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OR Officials Urge Booster Shots as COVID Cases Skyrocket


Tuesday, January 11, 2022   

Oregon is in the midst of its biggest spike in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated or, if they're already vaccinated, to get a booster shot, as the Omicron variant drives cases up across the country.

Dr. Leona O'Keefe, public health officer for Jackson County Public Health, said people who are vaccinated need to consider a booster, noting those with the first series of vaccine are 30% to 40% protected against infection from Omicron.

"If you've been boosted, you're about 70% to 75% protected," O'Keefe explained. "So obviously, there's quite a big difference in your level of protection once you're boosted."

O'Keefe noted even people with boosters might still feel ill, but their chances of spreading COVID-19, being hospitalized or dying are cut down massively. Guidelines for when to get a booster recently changed, with people who received Moderna or Pfizer vaccines eligible for a booster after five months. Boosters are suggested after two months for people who received the Johnson and Johnson shot.

Saleem Noorani, a small-business owner in the Willamette Valley and AARP Oregon executive council member, said one of his employees was exposed during the December rush, which meant he lost a quarter of his full-time workforce, underscoring the importance of protecting people with the vaccine.

"So for small business owners where you're trying to give everybody enough hours, so you're not overstaffed, but once you're hit with something like this, you know, it has a huge impact," Noorani pointed out.

Older Oregonians are the most likely to be vaccinated and boosted. O'Keefe stressed it is also important for young people to get vaccinated, to ensure the virus does not have the opportunity to spread to vulnerable people.

"Please protect yourself and take care of those around you," O'Keefe urged. "And to those of you who are already taking these steps, I would say thank you. We appreciate it. It's helping your community."

Gov. Kate Brown is spearheading a campaign to get boosters to a million Oregonians by the end of January. To date, the state has reached about a quarter of the goal.

Some health risks have stopped people from getting the vaccine, including reports of myocarditis in young men, which has occurred in a small number of cases.

Disclosure: AARP Oregon contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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