MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, UW Health is reminding people to make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations.
UW Health stated that people ages 65 and older are making up a large chunk of the recent wave’s case count, being responsible for about 2,600 cases out of the 10,000 recorded during the week of May 8.
Around 82% of those ages 65 and older have received their initial vaccine series, meaning either two doses of Moderna or Pfizer, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. However, UW Health noted that around 62% have gotten their booster and even fewer have gotten a second booster, which is recommended for those ages 50 and older by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While doctors are hoping to not see an increase in COVID-19 deaths amid an increase in cases, Medical Director of UW Health’s immunization program Dr. Jim Conway said the rise in cases is concerning. He noted that during the last omicron wave over the winter months, health officials learned the importance of reducing disease severity from those who had boosters.
“There’s been a lot of information coming at people and it’s understandable that some people thought they were still as protected as they could be, so it will be critical to spread the message that you should get every dose that is available to you to maximize your immunity,” Dr. Conway said.
Dr. Conway stated that health officials are moving away from using the term “fully vaccinated” and are instead moving toward “up to date” on vaccinations. Getting a second booster, including for those who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is also something that Dr. Conway said not all patients have done, but will prevent them from getting severe disease results.
For those who do get COVID-19, even if they are up to date on their vaccinations, Dr. Conway said that it’s normal that immunity from vaccines gradually wanes over time and people’s needs are different depending on their age and if they are immunocompromised.
“I think people need to realize that vaccines are not a magic bullet,” Conway said. “They’re not 100%, and so they certainly do what they’re needing to do in protecting people from severe disease, hospitalization, and death. But unfortunately, especially as time goes on, since you’re booster, your immunity does wane and you do become susceptible to getting infected again. You know it’s a bummer and nobody is happy about it, but at least you’re largely protected from severe disease.”
Anyone ages 50 and older, and those ages 12 and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, should get the first two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, plus two booster shots. Those who get a single Johnson & Johnson shot should also receive two booster doses.
According to the Department of Health Services, over 34% of residents overall have received a COVID-19 booster or additional dose.
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