Dr. Rajeev Fernando is one of New York's top infectious disease specialists and this week he answers your COVID-19 questions about the new strain of the Coronavirus, school transmission, and can vaccinated people still spread the virus.

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.

What can you tell us about this new strain of the coronavirus from South Africa, and will the vaccine protect people from it?

"It's evolving information, we know it is more contagious and there's some data that says that the vaccine may not be as effective as it is for the other strains. Once again, they passed a test which still says that the vaccine will be effective with levels high enough to offer protection, but we need some more studies to go on. I'd like to say that vaccine companies are really on top of their game. If there is a situation where they are not getting the coverage that they need, the vaccine companies will alter the vaccine a little bit so they will be able to cover the new strain. These companies are amazing and should there be a need for an extra vaccine, they will be able to do that. Moderna has already planned a third dose if it's necessary, so vaccine companies are well on top of this. I don't want to have any sort of vaccine hesitancy from the people. The best way to save lives right now is to get vaccinated, and wear a mask."

Kathy e-mailed this question in to us. She wants to know if you can carry and spread COVID after you're vaccinated. I know the vaccinated person cannot get COVID, but no one seems to know if you can still spread it after the vaccine?

"That's a great question, and I think because the studies are still evolving and in the interim period, I'm sure transmission will decrease to a certain degree. I have no doubt about that. We're just looking for numbers. At this time right now, it's all a numbers game. We want to be in a position to say that after your second dose of the vaccine, you have 95% protection. It really is a numbers game right now, but I'm pretty sure they will decrease transmissibility. Until then, definitely wear a mask. The newer experts, including me, recommend wearing two masks right now."

Liz in Millerton has heard doctors say schools are safe because kids transmission rates are low, but she's still reluctant to send her kids back. Her elderly mother lives with them and she's concerned her kids might bring home the virus and infect her.

"I think at this point what we are trying to do is we're trying to get the federal government, the schools, and the parents all together to follow the guidelines that are in place. But remember, all three have to work very closely together in order to get this done, otherwise I don't think it's going to be safe. There's going to have to be very strict social distancing, kids and teachers have to have minimized contact, and sports we're not ready for right now. There is a real push because a lot of kids are really suffering, they are psychologically affected, there's severe depression and many other factors. I understand the push to get kids back and I'm in complete agreement with it, but stringent guidelines have to be followed to get this together. Don't force the schools to open up, they have to do it when they feel ready. It's got to be a very very strict team effort and if we institute all these practices, it's reasonable to think about opening up schools."

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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