Q&A With Dr. John Whyte (Jan. 12, 2021)

Published On Jan 12, 2021

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Welcome, everyone. I'm Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD. I've been asking you to send me your questions about COVID. And today I'm going to take some time to answer some of them.

The first question is from Lavetta. And she emailed me, Dr. Whyte, are the vaccines for prevention only or prevention and cure? The current vaccines for COVID are for prevention only. They're not for cure. And they're preventing symptomatic COVID infection. If you actually have COVID, you shouldn't be getting the vaccine. And you should actually wait about 90 days after your symptoms are resolved.

Now we don't know for sure if the vaccines that are currently authorized by the FDA, the mRNA vaccines, prevent asymptomatic infection. I think we'll know that in a few more months. So that means you still need to practice those public health safeguards, wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, even after vaccination.

Our second question is from Kathy who posted on Facebook, is it wise to get an antibody test if you think you might have had COVID in the past year? Our local grocery store gives them. Are some antibody tests more reliable than others? Well, Kathy, if you think you might have had COVID last year and you want to know, an antibody test might be a good idea.

These tests are blood tests. So usually you have to go into your doctor's office or a lab. There are some new tests that are currently under development that don't require blood but could use saliva. They're not out yet. But you go, you give some blood, and usually in a day or two, you get your results back. And it'll tell you different types of antibodies, something called IGG and IGM. Timing does matter.

So if you had an infection a week or two ago, you really don't want to take it until about three weeks later. Because it takes time for antibodies to develop. And then you have to be able to detect them once they're present. Now remember, we still don't know how long antibodies give protection. So even if you have a positive covid antibody test, you're still going to want to get vaccinated, and until you have that full protection, you're still going to continue to wear a mask, practice all those public health safeguards that we've been talking about for the past few months.

Our third question is from Roxanne. And on Instagram she posted, what percentage of the population is asymptomatic and could be COVID-19 positive but never got tested because they show no classic symptoms? The reality is about 40% of people who test positive for COVID are asymptomatic. And that's one of the reasons why we have so much transmission of the virus.

Because when you're not having any symptoms, you may not be practicing all those safeguards that we've been talking about. So asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is concerning. That's why, again, wear the mask, wash the hands, avoid social gatherings, physically distant. And, finally, our last question is from Patricia who emailed me, Dr. Whyte, if you get infected and have a positive test with mild cases, can they be in more serious condition than perceived? Are there more areas of damage in the kidney, lung, heart, and brains that don't show up immediately?

Patricia, we're starting to learn about this concept of the long haulers. And what that means are that some persons are still having COVID symptoms and developing new symptoms several months after their infection where most people would have recovered. So there's this concept now that we're talking about brain fog after COVID, that you continue to have some confusion.

You might have muscle aches and pains that are persisting for many months. This continued fatigue that you've never really recovered from as well as cough. We still have to learn more about it. And that's why we're really trying to get people vaccinated. So they don't get COVID in the first place and then be in the unfortunate circumstance perhaps of developing these long term sequelae of COVID that you mentioned.

That it's not just an infectious disease, but it can infect your heart, your brain, your muscles, and that's the real concern. What's the long term impact of this disease? Well, I want to thank you all for your questions. That's the amount of time that we have today. I want you to continue to stay positive, test negative, and practice those public health safeguards. And when it's your turn to get vaccinated, I hope you'll line up and get the shot.