Omicron has rapidly become the dominant COVID strain, accounting for more than 75% of new cases in the U.S. While it is highly contagious, and more easily evades the early phase of the body’s immune system, getting a booster can reduce your risk of infection. Any prior vaccination reduces your risk of having a severe case requiring hospitalization. While that means that most people who do get infected will have mild symptoms (especially children, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, whose risk of serious illness is very low), the sheer numbers of new infections means that even a small fraction of cases requiring hospitalization will again strain our healthcare system, overwhelming hospitals in many regions of the U.S. Here is a round up of resources and guidelines for boosters and testing…
If you are 16 years of age or older, and it has been at least 6 months since your primary vaccine series with Pfizer or Moderna, you should get a booster shot of any of the 3 available vaccines (Teens 16-17 should receive a Pfizer booster). If your primary series was Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine 2 or more months ago, you should get a booster of one of the 2 mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna). See our previous articles to help find a location to receive your Adult or Pediatric booster. If you have not completed a primary vaccine series, do it now.
If you are moderately or severely immunocompromised, you should receive an additional primary vaccine dose at least 28 days after your initial primary series (meaning if you got Pfizer, you should get a 3rd dose of Pfizer; if you got Moderna, you should get a 3rd dose of Moderna; there is not currently enough data to support a 2nd vaccine dose for J&J). People are considered moderately or severely immunocompromised if they have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DeGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (e.g., ongoing, daily use of prednisone at doses of 20 mg or more) or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
If you have a cold or sore throat, or have been exposed, get tested to ensure you don’t unintentionally spread COVID to more vulnerable relatives and colleagues whose medical history you may not entirely know. Use whatever testing options you have at your disposal, whether home antigen testing kits (using both of the included testing swabs collected at least 36 hours apart) or PCR testing done at a local testing center. See my prior article on how and where to get tested. Note: Pixel by LabCorp is now approved for use in children as young as 2 years old (previously only for 18+ years old).
- Also see our The Village Doctor FAQ page for tons of helpful advice and guidance, with articles written by your very own Village Doctors.
Sky Pittson, MD, December 20, 2021