Health Experts Warn of Significant Impact From Omicron Variant of COVID-19; NCDHHS Urges Everyone to get Vaccinated and Boosted witha Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
Health experts are warning that the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is expected to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 infections to date in the coming months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services urge people to get vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) as soon as possible and to get a booster as soon as they are eligible to help prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.
"Please get vaccinated and boosted because that’s the best way to protect yourself, your friends and your family during the holidays," said Goernor Roy Cooper. "As the Omicron variant spreads through the United States, it is more clear than ever that these shots provide strong protection against serious illness and death if you get infected."
Early evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus. Data collected so far show more rapid waning of protection after the primary vaccination series than was seen with Delta or other variants, although vaccines are still effective at preventing severe disease. Protection against Omicron increases greatly after a booster dose. Health experts predict that once Omicron is in a community, it will be nearly impossible to contain, making vaccines and boosters essential in protecting people from severe illness. The elderly, people living in long-term care facilities and people with underlying medical conditions or who are immunosuppressed are at the greatest risk and should get vaccinated as soon as possible and get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible.
"Early data show boosters offer substantial protection from severe illness from Omicron, showing that vaccines continue to be the best way to protect your health. Get your booster as soon as its time — especially if you are over 65 or have underlying medical conditions," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "This new variant is extremely contagious, and I am very worried about North Carolinians who have not been vaccinated yet. Don’t wait to vaccinate. It’s not too late to decide to get your shot."
The CDC now recommends the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as the best choice for most people for preventing infection from COVID-19. There is ample supply of both vaccines in North Carolina and across the country. The CDC emphasized receiving any vaccine, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is better than being unvaccinated. People who prefer to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will continue to have access to it, as will people who cannot receive an mRNA vaccine. However, people with a history of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, a condition defined as blood clotting with low platelets, should not receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
To date, all three vaccines have prevented severe illness and hospitalization among millions of Americans. A study released this week by The Commonwealth Fund estimates COVID-19 vaccines prevented more than 1 million additional deaths and more than 10 million additional hospitalizations in the United States through November 2021.
Vaccinating against COVID-19 remains the most effective way for people to protect themselves from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Once vaccinated, people should get a booster. Anyone who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, should get a booster 6 months after their second dose. Anyone who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine should receive a Pfizer or Moderna booster 2 months after their original shot.
With the presence of Omicron and the upcoming holiday, all North Carolinians should:
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