EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Important progress has been made to date in the fight against COVID-19. But with the new omicron variant spreading and the winter holiday season arriving, there is much work still to be done.

Hundreds of millions of Americans are fully vaccinated and about 47 million have received a booster dose.

Despite vaccination progress, tens of millions of eligible Americans have not even received their first shot which concerns the medical community.

One year after nurse Sandra Lindsay became the first American to get inoculated with an authorized COVID-19 vaccine, 201 million Americans have followed suit, including here in Pennsylvania.

“More than 139,000 Luzerne County residents are partially vaccinated and more than 133,000 residents have been fully vaccinated,” explained Sue Peschin, MHS Co-Convener of COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.

19.4 million doses have been administered in Pennsylvania, numbers Peschin says are good, but not great to help limit the spread.

“We do have a lot of people who are immunocompromised and certainly a lot of older adults that even if they have been vaccinated, their immune systems are not as strong,” stated Peschin.

COVID-related deaths are up 54 percent nationwide in the past two weeks. Just this week, the U.S. topped 800,000 COVID deaths. 35,000 of those occurred in Pennsylvania.

“I recently took care of a married couple who refused the vaccine and had refused proven therapies that my brilliant infectious disease colleagues have vetted and designed protocols for us and they both prematurely left their family members behind them,” explained Essie Reed, MD EMS Medical Director of Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

So many deaths and such serious illnesses that doctors say COVID vaccines are designed to help prevent.

“I think it’s important for patients to know it is a non-predictable disease. Some people may have very minor symptoms and others may have symptoms that can lead to death so we just feel the vaccination is so important,” stated David Lopatofsky, MD Chief Medical Officer of UPMC North Central.

The vaccine is deemed safe and the best and quickest route to ending the pandemic.

“Get it for yourself. Get it for those you love and get it for the broader community,” said Peschin.

Doctors believe being fully vaccinated and getting the booster is the best way to ward off the omicron variant which has increased seven-fold in the U.S. In the last week. They don’t believe a variant-specific vaccine is needed at this point.