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Doctor: Vaccines for kids are 'really the way forward'

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Stamford Health Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Asha Shah joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest coronavirus developments.

Video Transcript

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- Johnson & Johnson releasing data today showing that an extra shot of its vaccine does boost immunity to COVID. Let's talk about what we got out today. And for that, we have Dr. Asha Shah, Director of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Health. And, Doctor, it's good to see you again. So a second shot two months later seems to boost protection against COVID. An extra shot potentially six months later could be even better. We still have lots of data to sort through, but what's your initial takeaways from what we just heard from Johnson & Johnson today?

ASHA SHAH: I think it's data that we expected to hear. We've known for quite some time that Johnson & Johnson has been doing a lot of research into a second dose and what that second dose recommendation would look like. What was interesting to me was the fact that the durability of the response seemed to be greater the longer you waited after your first dose. So the six-month response was greater than the two-month response.

So I think that's great for-- for Johnson & Johnson. It's a great vaccine. And it's another option for those who got their first shot with Johnson & Johnson to get boosted if it's approved by the CDC and the ACIP.

- Dr. Shah, it's good to see you again. There's a lot being made of the fact that, unfortunately, we have lost a greater number of souls to this pandemic than the 1918 flu pandemic. My question is we're approaching not long from now two years that we've been living through this. And is there just going to be a natural trajectory? There wasn't a vaccine for flu in 1918, and it eventually dissipated. Are we on that trajectory?

ASHA SHAH: I think what's nice about where we stand in the pandemic right now is that we do have highly effective vaccines to fight it. So I do think that we could potentially see an end to this where COVID-19 will circulate in a low level in the community and be like every other-- become like every other kind of common cold. But if you're vaccinated, you don't get severely ill from it.

I think we're going to get to a point where we're just living with COVID around us, but it's not circulating to a great enough extent to cause such a public health emergency. And the way to get there is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

- Doctor, seeing an end to this obviously involves children getting vaccinated. And Pfizer is now saying that its shot for children ages 5 through 11, that it's safe for use in that age range. I guess the question is whether or not parents are going to have their children get those shots. From the conversations that you're having from the parents that you've spoken to, is there some hesitancy still just in getting that group, that population vaccinated?

ASHA SHAH: I think there's-- it causes a little more pause especially in parents with younger children because of this, you know, it's a new vaccine, what long-lasting effects it will have. But I do think that the fact that we know the safety profile of the mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine, these are great vaccines. And you can almost translate that into the data that they're seeing in children that these are safe vaccines. And we're seeing a rise in the number of COVID cases and our pediatric populations, especially in states that are less vaccinated.

And kids are in school. They're all wearing masks. I feel like vaccination of kids that are younger is a way to get them back to some semblance of normalcy, you know, taking the masks off perhaps down the line and not having to quarantine and stay home from school. So it's really the way forward. And I think it's great news. But there's always going to be a dichotomy in those that are provaccine and-- and against the vaccine.

- There was also the news about the-- the travel restrictions being eased up in November, so to speak, because that won't be easy. You're going to have to prove that you've got a vaccine and that you've tested negative for COVID-19 even if you are vaccinated if you're coming from overseas. But we're switching from doing this this country, yes, this country, no kind of protocol. Do you think other countries should adopt this kind of exchange so that we can begin traveling again? Because it's not just for-- for leisure. There are real business implications about being able to go somewhere.

ASHA SHAH: I think that any type of system that's put into place to encourage the unvaccinated to get vaccinated is a good system. You know, people need to be motivated by different things, whether it's dining at a restaurant, or is it the ease of international travel, or is it coming to the workplace, et cetera, or going to a theater show. If anything like this would encourage those folks to get vaccinated to make their lives easier, so to speak, and to make it safer, I think it's a good step forward.

- Doctor, is there any reason to worry that there's not a quarantine period for travelers for foreigners who are coming to visit the US? I mean, is that something that you think should be implemented just to make sure that we don't see a spread of cases here in the US more so than what we're seeing today?

ASHA SHAH: I think if a person coming to the United States is fully vaccinated and tests negative, then, you know-- and they're practicing public health measures when they come to the United States, such as masking and social distancing and using hand hygiene, I think that's enough kind of belts and suspenders in place to-- to make it a safe practice.

- Dr. Shah, great to speak with you, Director of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Health.