Raleigh, N.C. — Demand for booster shots of coronavirus vaccine has jumped by 13 percent in North Carolina in the last two weeks, and health experts say the combination of the holiday season and two circulating variants of the virus is the perfect reason for more people to get their shots.
“I would prefer being alive than dead,” said Giselle Hersh, who was among the more than 300 people who got booster shots Tuesday at the Wake County Human Services Center, on Departure Drive in north Raleigh.
Hersch said she was vaccinated in February and March, when seniors were first allowed to get their shots, and getting a booster now makes her feel safer.
“You get more vulnerable as you get older. I am not around people that much, but enough, and I take classes,” she said. “I still do everything I normally do, but I feel more secure in that I should be able to stay healthy.”
Eric Stahl said he was tired of getting razzed by his 8- and 6-year-old daughters, who have received both of their vaccinations, about not getting his booster shot.
“We are going out of town for Christmas and the holidays and wanted to make sure we were buttoned up on our vaccines before we did that,” Stahl said.
The number of booster shots administered in Wake County was up 10 percent for the week ending Nov. 29 over the week that ended Nov. 15. Other area counties saw even bigger jumps in the period:
- Johnston County, up 27 percent
- Harnett County, up 34 percent
- Durham County, up 67 percent
- Cumberland County, up 95 percent
“Now is the perfect time to get boosted,” said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease expert with UNC Health.
Wohl said the coronavirus’ delta and omicron variants can both spread rapidly, so people need the anitbodies the vaccinations and booster shots provide.
“We know delta is the big threat right now. In addition, omicron is here. It’s going to grow,” he said. “Having high levels of antibodies is likely going to protect us against omicron as well.”
Everyone 18 or older is eligible for a booster shot. Those who received the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines must wait six months after their second shot, while those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get a booster shot after two months.
Approval could come as early as this week or next for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a Pfizer booster.
Delrose King, a registered nurse with Mako Medical who was giving shots Tuesday, said the omicron variant is swaying more unvaccinated people to get their first shot.
“They’re feeling more confident with the vaccine,” King said. “A lot of people have been coming in, definitely.”
Thirty-five percent of those eligible for a shot in North Carolina remain unvaccinated.
“As long as more people receive the vaccination, hopefully it will drive the rates further and further and further down so … we will not have to go around wearing a mask and being anonymous and actually go around enjoying life again, which will be so wonderful,” Hersh said.