‘COVID is still out there’: Ag commissioner urges boosters after a tough bout with the virus

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan/dvaughan@newsobserver.com

State leaders are urging people to get their COVID-19 booster shots before Christmas.

In North Carolina, 1.1 million people have received the updated COVID-19 booster, which is 17% of those who received their initial vaccines. The updated boosters for new variants are free and available to everyone age 5 and older.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler was very ill from COVID-19 in November, he said Tuesday. Troxler told fellow members of the Council of State during their meeting that he had gotten a flu shot and was waiting two weeks before getting his COVID-19 booster shot this fall. But during that gap in time, he got sick.

“Christmas is coming. I spent Thanksgiving Day in isolation without the turkey dinner and without family, so it’s no fun. Take precautions and be wise. Do as I say, not as I do,” Troxler said.

His message came after urging people to buy real Christmas trees grown in North Carolina. Troxler turned the conversation to his recent 17-day “battle with COVID and the after effects.”

“And before anybody freaks out or runs, I have been negative for nine days, and with all the antivirals and antibiotics that I’ve taken, I’m probably the cleanest germ-wise,” Troxler said.

“I say this to remind people that COVID is still out there, and it can make you very, very sick or put you in the hospital or even kill you,” he said.

“It has gone away,” he said. “The doctors told me that without the new bivalent vaccine, that you have almost no immunity to the variants that we have out there right now, and I made a bad decision. I took the heavy dose of flu vaccine and was going to wait about two weeks before I got the bivalent vaccine. And it got me before I got it.”

“If I’ve ever been that sick before in my life, I’d remember it and without the new treatment I think I would have ended up in the hospital, and it was that bad,” Troxler said. He said his wife got her booster shot first and did not get sick or test positive.

Troxler, a Republican, said he encourages everybody who is “in the mindset to take this vaccine, don’t wait.”

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he’s glad Troxler is OK and commended him for sharing his story.

“COVID is still with us and what you said makes a lot of sense. The bivalent vaccine, commonly known as the newest booster, is truly important for people to take to continue to protect themselves,” Cooper said.

Cooper, who received his vaccine booster in September, had a mild case of COVID-19 in June.

“It doesn’t ensure you’re not going to get COVID. It certainly can help you, prevent you from getting COVID and it can also help reduce your symptoms if you do get COVID. So thank you for that story. Thank you for continuing to encourage people to get it,” Cooper said during the Council of State meeting.

And with that, the conversation turned back to agriculture, with Cooper and Troxler talking about North Carolina Christmas trees, including a homegrown one that was chosen to be this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to everyone age six months and older. Visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines for information about getting a vaccine or booster.

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