EDITORIAL: The best gift? Vaccines and boosters

·2 min read

Dec. 23—We implore everyone who has been vaccinated to prioritize getting a booster shot.

We also implore everyone to be prudent over the holidays.

Omicron has now become the dominant variant across the United States, making up about three-quarters of all new infections, according to the latest reports. As we enter this next round of family gatherings, travel, parties and more, it's sure to spread.

In Missouri, new cases and hospitalizations are rising again. The seven-day average of daily new cases is now being reported at more than 3,000, compared with fewer than 1,000 as recently as October. Hospitals in St. Louis and Kansas City are becoming overwhelmed.

Dr. Hilary Babcock, infectious disease expert with St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare, told the Associated Press this week that omicron cases are doubling every two to three days because of how easily it transmits and its short incubation period. Dr. Alex Garza, co-leader of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said this week said that one of the best ways to slow transmission is to wear a mask.

We believe the best gift you can give to family and loved ones — not to mention yourself — is the vaccine.

The next best thing? The booster.

Yet only one-third of those who have been vaccinated have gotten the booster. Some can't, as there is a six-month wait, but many of the rest of us can. And should. According to the latest Associated Press report, "lab tests show that while two doses may not be strong enough to prevent infection, a Pfizer or Moderna booster produces the level of antibodies capable of tackling omicron."

Andy Slavitt, recently a senior advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator in the Biden administration, wrote this week that, for many Americans, "entering 2022 feels too much like entering 2021."

By that he meant an explosion of new cases, hospitals being overwhelmed, talk of holiday gatherings being canceled ... you get the picture. Under omicron, he wrote in The Washington Post, "Quick, informal gatherings can turn into major superspreader events."

"But 2022 is a far cry from 2021, as we now have something we didn't have then: an arsenal to fight back," Slavitt wrote.

"Three doses of an mRNA coronavirus vaccine (either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech shots) are proving highly effective at keeping the vast majority of people healthy and out of the hospital. The third shot increases the antibody response by approximately 20-fold or more, enough to beat back even the many troubling mutations of the omicron variant."

Those who are too young to get vaccinated, those who are not old enough yet to get the booster, those with compromised immune systems — they are counting on us to do our part.

Please get vaccinated.

Please get the booster.

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