Layers of protection: keeping your family safe for the holidays

"You don't want to rely on just one thing in public health; you layer things."

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – As many of us prepare to hit the road for holiday gatherings, doctors say that’s fine, but there are extra steps to take to stay safe. Vaccinations are part of that, but as Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln President Dr. Bob Rauner says, “You don’t want to rely on just one thing in public health; you layer things.”

That’s exactly how Dr. Rauner is approaching the upcoming holidays in his own home. With family on the way, he wants to make sure everyone stays safe, no matter what.

“The good news is they’ve all been vaccinated”, he says. But there’s a snag: “I’m leaving to go to Omaha for a couple days. I’m going to run into lots of people. I’m vaccinated and healthy, my chances are pretty low, but they’re not zero, so I’ll probably get a rapid test myself as an added precaution so I don’t infect, say, my mom or my dad.”

Dr. Rauner’s busy meeting creates the same opportunities for spreading COVID as going through the holiday bustle at an airport, for example. That’s where those layers come in.

“I’ll probably wear the mask during crowded things at this meeting in Omaha”, explains Dr. Rauner.

Testing at home is another layer, but it’s one you need to go about in the right way for it to really make a difference.

Dr. Rauner says timing is crucial. “If I were infected by you yesterday, it’s probably not going to show up until 3, 4, 5 days later, so if I get the test too early, it doesn’t really help, actually.”

Vaccinations are another aspect of your protection that is important, but more vaccinations on a widespread scale could help out even more, particularly when it comes to children.

“It’s not just for the second-grader’s benefit. It’s to protect the whole community around them, one of them being grandma”, says Dr. Rauner.

A good example of the point he’s trying to make comes from not all that long ago. In fact, we still see its impact today because of school vaccine schedules: rubella.

“The big problem it caused wasn’t infections in school-aged children. They weren’t harmed much at all, actually. It was a pretty mild infection for them, and often asymptomatic, like COVID. The problem is, it caused birth defects”, explains Dr. Rauner. “Guess who children are around? Women of childbearing age, like their moms and their teachers.”

Two options were eventually settled on in different places around the world. The first was to vaccinate only those women of childbearing age, as they were the ones who would get sick. The alternative was to take a blanket approach to vaccinations.

“One worked and one didn’t”, sums up Dr. Rauner. “The one where they tried to do it individualized didn’t work. It was only the countries that made it part of the vaccine schedule that it worked. And now, when’s the last time you heard of someone even having rubella, much less a baby dying of rubella?”

Whether COVID proves to have a similar story in the future isn’t certain, but it is a good illustration of why doctors are making a push to get younger children vaccinated, particularly before big holiday gatherings.

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