Doctors still recommend COVID-19 boosters while omicron variant poses many questions

Pictured is the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pictured is the COVID-19 vaccine.(GRAY TELEVISION)
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 8:50 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 10:33 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As experts learn more about the omicron variant of COVID-19, now in the U.S., they remain unchanged in their advice to get a vaccine, including a booster.

It is too early to tell whether a vaccine will effectively fight the omicron variant, according to David Ottenbaker, vice president of ambulatory clinical programs at SSM Health in Wisconsin.

Nevertheless, Ottenbaker pointed to the delta variant, the most prevalent strain in the country, as the reason why people should get vaccinated. “The booster has been shown to be very effective against it,” he said.

More than a million booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with Pfizer leading the way with more than 600,000 doses.

Ottenbaker said it is “hard to tell” the long-term recommendation for boosters. “But again,” he added, “if you look at how this is playing out, it probably will be getting vaccines now, whether it be every six months [or] once a year. I think it’s going to depend on a lot of things.”

“We don’t know how many more boosters we’ll need in the future since we don’t know how the virus will change as time passes,” a spokesperson with Public Health Madison and Dane County said. “But what we can say is the more people that get fully vaccinated and boosted, the less chance the virus has to continue to mutate.”

As new variants emerge, so do new defenses. For one, Ottenbaker said Pfizer and Moderna are looking to potentially modify their vaccines to combat variants.

“We’re now getting into the realm of, actually, therapeutic medications that can be used if you get the virus,” he said. “We’re hoping that we’re not starting over, and I don’t think we are, but we’re getting to the point of saying there are other options and other ways to treat this virus.”

The Wis. Department of Health declined an interview with NBC15 Wednesday but said there will be a press briefing Thursday.

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