‘Tis the season to be…boosted

With the season of holiday-related travel and gatherings well underway, it’s important to take measures to stay healthy and protected from COVID-19, even for those who are already vaccinated. One of the most effective ways to stay safe is to get a booster shot.

With variant strains of the virus circulating, like delta and omicron, it’s especially important to get boosted, said Anthony Hartzler, MD, associate professor and infectious disease specialist with UT Health Physicians.

“The vaccine still works really well against the delta strain, but not quite as well as it does for the original virus strain,” Dr. Hartzler said. He added that recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to administer a booster dose of vaccine were informed by a recent study examining how well a third booster dose worked against the delta strain and that the results for the booster were “pretty impressive.” The study found that those who received a third dose of the vaccine were about 20 times less likely to get sick with COVID-19 than people who received two doses of the vaccine.

“Now the good news is that whether people had two or three doses, none of them ended up in the hospital, so it seems to work well either way against severe disease. But you are much more protected from getting sick after getting that third dose,” Dr. Hartzler said.

And while it’s still too soon to say definitively, early tests show that a booster would also help protect against the newly circulating omicron variant, which seems to be more resistant to the vaccine than the original strain, he said.

Other recommendations for healthy holiday celebrations include getting a flu shot, which is safe to receive at the same time with a booster, and to consider COVID-19 case rates when traveling in order to make appropriate plans and precautions to stay protected in those areas.

The holidays are also a great time to talk with friends and family who may not yet be vaccinated.

“Especially with the omicron variant emerging, these times together are good opportunities for us to be promoting and encouraging vaccination,” Dr. Hartzler said. “We know that the most powerful tool in our toolkit for fighting COVID-19 is vaccination, and it’s great if we’ve done that for ourselves, but something we can do that has the most impact now is encouraging others to go ahead and get vaccinated too.”

For a complete list of ways to stay safe over the holidays, please refer to these CDC guidelines.

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