Experts urge Oklahomans to get booster shots as COVID-19 cases rise

Dana Branham
Oklahoman

As the holidays approach, experts urge Oklahomans not to delay getting their booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Boosters are now available to all adults, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated eligibility guidelines last week. 

Just over 19% of adults considered fully vaccinated in Oklahoma have also received a booster dose. Of fully vaccinated Oklahomans 65 and older, that number is higher: 40.5% have gotten a booster. 

COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma and across the U.S. are rising again, in part due to waning immunity in people who were vaccinated or infected, experts said.

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“Ideally, what we’d like to see is 100% of the eligible population vaccinated,” said Dr. Stan Schwartz, chief executive officer at WellOK, the Northeastern Oklahoma Business Coalition on Health. “We’re also dealing with a problem that people who have been vaccinated or who have had natural infection, their immunity wanes over time, and if they don’t get boosted then they again become a susceptible group.”

More:CDC makes COVID vaccine boosters available for all US adults, recommends for 50 and older

The good news: Though boosters don’t offer instant protection, once your body has learned to make antibodies against COVID-19 after vaccination, it won’t take long to reap the benefits of a booster dose. 

“That booster starts to take effect in 48 hours or so,” Schwartz said Tuesday on a Healthier Oklahoma Coalition call. “You can still get a booster (Tuesday) and probably have a little bit of effect on it by Thanksgiving Day. The boosters work really quickly — it's not the same three to six weeks that we saw with the initial vaccination series.” 

It takes about two weeks for peak protection to kick in after a booster dose, Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told ABC News.

Oklahoma is expected to see a surge in cases and hospitalizations this winter, though as long as no new variant emerges, it’s not predicted to be as severe as the surge in August and September. 

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But boosters and other mitigation efforts will make a difference in how high the peak goes, said Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, an epidemiologist with the University of Oklahoma. 

“If we get vaccinated, if we get boosters, if we continue to mask — all those things are going to make the future peak lower,” he said. “Whereas if we choose not to get vaccinated, if we don't get a booster, if we do a lot of traveling without masking and whatnot, then those peaks are just going to go higher.” 

More:As COVID-19 shots begin for younger kids, it's a dose of relief for Oklahoma families

Who needs a COVID booster shot? 

Booster doses are now available nationwide to anyone over 18. 

People who received either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination are eligible to get a booster dose six months after completing the initial vaccination series.

While booster doses are available for any adult who wants them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging them for anyone over 50 and for people over 18 who live in long-term care settings.

Any adult who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, regardless of age, is urged to get a booster dose if it's been two months since the shot. 

It's OK to mix and match for a booster, too. Any of the three available COVID-19 vaccines can be used as a booster dose, regardless of which vaccine someone received initially.

About 63% of adults in Oklahoma are fully vaccinated, and more than 75% have had at least one dose.