Flu season is expected to begin in just a few short weeks. According to Dr. Khare, this year, it’s more important than ever to get your flu vaccine. Wondering why? Here are three solid reasons:
The flu vaccine offers your best defense against the flu. It’s that simple. Yes, we know you have a friend who swears that it makes him or her sick. This is false. The flu vaccine significantly lowers your chance of getting sidelined by the flu this season. It will also dramatically reduce your symptoms if you do in fact contract the flu.
COVID-19 is still active in the community. Flu symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms. If you catch the flu, it will not only sideline you physically, but it will also warrant that you get a COVID-19 test and keep you in quarantine while you wait for the results. Getting a flu vaccine is simple, affordable and will help you stay healthy so you can resume your normal activities.
Staying well will reduce your COVID-19 risk. The best way to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 is to wear a mask in public, get the flu vaccine and continue to social distance.
Flu Vaccines available at Innovative Express Care
Flu vaccines are available by appointment at our urgent care clinic located at 2400 N. Ashland Avenue (corner of Ashland and Fullerton). You must be well, with no symptoms of illness, to get the vaccine. Schedule your flu shot here.
Patients who have an appointment for COVID-19 testing may request a flu shot during their visit to 1111 W. Diversey Parkway. The flu shot is only offered as an add-on to your COVID-19 swab. If you only need a flu vaccine, visit our urgent care. Patients must be well, with no signs of illness or fever to get their flu shot.
When should I get my flu vaccine?
Flu activity generally begins in October and runs into the spring months. The earlier you get vaccinated the better because it takes two weeks to build up your immunity. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six-months of age and older, unless you are allergic. It is especially important for high-risk individuals, which include infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly, as well as those with underlying health conditions.
There has been a lot of debate about COVID-19 booster vaccines, including whether they are necessary, at what point in time, and for whom they are most appropriate. On Friday, the FDA Advisory Committee voted on the use of Pfizer vaccine boosters. Since there is a lot of misinformation out there, I will summarize their decision for you here.
Pfizer Booster Vaccine Decision
The committee reviewed extensive data, including the current situation in the United States (COVID cases, hospitalization, vaccinations and vaccine effectiveness), and scientific studies before voting. There was a lot of discussion and debate. Two votes were held to decide who should receive a Pfizer booster vaccine. The first vote was to determine if boosters should be given to all individuals. This did not pass and was voted down. The second vote was to determine who specifically should receive a Pfizer booster vaccine. The criteria that passed the vote (unanimously) was to give a Pfizer booster vaccine to the following individuals:
People who previously received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with their second dose being at least 6 months ago, AND who…
Are age 65+
Are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 (clarification yet to come on who this may include)
Are at high risk for occupational exposure to COVID-19 (this includes healthcare workersand others to be determined)
Can I Go Get My Booster Vaccine?
Even if you qualify for a booster vaccine based on the criteria passed during the vote, this does not mean that you can or should go out and get a booster immediately. There are still regulatory steps that must take place, including an official authorization being made (FDA EUA authorization). The CDC advisory committee must also meet to discuss the guidance and make their own recommendations on the matter. This is where we may see additional fine-tuning, such as what is considered to put someone at risk for severe COVID-19, and what occupations beyond healthcare workers should be included. If you are interested in really digging into this topic, you can find the presentation materials here.
Vaccinations Available in Downers Grove
Innovative Care is currently offering vaccine doses 1 and 2 of both the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines at our Downers Grove clinic. We are also offering booster vaccines for certain immunocompromised individuals per the August FDA EUA Authorization. We are not yet offering Pfizer boosters to the extended population (voted on September 18, 2021 for over age 65, healthcare workers), but we will expand our criteria to see those patients as soon as the respective FDA Emergency Use Authorization is in place. Vaccine appointments can be made online.
Being vaccinated does not mean you are bulletproof to COVID. It does however significantly lower your risk of serious illness and complications from the virus. This means you are unlikely to require hospitalization for your symptoms.
If you do get sick, getting a monoclonal antibody infusion is an additional step you can take to ensure you do not become seriously ill. This FDA EUA approved treatment is the only known treatment for COVID. It works by infusing antibodies into your body to fight the virus. Monoclonal antibodies are administered via an IV during a short infusion performed at our clinic (about 20-30 minutes). You’ll then be monitored for an hour before heading home to recover and rest. Innovative Care began offering monoclonal antibody treatment this week. Insurance covers the cost. Uninsured patients will be covered by the CARES Act. There is no cost to patients.
It is critical that we prevent hospitalizations from COVID so our hospital system is not overburdened and unable to care for all patients. Treating COVID symptoms with monoclonal antibodies within the first 10 days may help.
The number one way you can help your community is by getting vaccinated. Per the Governor’s press conference today, 96 percent of hospitalizations due to COVID are in unvaccinated individuals.Our Downers Grove clinic offers COVID vaccines seven days a week. Appointments can easily be scheduled online.
Thank a healthcare worker
It’s been 18 months since this pandemic started. Healthcare workers who were hopeful in the spring as virus spread and hospitalizations decreased, are once again exhausted and fatigued. Take a moment to recognize someone you know on the front lines. A simple thank you can go a long way as they continue their mission to beat COVID.
Support local businesses
Every time virus activity spikes, local businesses lose customers. Whether it be from capacity restrictions, people staying home, or staff illness, it has a huge impact on their ability to succeed. Continue to shop local whenever possible and treat yourself to a carryout meal from your favorite neighborhood spot to help them continue to thrive during this unprecedented time.
Regen-COV infusion may lessen severity of virus and reduce the risk of complications for high-risk patients
COVID-19 can be serious, even life-threatening. If you test positive for COVID-19, and have symptoms, seeking monoclonal antibody treatment within the first 10 days may help you fight the virus and avoid serious complications and even death. Monoclonal antibody treatment is intended for people who are at a high risk of serious illness. Innovative Care will begin offering monoclonal antibody treatment to patients.
Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a laboratory. They serve as substitute antibodies that help our immune systems mimic the defense of natural COVID-19 antibodies. Innovative Care uses the monoclonal antibody Regen-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab, administered together, made by Regeneron) to treat COVID positive patients. This treatment received FDA EUA approval in November, yet it is not widely available. Innovative Care is committed to fighting COVID and proud to offer a treatment for those who are fighting the virus. More information on Regen-COV can be found here. Insurance is accepted for this treatment.
“We have been here to test and treat patients since the start of the pandemic. This is a natural progression for us to continue serving our community with COVID testing and care,” said Rahul Khare, MD, CEO and founder of Innovative Care. “Monoclonal antibodies attach to the spike protein and may aid your immune system as it works to fight the virus.”
Innovative Care will treat patients who qualify at their dedicated COVID clinic. Each visit begins with a provider consultation. If the patient opts to receive treatment, Regen-COV will be administered during the same appointment. The total infusion time is 20 minutes. Patients may also choose to forgo treatment. More information about what to expect can be found online here.
Innovative COVID accepts most major insurance plans, and 99 percent of people who get this treatment will not get a bill or pay for monoclonal antibody treatment. If the bill is not covered by insurance, there are funds to get this covered. By this mechanism, patients will not pay anything out of pocket for this treatment. If you do not have any medical insurance, your treatment will be covered under the federal CARES Act.
Innovative Care has operated a COVID testing site for nearly 18 months. They are a leader in COVID testing and were among the first in Chicago to offer COVID antibody testing. Innovative Care also offers COVID vaccines at their Downers Grove clinic. For more information, visit Innovative Care online.
Innovative Care is now offering COVID booster vaccines for eligible individuals in our Downers Grove clinic. We currently have both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. Booster vaccines are for immunocompromised individuals per the recent FDA approval. Patients seeking a booster vaccine should bring their original vaccination card showing that dose 1 and dose 2 have been administered. Per the recent FDA Emergency Use Authorization, mixing of mRNA vaccines is only permitted for the third shot if the original vaccine is not available.
Booster Vaccine Eligibility
Booster vaccine eligibility is on your honor, as per the authorization, medical records or a prescription from your physician are not needed. Patients with moderate to severe immune compromise due to a medical condition, or receipt of immunosuppressive medications or treatments, are eligible for booster vaccinations at this time. This includes the following:
Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
Receipt of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
Receipt of CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
Advanced or untreated HIV infection
Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.
The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge, as it is supplied by the United States Government. Your insurance will be billed for the injection only. If you have no medical insurance, you will be covered under the federal CARES Act. No patient – whether insured or not insured – will be billed for any charges. The vaccine is free for patients.
If you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine, you can schedule an appointment online here. Note, COVID-19 vaccines are only available at our Downers Grove clinic location.
A sudden spike in COVID-19 test positivity rates suggests the virus is making its way back into our community. Innovative COVID, our testing site located at 1111 W. Diversey Parkway, is seeing an average positivity rate of around 5% this week to date. Just two weeks ago, the positivity rate at our clinic was holding steady at around 0.5 to 1%.
This is a dramatic increase in positivity rate. Right on the heels of Lollapalooza and the city opening up. If you haven’t already, you’re going to be hearing about someone you know getting COVID even after getting the vaccine. Let’s figure out what this means.
Who is at Risk?
Unvaccinated individuals are at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, period. If you are eligible to get vaccinated, please do so. This is our best defense against COVID. Vaccinated individuals are not 100 percent protected from the virus, but they have a far lower risk of serious illness. Vaccination offers a significant level of protection to the individual. It also helps protect others around you.
What is the Delta Variant?
The CDC is watching new strains closely, as variants of the virus have the potential to spark new waves of illness. One variant in particular that is on the CDC watch list is the Delta strain (B.1.617.2). This mutation of COVID-19 was first detected in India in February 2021. This strain of COVID-19 is active in the United States and should be taken seriously. Early data has shown that if you have been vaccinated, the strain most likely will not affect you. Unvaccinated individuals are at the greatest risk. That said, breakthrough infections (COVID-19 in people who are vaccinated) do happen. The good news is this…if you’ve been vaccinated, you will have a lighter, more mild case of the virus. The flu vaccine works very much the same way. Getting the flu vaccine does not mean you can’t catch the flu. It does however mean that if you do catch it, your case will be more mild due to the fact that you have some level of protection. I strongly recommend that anyone who is eligible be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
Anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should be tested, whether they are vaccinated or not
Unvaccinated individuals who have had a known exposure to the COVID-19 virus should be tested 5-7 days after that exposure, even if they do not have symptoms.
If I’m vaccinated and get exposed, do I really need to get tested?
Which means: vaccinated people can get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, however, their illness is extremely mild. But here’s the other tricky part, these people with mild symptoms who are positive for COVID-19 are still contagious. There are children and unvaccinated individuals who are still susceptible to getting very sick, or may even die, from a COVID-19 illness. This means that if you are exposed to COVID-19, and will be with people who are vulnerable (unvaccinated or have significant comorbidities), you should get tested.
Catching COVID-19 cases early allows us to isolate and stop the virus from spreading to others. Innovative Care offers COVID-19 testing seven days a week at our Diversey clinic. Appointments are recommended, but not required. Walk-ins are welcome.
Will we see another shutdown?
While we certainly hope not, it is possible that we will see restrictions be put back in place. Numerous countries are struggling with a resurgence of COVID-19. Mask requirements, and if needed, restrictions play an important role in protecting those most vulnerable. Our priority remains to get as many people vaccinated as possible so we can continue to keep businesses open and events happening.
Avoid COVID Fatigue
After 16 plus months of COVID-19 talk, it’s normal to be “over it” and want to move on. Let’s face it…everyone wishes this was all just a bad dream. Sadly, it’s not, and it will take effort from all of us to get rid of COVID-19 in our community. Our team has been here since day one, and we will continue to serve our community through virus testing and care. I ask that you do your part as well. Get vaccinated. Get tested if you are symptomatic and take isolation guidelines seriously if you are unvaccinated and exposed to the virus. If we all continue to do our part, we will continue to enjoy dinners out, baseball games, concerts and more. Hang in there, Chicago!
Obesity is a chronic medical condition that requires long term management. It is associated with many serious health conditions and decreased life expectancy. So why don’t we treat it the same way we treat so many other chronic conditions more often? We use medications for blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions in association with diet and exercise, yet with obesity, patients are too often expected to make a change on their own. This is beginning to change. Earlier this month, the FDA approved Wegovy to be used in addition to diet and exercises.
What is Wegovy?
Wegovy is an injectable, once weekly medicine used for adults 18 and above, with BMI 30 or above, or BMI 27 and above who also have weight-related medical problems to help them to lose weight and keep the weight off.
Wegovy contains semaglutide, a GLP1 receptor agonist, with 94% similarity to naturally occurring human GLP-1 hormone. It induces weight loss by reducing hunger, increasing feeling of fullness and thereby helping people to eat less. Participants in clinical trials lost an average of 17-18 percent of their weight and sustained their weight over 68 weeks. This is a significant amount when you consider it equates to 45-60lb lost for someone 300 pounds.
While the drug has been officially approved by the FDA, it is not yet widely available for use in weight management. Insurers have not yet determined how much of this prescription-only drug will be covered, but there is a savings program. You can pay $25 for a 28-day supply for Wegovy. Without insurance, semaglutide can cost up to $1,500 per month.
We are excited to have another tool in our arsenal in the fight against obesity, and we are excited to include Wegovy in our Innovative Weight Management program.
Innovative Weight Management
If you have struggled with your weight for years, it may be time for a new approach. Innovative Primary Care can help. You won’t find fad diets here. We offer medical weight loss solutions to help you achieve a healthy weight.
Having your physician by your side is a game-changer when it comes to weight loss. Sure, your doctor has probably suggested you lose weight before, but have they ever really helped you accomplish it? Innovative Weight Management is a physician led program. We record benchmarks and help you every step of the way. Insurance is accepted.
The 12-month program includes:
Regular check-ins (weekly for the first four weeks, monthly thereafter)
All four core elements of weight management will be addressed: behavior, nutrition, physical activity and pharmacology.
Illinois is in phase 5, restrictions have been lifted and summer fun is underway. It’s good to feel normal again! But as we unmask and gather together, we may be swapping more than handshakes and hugs. Cold viruses are making a comeback, too. Isolation and mask-wearing allowed us to largely skip the winter cold season. Now, as we make up for lost time, those pesky viruses are spreading once again. This, coupled with a bad allergy season, has a lot of people sniffling, sneezing and coughing their way into summer. So how can you tell a summer cold from COVID? Do you need a COVID test if you become symptomatic? Should you head to urgent care? Here’s what you need to know:
Cold viruses versus COVID
We are absolutely seeing an uptick in cold-like symptoms. While similar to COVID-19 symptoms, there are some differences to watch for. For example, COVID-19 often causes coughing and shortness of breath, coupled with body aches. Summer colds tend to be more similar to allergies, with sneezing, sniffling and a cough. They are also more short-lived.
When to test for COVID
COVID-19 numbers are low right now, but there are still cases in the area. New strains, such as the Delta strain (originated in India) are causing illness in unvaccinated individuals. Determining whether you have a summer cold or COVID-19 can be tricky since symptoms are similar, but here are a few general guidelines:
If you are vaccinated, it’s most likely a summer cold. Breakthrough COVID cases are possible, however they are not common. Pay attention to your symptoms. If they are minor and more sneezing, sniffling as opposed to shortness of breath, fever, body aches, and you are vaccinated, you probably have a cold virus.
If you were exposed to COVID-19, you should take your symptoms seriously and get tested for the virus. Known exposures still warrant testing, especially if you are symptomatic. Follow the quarantine guidelines if you have no symptoms but have had a known exposure.
Do you have summer allergies? This season has been a bad one for summer allergies. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s very possible that your symptoms are related to the season. Allergies can develop into a sinus infection, so contact your primary care provider if your allergy medication is not helping or your symptoms continue.
Urgent Care appointments are easy
Innovative Express Care is open seven days a week and making an appointment is easy with online scheduling. Be sure to tell our receptionist if you are having symptoms that are associated with COVID-19 when you check in. This way we can lead you directly to an exam room. We offer COVID-19 testing at our urgent care and at our dedicated COVID-19 testing site. Innovative Express Care also offers telemedicine visits, which are a great way to discuss your symptoms with a medical provider from the comfort of your own home. An in-person visit may still be required, but many illnesses can be diagnosed remotely, allowing you to get a treatment plan and medical advice without ever leaving home.
If you have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19, we strongly urge you to do so. Innovative Express Care is currently offering the Pfizer vaccine for individuals age 12 and up at our Downers Grove location.
Six years ago, Innovative Express Care started as a dream to do healthcare differently. More than a decade in the Emergency Department at a large academic medical center had opened my eyes to gaps in the healthcare system. It also allowed me to realize the need for greater innovation and technology to improve the patient experience. I wanted to evolve the healthcare experience.
Pairing Quality with Convenience
Long before telemedicine was mainstream (thanks COVID), Innovative Express Care used virtual visits to afford patients more convenience. Virtual visits work well for medication refills, symptom consults, and more, and they can be done from a patient’s home or office.
Innovative also offers online scheduling. Patients can easily secure an appointment time that works within their schedule. Walk-in wait times are also published.
As an independent clinic, Innovative is nimble. We execute on our ideas quickly. In 2016, we expanded our services to include medical cannabis certification. While legal in Illinois, most medical providers were not supporting patients who chose to pursue cannabis as a means of symptom relief. Innovative Express Care quickly became the go to clinic for patients who wanted to incorporate cannabis alongside traditional therapies for chronic pain and/or depression caused by a qualifying medical condition.
Innovative Express Care was also among the first clinics in Chicago to offer Ketamine infusions for the treatment of severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. Demand for both medical cannabis certification and ketamine infusions ultimately spurred two new clinics, now known as Innovative Wellness and Innovative Ketamine.
Caring for our Community
When COVID-19 hit Chicago, Innovative was among the first medical providers to respond to the need for community testing. We erected a medical tent in our parking lot to see symptomatic patients safely, while reducing exposure and the risk of transmission to other patients. Our team later moved to a larger site that allowed us to see over 1,500 patients every day.
Still, every appointment filled daily. Patients demand prompted us to establish three additional testing sites. By fall, our testing capacity was more than 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day.
Innovative Express Care was the first clinic in Chicago to offer COVID-19 antibody testing. We were also among the first clinics to have the COVID-19 vaccine. We have worked to curb this pandemic for more than a year at this point, and we will not stop until COVID-19 is behind us.
Six Clinics Strong
Innovative Express Caredrew many patients who did not have a medical home and needed a primary care provider. Innovative Primary Care was born from this need and began seeing patients in 2016. Today, the busy primary care has five medical providers.
Innovative Therapy was also established to serve the needs of Innovative Express Care patients. A behavioral health component has allowed us to meet both the physical and emotional needs of our patients, while also providing consults on PTSD and ADHD.
Innovative MedSpaoffers a full range of services, including facials, Botox, fillers, PRP therapy and more.
Innovative Ketamine is a leader in IV ketamine infusions for the treatment of depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Innovative Wellness continues to be Chicago’s choice for medical cannabis certification and cannabis consulting.
What does the future hold?
In six years, we evolved from one standalone urgent care, to a full medical group. We call this Innovative Care. Our focus moving forward will be on primary care, urgent care and behavioral health. The combination of these services in one medical group will make Innovative Care unique. We will grow our three key practices, while nurturing the affiliate practices our patients also love. Innovative Care will be the “go to” place for primary care, urgent care and behavioral health on Chicago’s North side. Patients will continue to choose Innovative Care because we provide high-quality health care that is also efficient and convenient. Technology and innovative thinking improve the patient experience.
Innovative Care is healthcare evolved, and we look forward to continuing to execute on the mission we set for ourselves six years ago.
Spring sports are back and parents and kids alike are thrilled. Fresh air, exercise, and a sense of “normal” is a welcome change after a year of restrictions. We are thrilled, too, but we also want to make sure the rules of the game are clear, as we are not out of the woods when it comes to COVID.
Don’t Brush Off Precautions
While it’s true that the risk of virus spread is less outdoors, it still exists. Rather than throw caution (and face masks) to the wind, keep some protocols in place to protect your players. Spacing on the bench, masks in the dugout, sanitizing stations and more can go a long way to keeping your team from being sidelined.
Take Quarantine Time Outs Seriously
Parents are always asking…my kid can’t go to school because of a possible exposure. Can they still go to practice? The answer is no. If you are quarantined from school, you are quarantined from sports, too. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Protect your teammates and their families so we can keep virus spread to a minimum. Sports are back, so let’s keep them running by practicing safely.
Get Your Stats Straight
Until you have a COVID positive case or exposure in your house, you may not pay much attention to the timelines. So here’s a breakdown:
If you test positive to COVID, you must quarantine for 10 days (from your positive test).
If you were exposed to COVID, you must quarantine for 14 days. Eager to get back to the game sooner? If you have no symptoms, you can get a PCR test 5-7 days after your most recent exposure to the virus. For example, if Johnny was exposed to COVID at the game on Saturday, he can get a PCR test as of Thursday. If the PCR test is negative, Johnny can return to the game after 10 days of quarantine (versus 14 days).
If one child was exposed, do my other kids have to stay home too? No. Only the person(s) directly exposed need to quarantine. Other family members are considered a secondary exposure and do not have to quarantine (unless the person originally exposed ends up testing positive. Then a quarantine would be in place for siblings, too.)
Finalize Your Playbook
Encourage your organization to have solid COVID policies in place. Let parents know what they can expect of you, the organization, and what you expect of them. Have open communication about cases and work to protect one another.