GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan epidemiologist says his hospital system is seeing strong interest in the omicron-specific COVID-19 booster, and urged more people to get the shot, saying it will protect them against serious illness.
After Biden received his latest COVID-19 booster on Tuesday, he urged others to do the same, saying “not enough people are getting it.”
Richard Van Enk, director of infection prevention and epidemiology for Bronson Healthcare says that’s not necessarily true at Bronson hospitals.
“We aren’t really seeing that kind of hesitation,” he said.
According to Van Enk, 70% of people in Michigan have had a COVID-19 vaccine but only about 10% of those have not yet had a booster. He thinks the people who have not yet gone for the booster may be procrastinating for “typical human reasons,” like scheduling and making the time to go.
While any booster is good, Van Enk said, the new ones specifically designed for the Omicron family of viruses are better. He said the clinical trial data shows that boosters offer about 5-10% extra protection compared to the old shots.
“We’re still very much in the middle of the pandemic … people are still at risk so five or 10% extra protection is definitely worth getting,” he said.
Because all respiratory viruses have a seasonal pattern, Van Enk says, we are likely to see another COVID-19 surge in the winter.
“The model for it is really like influenza … we get in new flu shot every year, some people get flu, some people don’t do well, most people do fine. And so I think that’s probably where we’re headed with COVID as well,” Venenk said.
The symptoms of the newest omicron subvariants are just slightly different.
“More of a runny nose and sore throat kind of presentation. But other than that, the basic symptoms of COVID haven’t really changed,” he explained.