The ongoing story of the COVID-19 pandemic is a big bag of mixed messages these days. The Omicron variant is more transmissible, but less likely to lead to serious illness in most otherwise-healthy patients. The death rate is far lower than it was earlier in the pandemic, but hospitalizations are soaring again. What is not a mixed message is the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s key message, as outlined by Director Rochelle Walensky, MD at a White House briefing this week: This is still a national healthcare crisis with that poses a real threat to our hospitals’ ability to function. Part of the rationale for that concern is the fact that people across the country are less inclined to get a booster dose of the vaccine than they were to become “fully vaccinated” (when that meant just getting the full complement of the one- or two-dose vaccine regimen). The results of a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveal that while 59% of Americans say vaccination is an important part of being out in public without feeling at risk for COVID infection, only 47% had the same perspective about booster shots. That’s almost mirrored in new vaccination data from the CDC; only 40% of all Americans have gotten a booster shot, and only 43.4% of Americans over 18 have gotten one. While uptake was low at the very beginning of widespread availability of vaccines, right now 74% have completed the one- or two-dose regimen. When talking to patients who are unsure about getting a booster, share that the latest CDC data show patients who have taken the booster shot have more protection against the Delta and Omicron variants than patients who have not.

Guard Against Complacency as Case Counts Fall—but Booster Acceptance is Falling Short