The White House hosted a town hall with AARP on Friday, just 16 days before the Christmas holiday, reminding Americans now is the time to get a COVID-19 booster before the holiday.
Generally, shots are considered fully effective about two weeks after vaccination.
“If you do it, do it now. We are getting into the holiday season, and that is when families get together and when transmission occurs when you’re in indoor settings,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief science adviser. “Don't waste any time. Go out there and protect yourself for the holiday season.”
Although updated bivalent booster shots have been available for three months, most Americans have not gotten an updated shot.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 12.7% of Americans over the age of 5 have gotten a booster shot.
That’s compared to 68.8% of the total population who are considered fully vaccinated with the original shot.
While most adults have gotten COVID-19 shots, younger age groups are less likely to be vaccinated.
The boosters have an updated formulation that offers additional protection to the omicron variant of the virus.
“The original vaccine we had was targeting the original virus. The virus out there today is very different,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, who leads the White House’s COVID response efforts. “Immunity can wane over time. As we see waning immunity against COVID, getting the updated bivalent vaccine is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your immunity is up-to-date, and you can fight the virus out there.”
Jha said the U.S. is in a better position with COVID-19 than in the last two years. According to CDC data, there were over 12,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the first week of December 2020. In 2021, there were about 11,000 COVID deaths in the first week of the month.
This year, about 3,000 deaths have been related to the virus.
While there has been a push to get bivalent vaccines, studies have found the original vaccines have still been effective at preventing severe COVID-19 against the omicron variant.
CDC data said the original vaccine was 57% effective at preventing hospitalizations 4-5 months after getting the second shot.