Jennifer Okutani of Bountiful receives her booster shot from Addy Aven at the drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington on January 19th. A study published Friday showed that COVID-19 booster shots drastically reduce the likelihood of hospitalization even compared to fully vaccinated people without a booster. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – A new study with links to Utah on booster shots and the omicron variant of COVID-19 highlights exactly why Utahns should go and get their booster shots, a Utah expert said Friday.
The study, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, found that people who received a booster shot had an 82% probability of avoiding emergency room visits, while that probability dropped to 38% for those considered full. vaccinated for several months.
Booster shots also proved to be 90% effective in helping prevent hospitalizations, while a two-dose vaccine series given six months before gave 50-50 odds. Unvaccinated people have no protection, added Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, specialist in infectious diseases at Intermountain Healthcare, and one of the study’s many co-authors.
“If you want to be completely up to date on your COVID vaccination, you had to get a booster dose five months after your second shot,” he said. This booster dose in the environment with omicron is much more protective against acute care visits and hospitalizations than just the two-dose series.
“Omicron is another virus,” he added. “It’s mutated to the point where the protection we have is just not enough … You really need the third dose, really to increase the neutralizing antibodies to be able to protect yourself from a really serious illness.”
The study was released hours before the Utah Department of Health confirmed 11,601 new cases of COVID-19 in Utah on Friday, as well as 11 new deaths. The vast majority of the new cases are thought to be the omicron variant.
Stenehjem called the new CDC study the first information from the United States highlighting the importance of booster doses for cases of omicron variants. It’s a quick analysis of information gathered from 10 states, including Utah, over the past three weeks that omicron has taken over the majority of cases compared to data going back to August.
The variant now accounts for 98% of Utah’s most recent cases, according to sequence data from the state Department of Health.
The State Department of Health reports that unvaccinated Utahns are 2.3 times more likely to get COVID-19 than vaccinated Utahns, but with 5.7 times greater risk of being hospitalized and 11.9 times more likely to die from it during of the last 28 days.
The Department of Health reports that about 1.9 million Utahns are considered fully vaccinated, representing close to 60% of all Utahns. But only 764,836 Utahns, or about 40% of those fully vaccinated, have received a booster.
At the same time, the omicron rise has toppled all of Utah’s data records, including the number of cases, but also hospitalizations.
It is not a mild disease for everyone. I think that’s what we need to keep in mind.
– Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, infection doctor at Intermountain Healthcare
The state Department of Health reported Friday that 765 Utahns have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 – the third day in a row that Utah has surpassed its record for current COVID-19 admissions, dating back to March 2020.
There are 207 people in Utah currently on intensive care units. Utah’s intensive care units have been above utilization thresholds for several months because hospitals never stopped handling the delta variant before the omicron wave hit.
And because the omicron variant is so different, data show that not only do vaccinated Utahns get infected, so do people who were previously infected and had built up a natural immunity, Stenehjem explained. He said people with previous infections are likely to have some layer of protection, but the study was unable to suggest how much.
Fortunately, data still suggest that omicron is not as severe as the delta variant. The problem, however, is that this is not always the case – as new admissions show.
“It’s not a mild disease for everyone,” Stenehjem said. “I think that’s what we need to keep in mind. There are lots of people who are being admitted. There are lots of people who are in the intensive care unit and there are still lots of people who die of COVID-19 “So I think the biggest problem is how do we have it will protect our vulnerable people.”
The study shows that vaccines, including and especially the booster shot, are important in helping to solve this problem.
Meanwhile, Stenehjem said he believes the effectiveness of a booster shot will eventually fade, and there are likely to be more COVID-19 variants popping up. However, it is still too early to say whether more booster shots will be needed in the future.
Friday’s COVID 19s
School-age children accounted for 1,666 of the 11,601 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Utah on Friday, including 647 cases in children ages 5 to 10, 412 cases in 11-13 and 607 cases in children 14-17.
The state’s seven-day moving average for new positive cases is now 10,818 a day, with the average percentage of tests ending in a positive diagnosis being 43.1% – the third day that Utah has also broken a record there.
Utah on Friday also surpassed 30,000 cumulative COVID-19 admissions since the pandemic began. There have been 30,008 coronavirus-related admissions since March 2020.
The new deaths reported Friday include:
- A Salt Lake County man older than 85 who was not hospitalized at the time of death.
- A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, lives in a long-term care facility.
- A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County woman, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County woman, 25-44, not hospitalized.
- A man from Sanpete County, 65-84, not hospitalized.
- A woman in Utah County, over 85, not hospitalized.
- A woman in Utah County, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A man in Utah County, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A man in Utah County, over 85, not hospitalized.
- A woman from Washington County, 65-84, hospitalized.
There have been 4,030 deaths due to coronavirus in Utah since the pandemic began.
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