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Experts encourage COVID-19 booster shots as Omicron variant spreads

Posted at 7:45 AM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 07:45:51-05

MARYLAND — The COVID-19 positivity right in Maryland is now back above five percent. That's the highest it's been since late August.

The Maryland Department of Health reported more than 1,200 new cases, 16 more deaths and more than 650 hospitalizations.

Those rising numbers and the new Omicron variant are sparking another push to get more people boosters shots or vaccinated, in general.

"We don't know everything we need to know about the omicron variant, but we know that vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC Director.

As of now, there are no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Maryland or anywhere in the United States. It has been detected in at least 20 countries so experts say it's only a matter of time before it gets here, if it's not already.

However, this is not the time to panic. Researchers are working to determine how much of an impact this variant will have.

Health officials say if this variant does turn into something big, you want to be prepared by getting your booster.

When you get the vaccine, it tells your body to make antibodies which block the entry of the virus into cells. The more antibodies you have, the better protected you are and the number of antibodies are much higher after you get the third shot.

"Particularly when you boost it, you get a level so high, that even if mutations of various variants diminish that level of protection, you're still within the range of some degree of protection," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President.

Dr. David Kessler, the former FDA Commissioner, also said, "we know from every variant that we have dealt with that the more neutralizing antibodies you have on board, the more effective those vaccines are against variant and we expect, even if it's not perfect, certainly the more neutralizing antibodies, the fact they're boosted the greater protection you can have."

The booster is available for anyone over the age of 18. You just have to wait six months after receiving your second dose of the moderna or pfizer vaccines and two months after receiving the Johnson and Johnson single shot vaccine.

Pfizer is also planning to ask the FDA to expand access to it's booster to include 16 and 17-year-olds. The President stated that all three vaccine makers are preparing to update their vaccines to accommodate the Omicron variant, if necessary.

Governor Larry Hogan is holding a press conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday to give a COVID-19 update and the State Board of Education will also be reviewing their mask mandate for all public schools.

As of right now, it's in place through February, but on Wednesday, at 1 p.m., they'll decide to extend it, keep it the same or end it early.