GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Roughly six months after West Michigan communities ramped up efforts to vaccinate people against COVID-19, health officials says booster shots are their new focus in the pandemic’s fight.
“When you really look at the criteria, it’s actually a lot of people,” said Dr. Liam Sullivan, an infectious disease specialist at Spectrum Health.
Sullivan believes 50 to 70 percent of people in West Michigan qualify for an additional injection.
Across the state, though, only 11 percent of eligible people have gotten a booster shot. Since they became available this fall, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says 914,612 booster doses have been administered. The highest weekly total peaked during the last week of October.
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Sullivan lists a lack of education, time, and some hesitancy as reasons for the slow rollout.
“I think most people are open to getting one,” said Sullivan. “I don’t think that’s the issue. I think it’s just misunderstanding and time eligibility.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says if a person received a Pfizer or Moderna shot and are 65 years and older, 18 years and older with underlying medical conditions or live in or work in a high-risk setting, they should receive a booster shot six months after their last dose.
“Heart disease, kidney and lung disease, if they had a transplant,” said Sullivan. “Diabetes, hypertension, underlying mental health disorders, etc.”
Some examples of occupations that qualify as a high-risk setting include “If they’re a postal worker, if they’re working in a congregant setting, if they’re working in public transit,” said Sullivan.
For Johnson & Johnson recipients, the CDC recommends an additional injection for everyone two months post shot.
Sullivan notes people can now mix and match with studies suggesting an mRNA booster shot provides the most protection.
“The theory is because it’s a little bit different mechanism and a little bit different stimulation of your immune system that mixing of it probably gives you a little bit better response that way,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan explains people need the shot to prevent breakthrough cases.
“The main benefit of the booster is just to further lower your risk of getting infection in the first place and to help cut down on transmission of the virus right now,” said Sullivan.
With COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rates nearing last year’s highs, plus flu season approaching, Sullivan says it helps the health officials tasked with helping the community.
“It’s not hard to get your booster shot and sign up for it,” said Sullivan.
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