This COVID Precaution Is Now "Essential," Virus Expert Warns
There's been progress, but not enough. Here's how to fully protect yourself.
COVID has spread across the U.S. for nearly two years now, and during this time, various precautions and prevention methods have been utilized to try to contain the virus. Face masks were a normal part of everyday life at the height of the pandemic, but many people have already ditched them entirely. Now, vaccinations and vaccine mandates are considered the strongest methods to control the spread of COVID. With the help of vaccines, case numbers have fallen dramatically over the past few months. But in order to continue the fight against the coronavirus—and finally bring the pandemic to a close—certain precautions have become more important than ever before.
Ashish K. Jha, MD, dean of Brown's School of Public Health, recently took to Twitter to advise that one COVID precaution is not being used as widely as it should be. According to the virus expert, there has been progress among older U.S. adults getting their booster shots, but it is still "not enough." Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only around 31.6 percent of those 65 years old or older have gotten their booster so far.
"For higher risk folks, boosters aren't a 'nice to have.' They are essential," Jha tweeted on Nov. 9.
While the CDC has opened up booster eligibility to a number of groups, the agency says that people who are 65 years and older should receive a booster shot at least six months after completing their primary vaccination series, even if they initially received one of the mRNA vaccines.
"The risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk," the CDC warns. "Getting very sick means that older adults with COVID-19 might need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they might even die."
But it might not necessarily be the case that older adults don't want an additional shot. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, 78 percent of vaccinated people over the age of 65 said they had already or were planning to get a booster.
Instead, experts say confusion about booster guidelines could be playing a large part in some people not having gotten their additional shot yet. "The public has a hard time understanding if they will benefit from a booster, when they should get a booster. It is definitely confusing," Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Fox 5 D.C.
It might also just be harder to get booster shots right now. Both boosters and the recent authorization of vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 has resulted in a new demand for vaccine appointments, as many pharmacies struggle with labor shortages. In an Oct. 29 report, USA Today chronicled staffing issues at major pharmacy chains Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS.
"If you known someone higher risk, help them get the extra shot. With so much virus still out there, [it's] critical protection," Jha tweeted.