Oct 18, 2022 - News

North Carolinians are slow to get COVID boosters

Illustration a clock with a syringe for the minute hand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

North Carolina residents — and most people across the U.S. — do not appear to be in a hurry to get the new omicron variant boosters, a potentially worrying update as the winter months approach.

  • That's despite the fact that the vaccine, which is the first one to be tailor-made for a strain of the virus actually in circulation, Omicron BA.5, is producing a strong immune response.
  • The low turnout might be because people don't even know about it. Half of adults had heard little to nothing about the new boosters at the end of last month, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found.

What's happening: So far 437,227 people in North Carolina — or around 4.1% of the state's population — have gotten the new booster, which is specifically designed to target the prevailing omicron substrains of the coronavirus.

  • The boosters, from Pfizer and Moderna, were authorized in August. This week, they were also approved for children as young as five, Axios reported.

What they're saying: David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health, said he believes a low interest in the boosters is a failure for governments and public health officials. Americans should be seeing messages about the effectiveness of boosters everywhere, he said.

  • "For some reason that I don't understand," he said, "they are mired in an amber of delay and inability to get messages out that are clear and consistent and exciting to people. And that really is a failing since the beginning of the pandemic."

Why it matters: Cases will most certainly increase this upcoming winter, Wohl said. Boosters help prevent negative outcomes from the disease. Getting the booster "is about: Do you want to miss five days of work? Do you want to get long COVID?" Wohl said.

Zoom out: More than 11,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 in the past 30 days, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

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