RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — As people gather with family and friends for the holiday season, there is renewed pressure for more people to get the latest COVID-19 booster shot.
In North Carolina, the State Dept. of Health and Human Services said as of Wednesday, 16 percent of the vaccinated population had received the new booster shot, which targets recent Omicron variants and the original strain of the virus.
Citing low intakes across the country, federal officials this week launched a campaign aimed at increasing those numbers. According to the Associated Press, a new CDC study found the new booster shot offered 30 to 56 percent greater protection against symptomatic infections, depending on factors like age and previous vaccinations.
Dennis Taylor, who was recently president of the NC Nurses Association, said he was “extremely” concerned about the pace of vaccinations.
“To be really effective against the latest variants of this virus, it’s extremely important that people get this refresher,” he said. “It cannot prevent you from catching the virus. I believe it will relieve your symptoms.”
North Carolina and other Southeast states have already seen unusually high flu-like illness activity this season as COVID-19, influenza and RSV are all circulating.
“These three things, all hitting the healthcare system at the same time, are a bit of a concern, especially for those of us who work in acute care,” Taylor said.
The AARP, which tracks vaccination rates at nursing homes, reports that 19 percent of employees at those North Carolina facilities are up to date on their vaccinations. About 44 percent of residents are up to date.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week sent a memo to facility managers reminding them of the requirements to educate residents about the benefits of vaccines. CMS also noted that they will take enforcement action against facilities that do not comply and will refer facilities with low vaccination rates to state agencies for “close scrutiny.”
The government will allocate $350 million to community health centers in efforts to make vaccines more accessible and $125 million to vaccinate more older Americans and people with disabilities.
Doctors are battling so-called “COVID fatigue” in the public eye and misinformation on social media as they try to convince more people to stay up to date on vaccinations.
“You can choose to trust America’s doctors or you can trust a random guy on Twitter. Those are your choices,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, this week.
The CDC reports that 26.3 percent of adults have received the flu vaccine this year, compared with 23 percent at the same time a year ago.