Nearly 200,000 Arizonans have received new COVID-19 boosters designed to guard against current Omicron subvariants that have dominated around the country. Even with millions in our state fully vaccinated, that number needs to be much, much higher to protect our most vulnerable against severe outcomes.
There has been considerable news coverage nationally about lower-than-hoped-for uptake of these bivalent boosters, which also target the original coronavirus behind COVID-19. Reasons cited include pandemic fatigue, the incorrect assumption that COVID-19 is behind us, confusion about recommendations, and lack of awareness of these boosters and their benefits.
I validate all of these points. It’s been a long two-plus years for everyone. But the facts remain that COVID-19 continues to be an unpredictable public health threat and that vaccination is the best protection.
ADHS has continued messaging through social media channels, in news media interviews, in a recent virtual town hall with AARP Arizona, and in a new public service announcement. I consider our monthly reports on COVID-19 outcomes by vaccination status perhaps our best argument for making sure your vaccine protection is up-to-date.
In our latest report, for August:
- Unvaccinated individuals were 18 times more likely to be hospitalized and 28 times more likely to die than people who are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination recommendations as of August.
- Unvaccinated individuals were 7.2 times more likely to be hospitalized and nine times more likely to die than people who were vaccinated but not up-to-date on booster doses.
Being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination is important for everyone, especially with long COVID a threat, but it’s critical for older people and others with weaker immune systems. More than 80% of COVID-19 deaths in recent months have been among those ages 65 and older, and nearly all COVID-19 deaths have been among those 45 and older.
These are the facts: There are fewer deaths today than during the last surge, but people, particularly those who are most vulnerable, continue to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19. Everyone is vulnerable to long COVID. Protection from COVID-19 primary vaccination and boosters wanes over time. For nearly two years, COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and highly effective.
The best way to address this is getting an Omicron booster dose, which is available to everyone 12 and older at least two months after their last COVID-19 vaccine or booster dose. You can find a location at azhealth.gov/FindVaccine. And don’t forget your annual influenza vaccine, which you can get at the same time as your COVID-19 booster to double the benefits of your visit.