If there is a silver lining to the emergence of the latest COVID-19 variant of concern — omicron — Nebraska physician Mark Rupp says it may be that more people agree they need to get a vaccine or a booster.
The data seem to back up Rupp's hope. From Nov. 30, just after the Thanksgiving holiday, to Dec. 4, the average daily number of booster shots went from just over 576,000 to almost 906,000. As of Dec. 10, just about 25 percent of those who are fully vaccinated had gotten a booster, with an even higher percentage of older adults getting a third Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot or a second shot if their first dose was the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Among the fully vaccinated, 38 percent of Americans 50 and older and 49 percent of those 65 and older have received a booster.
The latest variant has alerted people that this pandemic is not over, says Robert Blendon, a health policy expert at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Nobody is now saying that at New Year's we'll be celebrating the end of this event," says Blendon, who has been analyzing public opinion on health for decades. "They're now suddenly giving you Christmas warnings." Recent polls show "that the presence of the third variant clearly is having a psychological effect on people."
Still some vaccine uncertainty, hesitancy
Blendon and Rupp, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, agree that even among those who decided to take the first course of COVID-19 vaccine, there is not universal consensus that they should get the booster.