Widespread Immunity Key To Fighting Next COVID-19 Variant
Maintaining immunity through vaccination, boosters important before next dominant variant emerges says Dr. Ben Weston.
The next COVID-19 variant needs to be fought before it arrives, and the best way to do that, according to a top Milwaukee public health official, is to strengthen immunity at the population level through vaccination.
Recently, Milwaukee County has experienced stable, even declining disease burden. But other parts of the world are beginning to see new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the disease increase as new variants emerge. If this sounds familiar, that’s because this pattern has played out before during the pandemic
In Milwaukee County, the latest data shows only 61.3% of all county residents are fully vaccinated and only 58% of booster-eligible people have received one. This puts Milwaukee well below the U.S. as a whole for vaccination (79.7%), but ahead for boosters (49.1%).
“We as a country have failed to effectively communicate the importance and the benefits of maintaining immunity through boosters,” Weston said.
Weston said that COVID-19 fatigue is likely affecting the turnout for boosters, which he said is a common and understandable reaction as more people want to live their lives without thinking about the disease. “Maintaining immunity at a population level is key to moving forward to living our lives and avoiding future surges from the pandemic,” said Dr. Ben Weston.
If you are 12 years or older, and it’s been three months since your last dose, Weston said, now is the time to get a booster. New boosters were recently approved for use by the federal government that target both the original COVID-19 variant and the highly contagious sub-variants known as BA.4 and BA.5. These new bivalent vaccines, as they are called, have replaced the original boosters.
Weston said he is confident in the safety of the vaccines, noting that the original vaccines were safely administered to hundreds of millions of people.
Immunity from vaccination continues to be the safest and most reliable way to protect oneself against the disease. He noted that new variants did have an effect on past vaccines efficacy, and that some studies indicate a combination of vaccination combined with immunity from prior infection may provide the strongest immunity. But, he said, the vaccines have proven “most effective at the most important aspect, which is preventing severe disease, and hospitalization.”
Locally, the stable disease burden is due to immunity through vaccination and infection, Weston explained. But in the past new variants have upended stable disease burdens. “At some point that will happen, and we want to be ready and the way to be ready is to keep our immunity high.”
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- Milwaukee Health Department Announces Upcoming Changes to COVID-19 Services - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Mar 17th, 2023
- Fitzgerald Applauds Passage of COVID-19 Origin Act - U.S. Rep Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 10th, 2023
- DHS Expands Free COVID-19 Testing Program - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Feb 10th, 2023
- MKE County: COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising - Graham Kilmer - Jan 16th, 2023
- Not Enough Getting Bivalent Booster Shots, State Health Officials Warn - Gaby Vinick - Dec 26th, 2022
- Nearly All Wisconsinites Age 6 Months and Older Now Eligible for Updated COVID-19 Vaccine - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Dec 15th, 2022
- City of Milwaukee Bi-Weekly COVID-19 Update - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Dec 9th, 2022
- MKE County: COVID-19 Disease Burden Remains Stable - Graham Kilmer - Nov 25th, 2022
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