Omicron Underscores the Importance of Vaccines and Boosters
We’d all rather be thinking about something else — anything else — than COVID-19. But the reality is that the combination of the highly contagious omicron variant and the busy holiday season has resulted in the highest number of Covid cases ever in the U.S. and an unbearably heavy load on our healthcare system.
On January 10, 2022, the U.S. reported 1.35 million new cases of Covid — the highest daily total for any country in the world, according to Reuters. On the same day, there were 136,604 people in the U.S. hospitalized with Covid — another unfortunate record.
Vaccines and Boosters Make a Tremendous Difference
One of the most important ways you can protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated right away if you haven’t done so already. And if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot. Why are these steps so important?
Vaccines keep people out of the hospital and lower the risk of death. A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that all three vaccines available in the U.S. (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) can keep people from getting so sick that they have to be hospitalized. Effectiveness reached 96% with Pfizer, 97% with Moderna and 86% with Johnson & Johnson. Even seven months after the initial vaccine, Pfizer’s protection rate was around 90% and Moderna’s was 94%. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 80% percent effective through the first six months after the vaccine was injected. All three vaccines were even more effective at reducing the risk of death.
Boosters extend the protection. In the report about the University of North Carolina study, lead study author Danyu Lin, PhD, said, “Because the majority of the vaccines in the U.S. were administered more than seven months ago and only a small percentage of the population has received boosters, waning immunity is likely contributing to the breakthrough infections with the omicron variant.” In other words, if you haven’t yet been boosted, now is the time.
According to WebMD, “Booster shots of mRNA coronavirus vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) increase antibodies by about 10 times.” Your body needs the additional help to continue providing a safe level of protection against Covid. This is your best defense against omicron — along with wearing a mask when you’re outside of your home, keeping a safe social distance, avoiding crowds and washing your hands frequently or using hand sanitizer.
How and When to Get Your Booster
The CDC has prepared guidelines on when to get your booster shot. In general, adults who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should be boosted at least five months after the second vaccine injection. Adults who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be boosted at least two months later. The booster can be either Pfizer or Moderna, regardless of which version the person received initially. For teens 12 to 17 years old, the CDC has endorsed only the Pfizer booster.
Your primary care physician and many local pharmacies can provide vaccines and boosters. For additional help, visit vaccines.gov.