Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Vaccine Stories

After A Year of Fear, Relief is Just a Shot Away

Image for post
Image for post
Used with permission of the photographer Dr. Anitha Leonard

Almost every time I talk to somebody I hear about another friend/family member/neighbor who has Covid. It can feel so scary — like the noose is tightening.

But — the miracle of the vaccines is upon us.

So now almost every time I talk to one of my health care worker friends, I hear about another person who has gotten the vaccine. It’s just fantastic, an instant sigh of relief.

Tearing Up In The Vaccine Room

One of my buddies who got her vaccine last week said when she got her injection she felt such a giant waft of reassurance and relief and hope and faith it was like a religious experience. …

Dr. Robin’s Covid Updates

What To Do If You Get Sick With Covid

Twenty-Two Tips from the Trenches

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

So you got the dreaded email/phone call: you’ve got the Covid. Maybe you’re completely asymptomatic, or maybe you’re already sickly. No matter what, it’s a rough moment, and can be pretty scary.

Fundamentally, this positive test means you are infected and infectious (contagious) and you need to stay home for at least ten days after your positive test or onset of symptoms. What should you do now?

a) First thing: call your doctor. Let them know you’re positive and see what they have to say.

b) Then, right away, call everybody you’ve seen the last few days, and let them know you’re infected. Tell them they need to get tested five days after the day you were together, and tell them they ABSOLUTELY NEED TO STAY HOME til they get their test results. …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Covid: The Science Will Save Us

Our Year in Review

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

In one of my earliest posts in March 2020, I wrote, “Science will save us.” It is still true.

It’s slower than most people want and all of us need, but the science is happening. What we have seen over the last year is one-patient-at-a-time scientific discovery in action. Questions are posed; hypotheses generated; and bit by bit the truth is revealed.

At the start of this crisis we knew nothing, less than nothing: only that some people had a “weird” pneumonia. By late January, we knew the bug, its gene sequence, and that it could move from person to person. By March we knew it was in Boston, big time. …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Covid Mutations: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Be Not Terrified. But Keep Your Eye on The Spike.

Image for post
Image for post
Electron microscopy showing SART-CoV-2 viral particles

Lots of people I know are worried about the new “variants” of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 illness) now being observed in England and South Africa. Some headlines call them the “mutated Covid” (an ugly, scary word) or “a new kind of Covid” that may be more transmissible.

People are wondering what a “mutated Covid” could mean to us, how it might affect travel or schools, and the possible impact on vaccination effectiveness. Many people (and headlines) have started to theorize about Worst Possible Scenarios. …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Eighteen Vaccine Questions Answered in Under Six Minutes

Image for post
Image for post
My friend, a front-line critical care doc at Children’s, beaming behind her mask, as she receives her first vaccine against COVID-19

Here are answers to eighteen common questions about the two approved vaccines: Pfizer’s vaccine (first one out of the gate, the one which health care workers started getting first) and the Moderna vaccine (just arriving at hospitals this week).

Q. Can I get infected from the vaccine?

A. No. Period. No. There is no virus in the injection so you cannot get COVID-19 from getting the vaccine.

Q. How effective are these vaccines?

A. Every vaccine trial has two groups of people — one who gets the vaccine and one who doesn’t (they get a placebo). …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Vaccines…One Giant Step

But Still a Long and Winding Road

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

We are living in the age of miracles.

No one, not even Tony Fauci, dreamed we could go from learning the virus’ genetic sequence in January to putting vaccines into health care workers’ arms this week.

Things have happened fast — not dangerously fast, just amazingly fast — because of a ton of pre-planning. The technology for making vaccines with mRNA has been evolving for over a decade and the Phase I safety testing and the Phase 2 and 3 “effectiveness” (efficacy) trials were launched early and well.

Two important groups of scientists over the past few weeks reviewed data from Pfizer’s vaccine trials. On Thursday, the independent committee that advises the FDA reviewed the data publicly and recommended the FDA approve it. …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Creating a Covid Kit

Back to Basics as the Numbers Rise

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash

With the kinds of Covid numbers we are seeing this month, soon all of us are going to know someone who is sick, and it’s going to feel as though the noose is tightening. Those days can feel really dark.

Fact-based knowledge is my light in the darkness.

So let’s review the basics.

Q. How do I catch Covid?

A: The vast majority of the time you catch Covid from respiratory droplets coming directly from the mouth or nose of a person with Covid into your mouth or nose. Some transmission might also come from air-floating aerosols and maybe a bit of illness comes from some recently super-contaminated surface, but the vast majority of cases come from infected people with whom you have unfortunately had close contact. …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

How to Outlast the Pandemic with Grace

Working That Resiliency Muscle

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The US has hit a quarter of a million deaths, a mind-numbingly terrible milestone. We try to picture how it’s more than all the deaths in World War I and Vietnam and Korea combined, but it’s just not fathomable. And the worst of it is, hospitalizations are rising so rapidly now — with no clear-cut way to turn them around — there is no clear picture of when this terrible tsunami will recede.

Regarding Thanksgiving: I’ve been thrilled at how many people have deliberately decided to dial the day down to immediate bubbled family.

It appears more and more people are using our science to make mindful decisions about Thanksgiving. Almost everyone I know has changed their plans somehow — inviting fewer people, eliminating travel, eating take-out or pot-luck, shortening the get-together, using more ventilation or outside gatherings, planning widely spaced tables and chairs, and masking around everybody at risk hopefully keep us all a little bit…

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

The Election and the Coronavirus

Hope is a thing now

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

The numbers get grimmer. On Saturday November 7, the New York Times, presenting the rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, wrote there are “almost no hopeful signs in the data.”

For me, however, there is one gigantically hopeful sign, and that is the election of President-elect Biden.

Why am I hopeful?

I am hopeful because he has already appointed a number of fantastic physician-scientists to a Covid transition advisory panel and they already started work this week, and they all have deep roots in public health and all are known to have “the right stuff.” …

Dr. Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Keeping Covid Out of Your Holidays

Saying Yes to the Science and No to Big Gatherings

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

Against the drumbeat of the election we have rising cases in much of the US and Europe. Like really rising. As in, Friday saw the most US cases ever — even more than in the spring.

In the spring, we didn’t understand a lot about this virus. We didn’t know how easily it could be spread from one person to another. We didn’t know it could be spread by asymptomatic people. We didn’t know a lot.

But on the other hand we did know some basic stuff about epidemics; things that are always true every time. You need to be able to test easily, with quick turn-arounds, to contact trace, to be able to isolate the infected and quarantine the contacts. …


Robin Schoenthaler, MD

Radiation Oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital/Emerson Hospital. Writer. Teller. Mom. Currently Covid-Obsessed. www.DrRobin.org, @robinshome

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store