The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday October 2nd

Answering your questions about a second COVID-19 booster

Students can get vaccinated at the Carolina Vaccination Clinic, pictured here on Feb. 5, 2022.
Buy Photos Students can get vaccinated at the Carolina Vaccination Clinic, pictured here on Feb. 5, 2022.

The average number of new COVID-19 cases per week in North Carolina has been on the rise, with about 4,500 new cases since last week. This comes as the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. surpassed one million on May 4, the highest in the world that has been recorded. 

In North Carolina, 77 percent of adults are vaccinated. However, only 55 percent have at least one booster shot.  

According to data from the CDC in February, the risk of dying from COVID-19 was 20 times higher for unvaccinated individuals than for those that were vaccinated and boosted.

Here's what you need to know about getting the second COVID-19 booster shot:

David Wohl, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases, said it is important to get boosted when it is available.

"People should realize that getting vaccinated, and especially getting boosted, protects you from getting infected and getting even just mildly sick and probably protects you against long COVID. More and more data is showing that," Wohl said.

Wohl said experts have seen that people are not getting hospitalized right now as would be expected with cases going up.

The second COVID-19 booster is now available to people 50 years and older, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Those who are 12 years or older and moderately or severely immunocompromised also may receive it.

In both cases, recipients must be at least four months out from their first booster shot.

Finally, anyone who has received two shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least four months ago may receive it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also offers a tool that it says is "to determine when or if you (or your child) can get one or more COVID-19 boosters."

It is not yet clear due to a lack of funds appropriated for vaccination in Congress, Wohl said.

"Right now, I think that the administration would love for you to be able to get boosted because we are in a surge and you'd probably respond to a fourth dose better than older people would," Wohl said. "But there's probably a concern that there's not enough money."

Wohl said countries such as Israel and Australia have been aggressive with vaccine research.

There was a study recently published in Israel comparing people 60 years and older who received three doses compared to four doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The study found that the people with four shots were significantly more protected against COVID-19 in just six weeks than those with three shots.

The protection against severe disease, which was already good for those with three shots, climbed even higher for those who received four.

With the current surge of cases happening in North Carolina, it is important to follow practices from earlier on in the pandemic.

Phillip Grimm-Oropesa is the pharmacy manager at the CVS on Franklin Street.

"If you feel unwell, continue to wear a mask. Definitely if you have fever, chills, feel unwell, continue to social distance," Grimm-Oropesa said. "It's all about what you think is your risk. It's just about being smart and safe."

According to Dr. Wohl, every person that is infected on average infects three to four other people. He said if someone has access to the second booster and has received the other three vaccines, he sees no reason not to get the fourth shot.

university@dailytarheel.com

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