Reader asks about newest COVID-19 booster guidelines

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Hello, dear readers, and welcome to a bonus letters column. We have had a sharp increase in letters these last few months, and we will continue do our best to keep up with your questions, comments and requests.

-- A reader from Los Angeles wonders whether he missed any updates to COVID-19 vaccine and booster recommendations. “It has been quite a while since we got new guidance about COVID-19 boosters,” he wrote. “Where do we stand with recommendations for frequency?”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated COVID-19 vaccine guidelines on March 29, which address your question about boosters. Officials say that one dose of the bivalent booster, which is the most recent vaccine in the series, is sufficient. This includes those of us who received the bivalent booster more than six months ago. At this time, the most robust protection against serious illness and hospitalization is afforded by the initial two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, followed by the bivalent booster. If you still haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine, they are widely available.

-- We recently wrote about a study that explored the possibility of a biomarker for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. A reader whose parents were early public advocates for research into SIDS asked for more information. “Our family keeps tabs on stories like this,” he wrote. “If you can share more details about the researchers, it would be appreciated.”

The study appeared in May 2022 in eBioMedicine, an open access journal published by The Lancet. The lead author is Dr. Carmel Therese Harrington, who lost her own son to SIDS almost 30 years ago. Dr. Harrington is affiliated with the SIDS and Sleep Apnea Research Group at the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, Australia.

-- A column that discussed the possible benefits of weighted blankets for anxiety, insomnia and other sleep problems has generated a lot of interest. “Where and how can I get the weighted blanket?” a reader asked. “Does my PCP give me a prescription, or can I just order one?”

You do not need a prescription for a weighted blanket. They are a popular item and are widely available. Weighted blankets can be found at department stores and through online retailers. General guidelines suggest the blanket should weigh in at 5% to 10% of the sleeper’s body weight. They should never be used on infants, young children or anyone unable to remove the blanket by themselves.

We will close with a reminder that while we can discuss and explain medical conditions, their symptoms and the range of potential treatments, we cannot offer a diagnosis or a second opinion. It’s always interesting to know where letters are coming from, so if you feel like including your state or your town or city, we would love that. And to those of you who have asked, rest assured that we never publish a reader’s name. Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to write -- it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

(Send your questions to [email protected], or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)