Yes, it's time to get your COVID booster — just look at these charts

picture of moderna, pfizer booster vials
New York Governor's Office
  • A new COVID wave appears to be rising in Europe.

  • Throughout the pandemic, US COVID trends have mirrored what Europe does.

  • Americans have updated booster shots available now, targeting the circulating Omicron variants.

It's time to get a COVID vaccine booster shot, experts say.

There are early warning signals in the US and in Europe that we are entering a winter wave of COVID-19 infections, epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina wrote in her Substack newsletter on Wednesday.

Jetelina shared a graph showing an uptick in COVID hospital admissions across Western Europe, adding: "Here we go again."

These European trends are concerning for virus-watchers in the US, who know that generally during the pandemic whatever happens in Europe will be mirrored in the states.

graph showing US mirroring Europe in COVID cases

"We may be in for a bumpy ride this winter," Jetelina said. "There's a lot you can do, but the lowest hanging fruit is to get your fall booster."

Confirmed cases started going up across Europe when temperatures dropped

The uptick in cases in Europe is likely due to a mix of colder weather forcing people indoors, more mingling as school starts up, and celebrations like Oktoberfest bring people together for the first time in two years.

As Jetelina points out, the dominant variant is still Omicron — which is good news, given our new tailored vaccines.

covid cases going up in europe
Our World In Data

The real warning sign: A rise in hospitalizations

chart showing hospital admissions in europe ticking up
Our World In Data

In Germany hospital admissions for COVID are increasing fast, and roughly half (14/27) of the European countries reporting hospitalization and ICU numbers to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control are seeing similar surges.

"Overall, the epidemiological picture suggests that there is increasing transmission," the ECDC said on September 30.

Much the same is happening in the UK.

Case rates are still stable in the US — but toilet-water data suggests that will change soon

Though official case rates and hospitalizations aren't ticking up much yet in the US, toilets in Boston are already suggesting an increase in COVID is upon us.

Wastewater can turn positive for COVID before tests do, and gives a rough gauge of how many COVID-positive people are flushing virus down the toilet — whether they know it or not.

boston wastewater covid increase
More COVID-19 in the wastewater means more people are COVID-positive, whether they know it or not.Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

This is the first time our COVID shots have been so closely matched to the virus around us

The coronavirus variants circulating now are all versions of Omicron, with BA.4 and BA.5 dominating. New COVID booster shots are available that target those variants specifically — the first time we've had COVID shots so closely matched to circulating virus.

Booster shots are free in the US, and you can get one any time, as long as its been at least two months since your last COVID vaccination, and you don't have an active COVID infection right now.

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