When you need to know what's happening with the coronavirus, join KICKS 105.5 every Thursday morning. Dr. Rajeev Fernando answers your COVID-19 questions.

Dr. Rajeev Fernando is one of New York's Top Infectious Disease Specialists and this week, he answers your COVID-19 questions about his concern for the South African strain of the virus, if the vaccine will make you totally immune, and how long will we have to keep wearing masks?

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We had our first case of the South African strain of the virus earlier this week in Fairfield County, is this something your concerned about?

"I am concerned because it's a new variant and one of the characteristics of this strain is that it's more infectious, so it could spread faster than the common strains we have seen since the outbreak of the pandemic. My other concern is that we just don't have enough data on whether the new vaccines actually cover this strain, so definitely there is some cause of concern. My advice is still go out and get the vaccine, it will offer some type of protection against these variants. It may not be the 95% protection that the current vaccines offer against the original strains, but certainly you will get some bang for your buck, and some level of protection."

Speaking of the vaccine, do you have a choice on which vaccine you get, the Pfizer or the Moderna?

"There is no choice especially with the way the distribution has been so chaotic, so my best advice is just take what you get right now."

We have a question from Al in Franklyn Square on Long Island who listens to us on the KICKS 105.5 mobile app, he wants to know if the vaccine will provide full immunity and can someone still get the virus after being vaccinated?

"If you do get the vaccine, remember the numbers that Pfizer and Moderna put out are about 95% efficacy. But take this number to the bank, if you get the vaccine, it prevents death by 100%. Unfortunately, the problem is the studies were not done in regards to transmission, and those studies are evolving as we speak. In theory, even if you get the vaccine, the virus can still hang out in your nose. There is virtually zero percent chance of getting infected from the vaccine, but after the two doses and after you give them a little time to work, then you will definitely be immune."

Finally, Carla in Dover Plains asks how long do you think we'll have to continue wearing masks?

"That's a great question, I think masks are going to be part of the new normal. I really think that moving forward it will become a common habit to wear masks. Masks and COVID-19 are really here to stay for the following reasons, we have these mutations pop up, these variants, and it looks like they will stay with us and because of this, I would expect to see a yearly vaccine and in certain seasons like winter, it will definitely be masks up. One more thing about masks, especially the K-95 masks. Here in the U.S., about 60% of the K-95 masks are counterfeit per the CDC, so be really cautious when you purchase these masks. Do not buy them from a restaurant, a gas station, a fast food place, or anywhere else that are not reliable places to actually sell these masks. If you really want to know if a mask is legitimate or not it should be labeled tested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This is actually the branch that determines whether the mask is good or not, so please be cautious because some of the masks are fake."

NEED A FREE MASK?

Dr. Rajeev is offering free masks if you need some. There's no charge, and he'll even pick up the shipping charge. Just visit maskupearth.org and place your order. 

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