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OU Medicine's chief of infectious diseases addresses new COVID-19 strains, vaccination, double masking

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OU Health Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Douglas Drevets during a Jan. 29 pandemic update livestream.

OU Health Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Douglas Drevets discussed the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, best practices before and after vaccination, double masking and new COVID-19 strains in a COVID-19 update Friday. 

Drevets said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which as of Friday is revealed to be 66 percent effective and only requires one shot, will likely be available for use “toward the end of February,” but may not be available then in Oklahoma. The vaccine, which Drevets said is still not FDA approved for emergency use authorization, was trialed in the US, South Africa and Latin America. 

The company announced a 72-percent efficiency against severe cases in the US.

With Pfizer and Moderna available to the public, Drevets said Oklahomans would benefit from getting the first vaccine available to them, although he said studies have shown the newest vaccine is safe and effective.

“I would wait until it’s actually approved, (as) we don’t have an approved vaccine just yet,” Drevets said. “I would wait and see what the distribution to Oklahoma is because … even once it gets approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to have the vaccine here in Oklahoma immediately. So, my counsel would still be (to) get the (first) vaccine (available). … There will be some nuances as we see more data about the J&J vaccine.”

Drevets said Oklahoma could possibly be one of the first states in the country to have herd immunity depending on two factors — how fast the state distributes vaccines and how often there are COVID-19 spikes.

“We’re among the top five in the country for the per-capita COVID cases,” Drevets said. “So, as that’s racing ahead, we’re adding to our numbers of immune people with vaccines. I think we will be ahead of many other states in terms of finding that magic number, this so-called ‘herd immunity,’ where it’s harder and harder for the virus to find somebody to infect, and then we’ll start seeing the cases really drop significantly.”

As of Friday, according to COVID-19 data from Oklahoma State Department of Health, there are currently 1,184 hospitalizations and 2,787 new cases state-wide.

Drevets spoke on the new strain in South Africa, saying “it’s a pretty safe bet that (the new strains) will get to Oklahoma at some point in time if they’re not already here.” Drevets also said it’s similar to the United Kingdom’s newly discovered strain in that it’s more contagious.

Drevets also provided safety advice for taking pain medication around the time of vaccination and double masking.

Drevets said “small amounts” of pain medication, such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen, are safe practices, and suggests taking them after vaccination if symptoms arise. He said around 80 percent of those who received a vaccination experienced soreness in their arm, and “50 to 60 percent” experienced symptoms such as headaches and chills.

Drevets said unless a person’s mask is just a bandana or thin piece of cloth, there’s no reason to double mask — one good surgical or N95 mask is effective. Double masking is a practice Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said makes “common sense.”

To see the full update, click here.

Caleb McCourry is the assistant sports editor at The Daily and is a junior at OU majoring in English. He's covered football, basketball and volleyball. 

Caleb McCourry is an intern news reporter at The Daily and is a junior at OU majoring in English. Caleb has previously served as the sports desk's editor and assistant editor, covering football, basketball and volleyball. Caleb is a Norman native.

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