COVID Q&A: How long should I wait to get a booster? Is there a COVID pill yet?

In recent months, MLive’s public health team has sought to bring answers to a handful of reader questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Questions in recent weeks had to do with how mask mandates are affecting school outbreaks and how to get a booster, as well as the effectiveness of natural immunity, and about gathering with non-vaccinated family members during the holidays.

Below are some of the questions MLive received this week. If you have a COVID-related inquiry, send it to [email protected] Your question could be featured in a future Q&A segment with an answer based on findings of local, federal and world health officials and studies.

Q: I had COVID and received monoclonal antibodies. I was told to get the booster 90 days after a monoclonal infusion. I’ve also heard doctors on TV say not to get the booster if you’ve had COVID. What’s the correct treatment?

The CDC does indeed recommend waiting 90 days to receive a coronavirus vaccine following a monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma treatment, as there’s little data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in combination with the available COVID treatments.

As for getting a vaccine -- primary dose or booster -- after having COVID-19, health officials recommend getting the shot as a way to increase your protection against future illness.

While it’s true that natural immunity offers some level of protection against future infection, that level and duration of protection can vary based on the severity of your case, how old you are and other health factors. There is also growing evidence that COVID vaccines reduce risk of re-infection, compared to individuals who were previously infected but never got vaccinated.

Related: COVID-19 treatments have gotten better, but there’s still no magic cure

Regarding the timeline between getting COVID and a vaccine, health officials recommend waiting at least 10 days from when you develop symptoms or had your positive sample submitted for testing, whichever came first. Some doctors recommend a longer wait, but that can vary depending on your level of risk for severe illness.

Talk to your doctor about more specific guidance based on your medical history.

Q: I thought a Pfizer pill was already approved? How is that different from the Merck pill?

Pfizer has developed an oral antiviral drug that it says has been effective at drastically reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations and death in clinical trials. The study, which involved 2,250 individuals who took the pill shortly after noticing symptoms, showed about an 89% reduction in severe COVID cases for high-risk adults, according to the pharmaceutical company.

Additionally, Pfizer said adults who took the pill, known as paxlovid, showed a 10-fold decrease in virus levels compared to those given a placebo.

Clinical data has been submitted to the FDA, along with a request for emergency use authorization, but federal regulators have not yet given the green light to make the pill available to the public.

Related: Pfizer’s COVID treatment pill effective versus omicron variant, according to testing

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company Merck is also working on getting an antiviral drug known as molnupiravir to market. Merck has reported that its COVID pill reduces the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by 30% for high-risk adults. It does so by inhibiting the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in the body.

On Nov. 30, the FDA’s advisory committee did vote 13-10 in favor of recommending Merck’s pill be granted emergency use authorization for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in high-risk individuals. There was hesitance to recommend the drug to pregnant women, however.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 15, neither pill had been granted approval or emergency use authorization from the FDA. The U.S. government does have agreements with both companies for once they get clearance from regulators.

If you have any COVID-19 questions that you’d like answered, please submit them to [email protected] to be considered for future MLive reporting.

Read more on MLive:

Michigan woman under investigation, accused of ‘harassing’ anti-mask nurses on Twitter

Omicron variant: Here are the most commonly reported symptoms so far, according to the CDC

More Michiganders need to get tested for COVID-19 as state ranks 29th nationally

Michigan identifies 140 new COVID-19 outbreaks, per Dec. 14 report