COVID-19 hospitalizations are stagnating in Kansas City, indicating that the metro may be reaching a plateau in its latest wave of the virus. Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System noted Friday that new omicron subvariants have largely taken over in the area.

    This trend, along with recent CDC data showing that people who received a booster shot have been catching the virus at a higher rate than those who did not, has led to some confusion around the purpose and effectiveness of boosters.

    Infectious disease specialist Dr. Dana Hawkinson weighed in on the matter in a Monday news briefing . Here’s what he had to say.

    What is the purpose of a COVID-19 booster shot?

    The primary purpose of a COVID-19 booster shot is to strengthen the immune system’s preparedness to fight the virus. Boosters are not a guarantee that you will never get sick. Instead, he said, they provide an assurance that if you do get sick, the illness will be milder and much less likely to put you in the hospital than if you did not have their protection.

    “Most important [is] the safety and efficacy that those vaccines provide for keeping us out of the hospital and keeping us from severe disease,” said Hawkinson in Monday’s news briefing. “We know that if you’re vaccinated and boosted, your chance of going to the hospital and dying is reduced by 90%.”

    Why are people saying that boosted people are catching COVID-19 more than un-boosted people?

    Recent CDC data indicates that people who received booster shots may be catching COVID-19 at slightly higher rates than those who are vaccinated but not boosted. On the graph below, you can see that the dark blue line — showing cases among boosted people — has recently risen just slightly above the light blue line — showing cases among vaccinated but un-boosted people.

    However, this trend does not mean that booster shots are dangerous or causing more people to become infected. CBS News reported Monday that those with booster shots may be more likely to seek out lab tests that are reported to health officials, while those without a booster may be more likely to take at-home tests that are not officially reported.

    In addition to the increased complexity of gathering accurate case data, Hawkinson noted that the severity of existing cases is key to booster shots’ public health impacts.

    “Protection against infection, while it did occur early on after vaccination, we know that wanes [over time],” he said. “We have to understand that you can still get infected…. [but] the vaccines are supposed to keep us out of the hospital, keep us from severe disease.”

    The graph above does not indicate the severity of these “breakthrough” COVID-19 cases, but the milder cases commonly experienced by those who have received a booster shot are less likely to crowd hospitals with patients and lead to fatalities, he said.

    Can I get a second booster shot if I already got one?

    If you’re over the age of 50, you are eligible for a second booster shot at least four months after your first booster. Second booster doses are also given to those who have certain medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to illness.

    If you’re under the age of 50 and are not immunocompromised, you currently can’t receive a second booster shot. However, Hawkinson adds that your level of antibody protection remains high for more than half a year after your first booster.

    “You are still very well protected more than six months out from that last vaccine dose or that first booster. I think people should take comfort in that,” he said. “If you’ve had that primary series and the booster, you are really well protected.”

    What’s in store for the future of COVID-19 boosters?

    It’s possible that annual COVID-19 booster shots may become a regular part of life as the pandemic drags on into its third year.

    “Will we have to get re-boosted on a yearly basis? We are still waiting for the full recommendations from the CDC and the Committee on Immunization Practices,” said Hawkinson. “I think most people are expecting at least a once-a-year boost, but we are also looking at different formulations of the vaccine too, so hopefully that will help as well.”

    New formulations of the COVID-19 vaccine could be better suited to tackle newer strains like the omicron variant and its subvariants. Experts also noted that a vaccine for children under age 5 could be ready as soon as June 21.

    Do you have more questions about staying safe from COVID-19 in Kansas City? Ask the Service Journalism team at [email protected] .

    ©2022 The Kansas City Star. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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    How long does the Covid booster vaccine last?
    General questions about the booster programme A booster dose of Pfizer can lift protection against severe illness back to 85 to 95% for up to six months. A booster of Moderna can also boost protection against severe illness to 85 to 95% in the three months after vaccination. more
    Can you prevent long COVID?
    Preventing Long COVID For people who are eligible, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with vaccines against COVID-19 can help prevent COVID-19 infection and protect against severe illness. more
    Can you avoid long COVID?
    How can I prevent long Covid? One of the key ways to reduce the risk of long Covid is to get all the vaccines recommended for you. The vaccine not only reduces the risk of catching Covid-19, but there is also evidence that for those who do catch it, being vaccinated makes it less likely they will develop long Covid. more
    How long do you have to wait to get your booster after having COVID?
    Most people, at least 2 months after the primary dose of J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, at least 2 months after the additional dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. more
    What are Post-COVID conditions or Long COVID?
    Post-COVID conditions (PCC, or Long COVID) are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. more
    How long could COVID-19 immunity last after you had COVID-19?
    So while it is becoming clear that some form of immune response against the virus can be detected for more than a year after COVID-19 infection, their levels may not be enough to provide full protection against reinfection. more
    Does Omicron cause long Covid?
    Senior author Claire Steves, PhD, said in a King's College London news release, "The Omicron variant appears substantially less likely to cause Long-COVID than previous variants, but still 1 in 23 people who catch COVID-19 go on to have symptoms for more than four weeks. more
    Can Omicron cause long Covid?
    Among omicron cases, 2501 (4·5%) of 56 003 people experienced long COVID and, among delta cases, 4469 (10·8%) of 41 361 people experienced long COVID. Omicron cases were less likely to experience long COVID for all vaccine timings, with an odds ratio ranging from 0·24 (0·20–0·32) to 0·50 (0·43–0·59). more
    How long can you test positive for COVID-19 after having COVID-19?
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some people who contract COVID-19 can have detectable virus for up to three months, but that doesn't mean they are contagious. When it comes to testing, the PCR tests are more likely to continue picking up the virus following infection. more
    How long will the COVID booster last?
    The CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated and also recommends booster shots for everyone 12 and older. Adolescents ages 12-17 can receive a Pfizer booster at least 5 months after completing the initial vaccine series. more
    How long Covid cough lasts?
    In the case of COVID-19, this cough could last for as long as six months after the viral infection, especially if the patient contracted Omicron because it is more airway dependent than the original strain. more


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