As COVID-19 hospitalizations tick upward again, especially among the unvaccinated, new research highlights the “urgent need” to administer boosters as quickly as possible to everyone who is eligible.

Aggressively increasing their daily pace now could prevent many future hospitalizations and deaths, The Commonwealth Fund said. The fund promotes high-quality health care through the distribution of independent research.

At the current pace of booster vaccinations, COVID will cause an additional 210,000 deaths, nearly 1.7 million hospitalizations, and nearly 110 million additional infections over the next four months, the fund forecasted in a simulation model.

More importantly, the study found:

  • Immediately doubling the December pace of boosters to 1.5 million per day could prevent about 41,000 deaths, more than 400,000 hospitalizations and 14 million COVID infections between now and April.
  • Tripling the daily rate of boosters to 2.3 million could prevent more than 63,000 deaths, nearly 600,000 hospitalizations and avert more than 21 million COVID cases in the same period of time.
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Boosters reinforce immunity from previous vaccination or prior infection. Still, of the 88% of Americans 65 and older who received their first two doses, only 60% have their booster, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Dr. David Priest
Dr. David Priest

Despite new variants, research shows boosters remain highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID. That’s incredibly important as health care workers see an influx of sick patients, said Dr. David Priest, Novant Health chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer.

“I think every human on the planet, short of someone who's a castaway on a desert island, will get exposed to the virus,” Priest said. “And while we don't see omicron necessarily targeting one age group over another, we certainly do see it preferentially affecting those who are unvaccinated and unboosted,” he added.

The biggest takeaway: Vaccinations and boosters are the best ways to protect yourself and reduce virus spread. Getting yours on time also protects children who are too young to get one, and our most vulnerable community members.

Other recommendations include:

  • Masking in public and avoiding crowds come highly recommended amid a spike in COVID cases.
  • For people seeking a COVID-19 test, read this advice before driving to the nearest testing location.
  • Get your flu shot if you haven’t done so already. Remember, the CDC said there’s no need to time your flu vaccine around a COVID vaccine or booster – they can be safely administered in the same visit.