COVID boosters may become normal

·2 min read

Sep. 8—TRIAD — Getting an annual COVID-19 vaccination in the autumn could become a regular practice, a local infectious disease specialist said.

During his latest coronavirus pandemic briefing on Thursday, Dr. Christopher Ohl of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist discussed fall booster shots coming out now that better target the current dominant COVID-19 variants.

"Everyone should consider getting the fall booster," said Ohl, who has provided regular briefings since the onset of the pandemic 2/1/2 years ago.

Ohl said people also should get used to expecting a fall booster each year as scientists retool the vaccine to target the dominant variant at the time, just as flu shots are tweaked each year.

Ohl said that COVID-19 eventually may wane to a point where fall boosters aren't necessary, but he's not sure when it could reach that stage.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that if no dramatically different variant emerges, the United States likely is moving toward a vaccination schedule similar to the annual influenza vaccine.

On Thursday, the federal government announced its plan to counter COVID-19 this fall through access to free vaccines.

Ohl said fall COVID-19 boosters becoming available this week are through Pfizer and Moderna. People are eligible for the fall vaccination if they haven't had a booster shot in the past two months.

Ohl said he encourages parents to get their children tested with the resumption of school. He said parents should keep a child out of class for five days if the COVID-19 test is positive.

COVID-19 cases may increase because of school starting again, but Ohl said he doesn't see a need on the horizon for a return to mask requirements in classrooms unless there's a dramatic spike in infections.

Ohl said he doesn't expect a surge in COVID-19 infections this winter like the previous winter, when cases reached pinnacles for the pandemic.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services this week reported improved COVID-19 metrics.

The percentage of all emergency department visits traced to COVID-19 symptoms declined to 5% this week from 5.5% for the previous week. During last winter's peak, the emergency department infection level was 25.6% for the week of Jan. 15.

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 dropped statewide to 996 this week from 1,103 for the previous week. Last winter's peak for hospitalizations was 4,285 for the week of Jan. 29.

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul