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Booster shots are the best protection against omicron

Moderna COVID-19 vials seen inside the storage container at Moffat County Public Health, located on Pershing Street.
Craig Press file

Content provided by UCHealth

Booster shots are the best protection against omicron and people who receive boosters are nearly 50 times less likely to be hospitalized if they get COVID-19, according to the newest research.

As the omicron variant continues to spread around the world and public health experts predict that omicron’s impact soon will be felt throughout the U.S., we consulted with UCHealth vaccine expert, Dr. Thomas Campbell, who ran clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus. He is also a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.



Campbell’s key message is this: if you are eligible, get your booster shot now.

“Booster shots are the best tool that we have to fight omicron right now,” Campbell said.



What is the specific CDC advice about who should get a booster shot and when?

The newest guidance from CDC health experts encourages anyone age 16 and older who had their first two doses of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago to get a booster dose as soon as possible.

What is the research that shows that people who have boosters are almost 50 times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated individuals?

Those data come from Colorado public health officials and are based on analyses of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Colorado between September and November.

“It’s becoming clearer and clearer how important booster doses are,” said Scott Bookman, Colorado’s COVID-19 incident commander.

To underscore the critical role of boosters, Bookman shared the following data.

People who have received booster doses are:

  • 47.5 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people who haven’t been vaccinated at all.
  • 7 times less likely to become infected with COVID-19 than those have not received any vaccinations.
  • 4 times less likely to become infected with COVID-19 than people who have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Why should younger people get booster doses?

“The main reason for young people to get booster doses is to protect themselves. They will also protect their parents, grandparents and other people their age who might be more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 based on their medical conditions,” Campbell said.

“By getting young people boosted, we will help thwart the spread of the delta and omicron variants. Younger people are less likely to get hospitalized or die from COVID-19, but some do. So that’s an important reason for 16 and 17-year-olds to get boosters.”

What do researchers know so far about how well booster shots will help people fight omicron?

Vaccine effectiveness against omicron is lower than it has been with delta and previous strains. Boosters are helping bolster people’s ability to fight omicron. And, early reports from South Africa, where omicron was first detected, show that vaccinated people or those who previously recovered from COVID-19 may get milder illnesses if they get infected with the omicron variant.

A study from South Africa showed that a booster dose increased vaccine protection against symptomatic infection of COVID-19 from about 35% to 75%.

Campbell said it’s an excellent sign that people who have received booster shots are faring better when they are contracting omicron.

In preliminary studies, Pfizer scientists also found that booster doses increase the body’s ability to fight omicron.

“The Pfizer researchers say antibody levels after the third dose will be high enough to protect against omicron,” Campbell said.

“Delta hit Israel before the U.S. and they started boosting their population before we did,” Campbell said. “The Pfizer vaccine (the primary vaccine used in Israel) works very well to prevent hospitalization. This study compares people who received two vaccine doses with individuals who received three (or a booster shot).”

Campbell’s takeaway from the study: “Everyone who is at least six months out from their doses (or a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine) should get a booster.”


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