Americans 12 and older now have available the latest COVID-19 booster, and it appears to be worth it.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, explained in a press conference last week that this vaccine matches the currently dominant omicron variant, a true feat considering how rapidly this virus mutates.
"For the first time since December of 2020, these vaccines — our vaccines — have caught up with the virus," Jha said. “This is a moment when people can keep themselves healthy and safe as they think about the road ahead.”
It may seem that the pandemic is waning. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped its quarantine and distancing requirements, and many people have tossed aside their masks. Classes are held in buildings, and businesses are largely open to the public.
But the virus has not gone away. The CDC tracks transmission rates, and currently about 550 counties (1 in 6) across the country rank as “high.” That includes Tulsa County. The upcoming flu season likely will see another surge in COVID infections, as well.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor, said as much at the recent White House press conference.
“We likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual, updated COVID-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population. However, some — particularly vulnerable groups — may continue to need more frequent vaccination against COVID-19,” Fauci said.
Despite what can be found on extremist, anti-vaccine social media sites, the vaccines are safe. More than 600 million doses have been administered in the U.S. and billions worldwide.
This doesn’t mean people who get the vaccine won’t contract the virus. Breakthrough cases occur. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that studies show breakthrough cases range from 1 infection per 5,000 vaccinated people, while another report cites the ratio at 1 case per 100 vaccinated people.
But public health and medical experts agree that the vaccines save lives of those who do contract the virus by significantly curbing the symptoms. In some cases, people with the virus present as asymptomatic. The vaccines have kept people from hospitals and severe illness.
There is always a chance that a new variant will emerge, just like it does with influenza. U.S. health officials will meet annually to analyze what adjustments need to be made in boosters.
In Oklahoma, at least 16,720 lives have been lost so far to COVID-19, and at least 1.2 million Oklahomans have had the virus — some requiring hospitalization resulting in long-haul medical problems.
Get vaccinated and get boosted to keep yourself and others safe.