Gundersen Health System doctor answers viewers’ questions about COVID-19 vaccine

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – More than 20,000 La Crosse County residents have received the vaccine, according to the Wisconsin DHS.

“The people that we are trying to focus immunization on right now for the COVID vaccine include finishing up the 1A group,” Gundersen Health System immunization expert Dr. Raj Naik said.

As we transition into the next phase and beyond, questions about the vaccine will continue to loom. Dr. Naik has the answers to those questions.

I have family 65 and older and they still haven’t gotten the vaccine. Why?

“Unfortunately, and this will continue to be the case for a while, there’s not nearly enough vaccine for the number of people that are in those groups,” Naik said.

People of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 than white people. Should people of color get the vaccine?

“There are no indications that vaccine has more side effects or more concerns for people of color,” Naik said.

Is the vaccine safe for people with pre-existing health conditions?

“We don’t have a wealth of information about how effectively the vaccine will work in those people. But it works much better than nothing,” Naik said.

Why should we take both doses of the vaccine?

“They were set up that way because of the early clinical trials, or studies, which showed that this was the best way to promote the best immune response,” Naik said.

For homebound patients, is there a program set up to administer the vaccine to them?

We’re hoping that the public health departments from the state level down is going to help address those issues by setting up some more mobile vaccination distribution sites,” Naik said. “I am very hopeful this will be addressed in the near future.”

Does the vaccine work on new virus strains?

“I think that our first-generation vaccines still have pretty good effectiveness, although it’s not perfect,” Naik said.

Why aren’t people age below 65 and with underlying health conditions getting vaccinated right now?

“Those people, so basically 16-64 with underlying health conditions, will be in the Phase 1C group,” Naik said. “My hope is we can start to get to Phase 1C as fast as possible.”

Dr. Naik says getting to Phase 1C quicker means vaccine supply needs to pick up, and more vaccines getting approved.

He adds the easiest way to know when you can get the vaccine is to sign up for Gundersen’s online patient portal, MyChart.

If you don’t have an account, Gundersen will contact you by phone or with a letter in the mail.