August 30, 2023 by
Lucy Gardner Carson
Epidemiologist Timothy Plante, M.D., assistant professor of medicine
(AUGUST 30, 2023) With a small uptick in new cases recently, epidemiologist Timothy Plante, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, spoke with Vermont Public about COVID-19 in Vermont this fall: its current state, a new vaccine expected in about six weeks, prevention tips, and information about testing.
EG.5, a new variant that is related to others in the omicron family, is on its way to being the dominant strain in the U.S., Plante said. New variants are expected, experts say; it’s just the nature of COVID-19 (and a lot of other diseases), and they aren’t necessarily a cause for concern. “[EG.5] is thought to evade antibodies from prior vaccines and prior infections,” Plante said recently on Vermont Edition, and this is leading to more cases after a quiet stretch over the summer.
The newest vaccine is currently expected to be available in September, with an updated formula to provide better protection against new variants. If you can wait, that could be more beneficial, Plante said. “I think the better bang for your buck is waiting another six weeks, wash your hands, wear a mask; you know, be careful, and get the new vaccine that’s coming out—the third vaccine that’s ever been made—in six weeks, which targets the currently circulating virus. That’s the one we want to be getting into arms.”
While statewide masking requirements were lifted last year, masks are still effective at protecting against airborne diseases. With the newer COVID-19 cases and the upcoming flu and RSV season, it’s never a bad idea to start (or keep) wearing masks indoors and in crowded indoor areas, as a precaution.
There are some ways to access COVID-19 testing for free or low-cost in Vermont communities. The Vermont Department of Health has a municipal distribution program to provide more accessible testing. Local libraries, town offices, or food pantries may have test kits. For PCR tests, it’s best to consult with a health care provider if possible.
Some pharmacies in the area are still offering PCR tests by appointment, but the cost may not be covered anymore, depending on insurance. You may want to call your local pharmacy about their testing options and costs. You can also contact your insurance provider to see if COVID-19 test costs are still covered. You can still buy antigen self tests at many drug stores or online for around $20.
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