AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – As the pandemic continues and as COVID-19 variants continue to impact various places throughout the country, local doctors are continuing to urge the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially an additional booster dose for those who have already received the initial vaccination series.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the CDC authorized COVID-19 booster shots for all adults in late November, giving those who have received their initial series of either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine the option to receive a boost of protection six months after they received their last dose. Those who received an initial dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 can receive a booster dose at least two months after their initial dose.
As of Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is reporting that 69.87% of the state’s population is vaccinated, with 3,551,766 individuals being reported as having an additional dose.
Rodney Young, a board-certified family physician and the regional chair of family and community medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said any of the booster shots offer a significant level of protection, as the antibodies from the initial vaccine series decline over time.
“When you initially expose the body to the proteins from the virus surface, or that replicate that, when you initially expose the body to that, it initiates an immune response. Then, with the mRNA vaccines, three or four weeks later, you get a second dose. That’s something that now the body recognizes and it mounts an antibody response to,” Young said. “…We still have a good level of protection that is present following the different vaccines, but that does start to decline. It’s essentially like, you know, you’re building a barrier around yourself to try to protect yourself from exposure to the virus in the environment. Over time, the barrier that you’ve built starts to wear down and it becomes somewhat more penetrable. It might still be able to protect you well, but you can be less sure of that with time.”
This booster dose, especially with the rise of COVID-19 variants throughout the country, including the Delta and the Omicron variant, helps an individual’s immune system become more vigilant and more alert against the variants, Young said. With the third dose, it provides an individual with a decrease in odds of them having a severe case of COVID-19, resulting in hospitalization or death.
Michael Lamanteer, the chief medical officer at the BSA Health System, said during the most recent COVID-19 news conference that the boosters are necessary, with the emergence of the ongoing evolution of COVID-19 through these variants.
But while doctors urge individuals who have received their initial vaccination series to receive the booster, they continue to stress that the priority is for individuals who have not yet gotten the vaccine to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Friday, approximately 45% of those ages 5 and older are being reported as fully vaccinated in Potter and Randall counties, according to the Texas DSHS.
This comes as both Potter and Randall counties have seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases over the last month. According to reports by MyHighPlains.com, the two counties have seen an increase of more than 4,500 new cases over the last month, with 35 new COVID-19-related deaths also being reported.
Young said the numbers are as high as they were earlier in the pandemic and have continued to impact area hospitals’ ability to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. The upcoming holiday gatherings could cause what Young calls a major assault on the hospital system as the variants accelerate throughout the country.
During the news conference, Lamanteer continued to stress, as he has many times before, the fact that vaccinations are the key to preventing hospitalization and severe disease. While there are individuals throughout the Amarillo area who continue to doubt the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, he hopes the data will help convince people of the safety of the vaccine.
“Eighty-five percent of the people that we have in the hospital (Wednesday), at about 110, are not vaccinated,” he said. “They’re similar for the country. When you look at patients that are being hospitalized, those stats are undeniable. Vaccination prevents severe disease. It prevents folks dying from COVID. It prevents hospitalizations and the boosters are critical.”
Young has also continued to see the “significant chasm” between those who are eager to get the vaccine and the booster, from those who continue to refuse the vaccine. Ultimately, Young said the acceptance of the vaccine is the most important public health measure individuals can take for the pandemic to end.
“It’s possible that this new information about this will help people to be a little more assured. We have literally hundreds of millions of doses of this that have been given now all over the place. This is incredibly well studied. The notion that, you know, this vaccine is new and unproven really doesn’t hold water,” Young said. “Now, we have millions and millions of administered doses that have been followed now for more than a year. We’re looking back and we have quite a lot of data about this. By all objective measures and the most close scrutiny that’s ever been given to a vaccine product in the history of the world, these vaccines perform exceptionally well. They offer hope in a time of despair.”
The city of Amarillo’s public health department is offering booster doses, along with the initial series of doses for both the Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for eligible individuals, based on CDC guidance.
Officials told MyHighPlains.com vaccine doses are available at the public health department and through the department’s mobile vaccination sites. No appointment has to be made to receive a COVID-19 shot.
For more information about where to get a COVID-19 vaccine through the public health department, visit MyHighPlains.com.