A call to arms: COVID booster shots urged

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — In the space of a year, one of the best tools to fight COVID-19 has been at our disposal.

Vaccines were developed to help ward off coronavirus infection which could cause serious disease and death. But where do we stand now in the fight?

Three vaccines were approved this year, but just last week, the CDC recommended the two mRNA vaccines of Pfizer or Moderna over Johnson & Johnson. The question now is what have we learned about the vaccine as we tackle what’s believed to be the most contagious strain of all: the omicron variant.

During the early days of vaccine availability, infections were almost always among the unvaccinated. But in recent months, more and more breakthrough infections are occurring among the vaccinated.

“I was vaccinated in May,” says Erin Naro.

Vaccinated, but not boosted. Now, seven months later, 51-year-old Erin Naro of Madison Township is being treated as a suspected omicron variant breakthrough case.

“I did not get the booster because I started feeling like I was getting a cold. And I said well I’m going to wait until after, you know, to get my booster and then, here I am,” Naro said.

“We do need to make sure that patients get their boosters because we do know you do need that higher level of antibody in order to, you know, protect yourself against omicron and the side effects of omicron,” The Wright Center for Community Health Chief Medical Officer Jignesh Sheth, MD said.

Some data suggests omicron side effects may be mild, but experts say it’s too early to say for sure, adding omicron’s higher transmissibility will likely put more strain on hospital systems.

“You may mount a different immune response than someone else would based on our own health conditions, right. But we do know that three doses gives you enough antibody level to help you against omicron,” Dr. Sheth said.

If you become a breakthrough omicron infection case despite three doses, take heart. Researchers suggest you could develop super immunity.

“They’re talking about how there could be a thousand fold increase in antibody levels if you had the vaccine and now you get an infection,” Dr. Sheth said.

That study still needs to be peer-reviewed. Meantime, Israel is now giving a fourth shot to its 60 and older population. That’s not yet a CDC recommendation. For now, Dr. Sheth is focused on the third shot.

“I personally feel that the definition of fully vaccinated should include the booster. Otherwise, we have this false sense I’m fully vaccinated but you don’t have the protection that you need,” Dr. Sheth said.

Meantime tens of millions of Americans still haven’t even gotten their first shot. Many of those may say what’s the point if you’re going to get infected anyway?

The point is this: The primary goal of the vaccine is to prevent severe coronavirus disease and death which the unvaccinated are far more likely to experience.

The Wright Center for Community Health’s Driving Better Health mobile medical unit will be at Stroudsburg Area High School on Wednesday, December 29th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. offering booster shots, and other COVID-19 vaccines.

The event is open to the public and appointments are not required, but encouraged. People can call 570-343-2382 or go online at TheWrightCenter.org.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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