Opinion Submission: For our health and the health of our community, get a booster shot
Due to a wave of new COVID cases from the omicron variant sweeping across the United States, Washington University will start off the spring semester with two weeks of online classes and restricted access for campus spaces. As we all try to stay safe in the weeks ahead, we want to urge you to get your booster shot: They are safe, effective and one of the best ways to help us return to in-person gatherings and activities.
One of the reasons why the omicron variant is particularly dangerous to public health is because the immunity we gained from our first doses of the vaccine (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) has waned and is less effective at preventing omicron compared to earlier variants. However, booster shots substantially improve immunity and health outcomes for those who get them. The Pfizer and Moderna booster shots increase antibody levels against Omicron 20- to 100-fold. Boosters almost eliminate the risk of severe infection and hospitalization for most people, and likely reduce the risk of catching the virus at all and passing it to others, thus providing protection both for those who receive the booster shot and for those around you.
The booster shot is also overwhelmingly safe. By the end of 2021, over 68 million booster shots had been administered across the United States, and over 448 million across the globe. They have been endorsed by political leaders on both sides of the aisle, from President Biden to former President Trump. All three of us have taken our booster shots as well, with little to no side effects — and it’s why we are encouraging you to do the same.
Taking your booster shot at this moment is about protecting all the members of our community at WashU and in St. Louis. Today, our hospitals are being overwhelmed. Getting boosted protects you, and everyone around you by ensuring hospitals can provide the care necessary for all people who need their help –– and before you return to virtual classes on the 18th, we urge you to take the time to make an appointment at your local clinic or pharmacy to get your booster shot, too.
To find a local clinic or pharmacy to get a booster shot, you can go to vaccines.gov for more information.