthy, fully vaccinated adult daughter attended a wedding in a Southeastern state last month. It was an outdoor event, with 40 adults and about 15 kids younger than 12. All the adults were fully vaccinated, according to my daughter.

Of the 40 adults, 12 contracted COVID-19, including my daughter. She said those infected had been vaccinated with either Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson.

Apparently, nobody who’d had the Moderna vaccine became infected. In my Northwest state, the rate of breakthrough infections for the fully vaccinated is .004%. How could such a small group have such a high percentage of infection?

A. Your daughter’s experience is a bit surprising. That’s because outside events are generally low-risk for contracting COVID-19. There is growing awareness, though, that the delta variant is far more contagious than the original strain.

Israel has the highest global vaccination rate. Most adults there have received the Pfizer vaccine. They are seeing breakthrough infections, but vaccinated people are mostly protected from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

We have no head-to-head studies to compare the effectiveness of Moderna vs. Pfizer vaccines against the delta variant. Moderna conducted a small study demonstrating that the blood of vaccinated volunteers neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including delta and other variants (BioRxiv, June 28).

To better answer your question, we would need to have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitoring breakthrough COVID-19 infections in nonhospitalized individuals. At this point, though, the CDC is counting only hospitalized patients.

Q. My son was given prednisone at a walk-in clinic for a sinus infection. After only one dose, he had a horrible reaction – racing heartbeat, anxiety and sleeplessness.

After an entire week, he still struggles to get even four hours of sleep. The other symptoms are dissipating, but the insomnia is still a problem. The worst thing is that the doctor didn’t bother to tell him about such side effects.

A. Corticosteroids like prednisone are notorious for interfering with sleep. Doctors don’t always mention insomnia as a side effect of medications. Scores of other drugs, from albuterol for asthma to ziprasidone (Geodon) for psychiatric problems, can also disturb sleep.

Our eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep lists many problematic drugs, discusses sleeping pills and offers nondrug approaches. This online resource is available under the Health eGuides tab at peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. I am very angry about the way the Food and Drug Administration handled Chantix side effect information. My doctor was not aware that this drug could cause serious psychiatric side effects.

Thank God I kept my depression and suicidal thoughts (barely) under control. Believe me, it caused lasting damage to my relationships with my loved ones. As far as I can tell, the FDA focused far more on the benefits of this drug than on its serious risks.

A. There was once a black box warning about depression, agitation, hostility and suicidal thoughts associated with varenicline (Chantix). The FDA removed this box several years ago.

The maker of Chantix has recently recalled a dozen lots of this stop-smoking drug because they contained unacceptable levels of a probable carcinogen.

Nitrosamines have turned up in a wide range of medications over the past few years. Chantix is just the latest example. This recall, like so many others, may be contributing to drug shortages in the U.S.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website peoplespharmacy.com.

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