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Science, Health, Tech

State officials emphasize importance of COVID vaccine booster shots

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Delaware continues to promote vaccination to help fight COVID, especially the Omicron variant, and officials are especially focused on convincing people to get boosters.

Delaware received some good news as COVID hospitalizations dropped this week down to 683 from the pandemic high of 759 just last week.

And Delaware Div. of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay argues it can drop more if people get their booster shot.

"88% of cases were not boosted and 91.4% of hospitalized individuals were not boosted, meaning the vast majority of our cases and hospitalizations were among individuals who were not up to date with their recommended vaccines really calling into the importance of boosters," said Rattay.

But while 65% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, only about 26% have received a booster.

Rattay notes Moderna’s booster increases antibody levels against Omicron by 37 times, while Pfizer’s booster increases antibody levels by 25 times.

Even though the primary vaccine doses have an effectiveness rate of 90-to-95% against serious illness of death, Rattay says the booster offers eve more protection.

"If you have the booster vaccine that's 99 to 100% effective against serious illness or death. So while boosters may not entirely squash break through cases the chance of hospitalization is meaningfully much less."

She adds anyone over 12 who is eligible should get a booster. Eligibility is five months since the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or two months after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Rattay also discussed the importance of wearing masks - promoting KN95 masks as the best protection, followed by surgical masks, then cloth masks.

But she adds any mask is better than none.

The state hopes to boost use of KN95 masks delivering 125,000 of them to educators, childcare providers, and students in grades six and up in Delaware schools and childcare centers in a one-time allocation.