Covid-19 Booster Dose Update: Health officials advise people to obtain COVID-19 booster shots as there is a chances in potential rise in covid cases in this winter.


Health officials in Bartholomew County are advising residents to acquire the new COVID-19 boosters, which are targeted at the most prevalent omicron strains, because they may cause another winter increase in coronavirus cases and a “busier” flu season.

The new boosters, they hope, will help prevent a repeat of the previous two winters, when surges in COVID-19 infections strained the local health-care system.

According to the most recent Indiana Department of Health data, at least 2,560 COVID-19 booster shots have been administered to Bartholomew County residents since federal regulators approved the updated boosters in early September. This equates to about 3% of the total population of Bartholomew County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24,500 Bartholomew County residents have yet to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s concerning,” said Kelsey DeClue, a spokeswoman for Columbus Regional Health. “… There’s some concern that people are overlooking (the booster) for a variety of reasons, such as believing they don’t need to worry about it, having had COVID and believing they have natural immunity, or being tired of keeping up with new rollouts and keeping up with changing information.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that anyone aged 5 and up receive one dose of the new boosters after finishing their primary series. The updated shots are intended to provide additional protection against the original strain of COVID-19 and the BA.5 variant that is prevalent worldwide, according to The Associated Press.

Vaccines and boosters can be obtained from local pharmacies, the Bartholomew County Health Department, and CRH physician’s offices.

According to Amanda Organist, the Bartholomew County Health Department’s director of nursing, the department has administered over 200 doses of the new COVID-19 boosters

“We’re always worried about the various illnesses that are circulating,” Organist said, referring to COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses. “As always, we hope that people will remember to practice good hand hygiene and stay at home when they are sick.”

Slower Pace

Local officials’ concern comes as the pandemic has faded from many people’s minds across the country. Daily deaths and infections are decreasing, and people – most of whom are not wearing masks – are returning to schools, work, and grocery stores as usual.

At the same time, federal health officials anticipate an increase in cases this winter. The Biden administration announced Thursday that the COVID-19 public health emergency will last until at least January 11.

According to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, if more Americans get the updated vaccines, “we could save hundreds of lives each day this winter.” According to CDC data, more than 330 people die on average each day from COVID-19, with a total death toll of over 1.05 million in the United States.

According to wire reports, only about 11.5 million Americans have received the updated shots, with federal officials, including Jha, acknowledging the slower pace of vaccinations, saying, “we expected September to be a month where it would just start picking up.”

According to hospital records, COVID-19 hospitalizations at CRH began steadily increasing in mid-November last year before peaking at 70 on Jan. 17, the highest daily total for coronavirus hospitalizations so far during the pandemic. In 2020, local coronavirus hospitalizations began to rise in mid-October and reached 59 by December 2, 2020, a record at the time.

“There is an obvious concern for an increase in cases, or possibly another surge in the coming months,” said Bartholomew County Health Officer Dr. Brian Niedbalski, adding that at least 25 of his patients have received the updated boosters. “… Surges have occurred around this time in the last two years. Most respiratory viral illnesses are at their peak at this time.”

Winter storms

Last winter, CRH was at its most overburdened point of the pandemic, as officials struggled to deal with a flood of patients during the worst coronavirus wave in a year, which they said at the time had “severely jeopardised” their ability to care for patients.

During the winter, patients at CRH were sometimes placed in beds along hallways while staff waited for rooms to become available. In addition, the hospital transformed a first-floor main hallway into a spillover triage area to treat less severe patients, and its outpatient cath lab into a spillover intensive care unit.

As resources became more scarce, officials were forced to prioritise critically ill patients and postpone some surgeries. CRH also had its highest inpatient headcount in its 104-year history.

During a winter surge in 2020, CRH briefly reached full capacity after 60 staff members were out quarantining or in isolation while hospitalizations reached previously unheard-of levels.

While COVID-19 has been impossible to predict, officials expect an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter as people spend more time indoors, travel, and gather with family during the holiday season. However, only time will tell how severe the rise is.

“We still expect to see a rise (in COVID-19 transmission) because of the nature of people coming inside, people getting together more, your immune system can tend to get a little suppressed over the winter,” DeClue added. “… We’re also concerned because CRH and the surrounding hospitals are both consistently busy.”

However, as colder weather approaches, local officials say they are seeing growing public complacency with the pandemic and do not expect a significant increase in demand for boosters or vaccines, despite the fact that COVID-19 continues to kill people in the Columbus area.

According to state records, the virus has killed two Jennings County residents, one Bartholomew County resident, and one Jackson County resident in the last month. COVID-19 has killed 252 people in Bartholomew County since the virus swept the globe in spring 2020.

“Of course, as we progress in this COVID-19 world, there is more complacency in general,” Niedbalski said. “Some people may be waiting a little longer than others (for their boosters), but I don’t expect a significant increase in vaccination rates.”

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