Oct 27, 2022 - COVID

Virginians are slow to get boosted

Illustration of descending bar chart made of syringes gradually shrinking in size.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Virginians aren't rushing to get the new Omicron variant boosters — a trend that's worrying public health experts as the winter months approach.

What's happening: So far, 437,000 people in Virginia have gotten the new booster, which is about 7.5% of the eligible population, per Virginia Department of Health statistics.

  • By comparison, 73% of the state's population got vaccinated during the initial push.

Why it matters: 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, Axios' Zachery Eanes reports.

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 they're saying: David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health, said he believes low interest in the boosters is a failure by 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."

What's next: 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 63,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since July 1, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.


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