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‘This virus is here to stay:’ Local medical expert talks about the COVID-19 vaccine, booster
PCG Molecular
PCG Molecular's team poses for a picture after setting up a vaccination site at the old Earth Fare location in the Collection at Forsyth. The team will be offering walk-ups and appointments for all three types of vaccines, along with PCR testing. - photo by Ashlyn Yule

While Dr. Armando Moncada, a local pathologist with 20 years of experience, believes that the COVID-19 vaccines are “a miracle of science,” he believes our fight with the virus is not over yet.

The Georgia Department of Health reported that COVID-19 infections almost doubled from July 3 to July 10, going from 2,700 confirmed cases to 4,312.

“We are fighting a formidable foe,” Moncada said. “And this virus is here to stay.”

According to Associated Press, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently announced that in August, they plan to seek Food and Drug Administration authorization of a third dose because it could boost levels of virus-fighting antibodies, possibly helping ward off worrisome mutants.

The World Health Organization said last week there is not enough evidence to show that third doses are needed. It said the scarce shots should be shared with poor countries instead of being used by rich countries as boosters.

The Forsyth County News talked with Dr. Moncada to hear his professional opinion about how residents can be protected from COVID-19 and what he thought about a needing a booster shot in the future.

 

Will we need COVID-19 booster shots?

“My belief is that we are going to need a booster very soon,” Moncada said.

Moncada said that while the vaccines have been able to “produce a good antibody protection response,” people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated alike are still getting infected.

“The preliminary studies have indicated that the Pfizer vaccine and others … might not be enough to give you enough protection against this new mutation, mostly the [Delta variant],” Moncada said.

Moncada said that he will be getting a booster shot soon. He received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine originally and after “following the trends in science,” he has decided to get an additional vaccine.

 

What do you think is causing infections to spread?

Moncada said that he believes we can be protected from the original CARS-CoV-2, but since there has been a decrease in number of people getting vaccinated, the virus has been able to spread, live and change.

“One thing that’s causing problems right now is many unvaccinated [people] that we have in our country,” Moncada said. “The more people that are infected, the bigger chance the virus has to reproduce.”

With reproduction comes mutation, Moncada said.

“These new variants are changing the whole ball game,” Moncada said.

He said that he believed that the CDC lifting the mask recommendation was “a little premature.”

“I think unvaccinated people took it like it applied to them as well,” Moncada said. “And then we got the whole country, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, without masks. Of course the unvaccinated people are more prone to infection, but now we have even the vaccinated people getting breakthrough infections because of the mutations.”

The vast majority of new cases across the country – some 83%, according to the CDC – are caused by the Delta variant and tend to afflict those who have not been vaccinated. The director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned last Friday that “this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Moncada said that there was “no doubt” that we would see lower cases of overall infections if more people got a vaccine.

“The more vaccinated people we have, the less infections across everybody,” Moncada said. “Then we will move from a pandemic to an endemic, which means more localized outbreaks of infections.”

What recommendations do you have for the community to protect itself?

Moncada recommended that everyone receive the vaccine if they are eligible to protect themselves and others in the community.

“Getting the vaccine would protect your loved ones. Families, friends, children,” Moncada said.  “If you are a parent with young children, please don’t expose them to the virus.”

“And definitely … wear a mask,” he said. “Even if you are vaccinated.”

With schools opening up soon, he recommends that children get the vaccine if they are old enough and if they are not, to encourage masking and social distancing at school.

 

What would you tell people that are nervous about getting the vaccine?

“Get to a vaccine facility as soon as possible,” Moncada said. “We are here to answer every … question that you might have. There is misinformation all over, and we want to help educate as well as vaccinate.”

He said that while being vaccinated is important to help stop the spread of the new virus mutations, being educated about the vaccines is just as crucial.

 

Where can people get a vaccine?

Moncada has been working this summer at PCG Molecular’s vaccination and testing site at The Collection at Forsyth. The facility is open every day and will be extending its hours to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

PCG Molecular offers all three vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- at this time.

“We’d love to continue to serve our community,” Moncada said. “So please, come in, speak with us and help us fight this pandemic.”

PCG Molecular’s facility is located at the old Earth Fare building at The Collection at 410 Peachtree Parkway, Cumming. For more information about PCG Molecular, visit www.pcgmolecular.com.