PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A new public service announcement campaign from the Florida Hospital Association and Florida Medical Association includes television and radio spots aimed at encouraging younger adults to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
What You Need To Know
- PFHA and FMA release PSAs aimed at encouraging younger adults to get vaccinated
- One focus of PSAs is possible long COVID impacts
- Study shows even mild cases left younger patients with symptoms six months after infection
- UF doctor says researchers are still studying whether long COVID symptoms will lessen or go away with time
"The big challenge that we face is that individuals in their 20s and their 30s rarely think about getting hospitalized," said Mary Mayhew, CEO and president of the Florida Hospital Association. "So, this is about how we have to get their attention about this delta variant, which is putting 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds into the hospital, in ICU. Then, the larger concern, as well, about long term consequences that need to be better understood and that the vaccine can help prevent."
The campaign's radio PSA features emergency medicine physician Dr. Sanjay Pattani saying, "It's the after-effects of getting COVID that the young population should be concerned about. There's chronic fatigue syndrome, blood clotting disorders, heart problems."
For Kristina Contestabile, 31, a racing pulse, heart palpitations, and trouble breathing are the symptoms she's dealt with since coming down with a mild case of COVID in November.
"Definitely with any kind of exertion, it still immediately jumps up, even just getting ready," Contestabile said of her heart rate. "I mean, it's in the 120s and 130s to get ready."
Contestabile, a legal assistant from Charleston, SC, who's also a Florida native, said she's seeing specialists and has undergone tests, and doctors have told her they've found no underlying issues that could explain the symptoms other than lingering effects from COVID.
"Honestly, it just makes me, a lot of the time, not want to do anything," she said of her symptoms.
"Long COVID is what has been called the next public health disaster," said Dr. Irene Estores, director of the University of Florida Health's integrative medicine program.
According to a small Norwegian study that followed 312 COVID patients, 61% of all participants were experiencing persistent symptoms six months after becoming infected. For participants between the ages of 16 and 30, 52% were still experiencing symptoms after six months. Researchers noted that while the cases among this group were mild to moderate, some of the long COVID symptoms they experienced could be considered severe.
Estores said there are still many unknowns about long COVID. There's no way to tell who it's going to impact, and it's unclear if symptoms will lessen or disappear with time.
"I certainly am seeing patients who are already a year out of their infections, initial infections - this is from people who got COVID from the first wave. They still have their symptoms. So, I don't know how long that will persist. Some of them do improve over time, but we don't know how much of it will improve over time. Some people with COVID have more than ten symptoms," Estores said. "I see patients who have been affected in a very marked way, where patients would even say, 'This has ruined my life.'"
Contestabile said she worries about what the virus's impacts will mean for her health in the future.
"It's kind of scary not knowing if my symptoms will improve or if they'll ever go away. Or if I get sick with either COVID again or something else, is it going to make it even worse?" she said.
According to Estores, avoidance and prevention of serious illness are the goals. That's a point the FHA and FMA announcements try to get across, as well.
"The essence of this vaccine is not to prevent you from getting coronavirus," Pattani says in the radio spot. "It is from preventing you from getting seriously ill and potentially dying."
You can watch and listen to all three of the PSAs here:
English PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvwgr5iNvG0
Spanish PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw6l3YiRRTQ
Radio PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1A9zgiAsXM