Expert: COVID-19 ‘Has Not Become the Flu,’ They Are Two Very Different Viruses

Contemporary Clinic Staff

April Kapu, RN, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), discusses the latest guidance from the CDC on recommending a fourth booster for seniors and immunocompromised individuals.

Contemporary Clinic interviewed April Kapu, RN, a professor at Vanderbilt University; acute care nurse practitioner based in Nashville, TN; and president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), on the future of the nurse practitioner workforce amidst simultaneous growth in the field and extreme fatigue and stress among health care workers.

Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Contemporary Clinic. Joining me is April Kapu, RN, a Vanderbilt professor; acute care nurse practitioner based in Nashville, TN; and president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, or AANP, which represents over 350,000 nurse practitioner, who is here to discuss the future of the nurse practitioner workforce amid simultaneous growth in the field and extreme fatigue and stress among health care workers following the COVID-19 pandemic.

So although COVID-19 remains still a part of our daily lives, would you say COVID-19 has become more like the flu now or is it still a greater threat?

April Kapu: Well, COVID-19 and the flu are 2 very different viruses, they have 2 different mechanisms of actions, and we address those very differently. We have seen across the world tremendous devastation as a result of COVID-19. We cannot underestimate the potential devastation from this particular virus. So everything that we learned, we need to keep that at the forefront of our minds: That we follow those communities that have high rates of transmission, that we put in those communities that we as collectively as the public that we put into place social distancing masking, that we are vaccinating, that—if you are found to have signs and symptoms of COVID-19—that you're testing, that you are quarantining, especially away from immunocompromised individuals, so that you don't propel that rate of transmission.

We've learned a lot. We know the effectiveness of our vaccinations, we know the effectiveness now of boosters as they're rolling out, and so we know that is our number one tool in preventing certainly transmission, but also severity and illness and ultimately hospitalization and death. So even though we're dealing with mostly Omicron variants right now, and they have been found to be less severe in terms of symptoms, it's still a very fast rate of transmission, and we still know that we have to hold high regard for the potential devastation of these variants as well as any future mutations of variants of COVID-19.

So they're 2 very different viruses, and still flu has very deadly potential impacts as well, but we've learned a lot already throughout the decades around flu. We know about getting our flu shots and what treatments are out there, [such as] antivirals and things like that around flu, but they're 2 different viruses and we have 2 different ways of approaching, as well as treatments out there for those 2 different types of viruses that are out there.

Alana Hippensteele: Absolutely, yeah. What is the latest guidance from the CDC on recommending a fourth booster for seniors and immunocompromised individuals?

April Kapu: Well, they are recommending a fourth booster if you are 18 and above. That can be Moderna if you're 12 and above [and] in immunocompromised [individuals] that would be Pfizer. But to get that fourth booster, it's recommended for 50 years and over. I got my fourth booster a couple of weeks, so if you’re 50 and over, and if it's been 4 months since your last booster, you can get the fourth booster.

If you're immunocompromised and greater then 12 years old, you could have a discussion with your nurse practitioner—the fourth booster may be a good idea for that individual as well. The nurse practitioner is going to talk to you about the different types of vaccinations because there's some parameters around the ages, the boosters, and the types and when to get them.

So if you have any question about whether or not the fourth booster is right for you, I would just say have a conversation with your nurse practitioner. They'll go through all of these details so you can make that informed decision.

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