Damakant Jayshi

Public health officials are strongly recommending eligible people to get booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines, saying they protect against the fast-spreading new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

“At this point, we don’t believe you need an omicron-specific boost,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABS News’ Good Morning America on Thursday. “We just need to get the boost with what you got originally for the primary vaccination.”

Dr Fauci also said that Omicron would soon be the dominant variant in the United States. 

“It has what we call a doubling time of about three days and if you do the math on that, if you have just a couple of percentage of the isolates being omicron, very soon it’s going to be the dominant variant,” Dr. Fauci said. “We’ve seen that in South Africa, we’re seeing it in the U.K. and I’m absolutely certain that’s what we’re going to be seeing here relatively soon.”

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said it supports the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that people 16 years and older should get vaccinated and get boosters if they are eligible, according to a press release issued last week. The agencies say boosters strengthen and extend their protection against infection, serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

“We have identified several cases of the Omicron variant in Wisconsin and we are seeing continuing high levels of disease across our state. These trends are important reminders that getting vaccinated is critically important and that getting a booster dose provides even more protection,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for DHS. “We must prevent further strain on Wisconsin’s health care system and long-term care providers. The longer there are large populations of people who are unvaccinated, the greater the risk that people who need care will not be able to get it.”

DHS officials also asked people to continue with safe habits regarding the Covid, including wearing masks indoors.

“While vaccination remains the most effective tool we have to prevent COVID-19, everyone should continue to practice good public health behavior,” DHS officials said. “This means wearing a mask indoors, avoiding large gatherings, staying home when feeling sick, and getting testing if you have symptoms or after close contact.”

The contrast between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not is shown in data provided by the Marathon County Health Department. The number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths is far higher among those not fully vaccinated than those who have completed their vaccine dose series, demonstrating the critical importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccines, according to department ofifcials.

For those trying to find out whether they need the additional third dose or the boosters, the DHS offers an explanation. The chart from CDC also explains about the eligibility.

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Meanwhile, CDC officials say that COVID-related deaths of pregnant women have spiked. 

Between Jan. 22, 2020 and Dec. 13, 2021, the number of pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 jumped to 151,354 with 249 total deaths. Of these, 95 women died in August through September this year, with August recording the highest toll, 40.

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Aspirus now offering boosters and pediatric vaccines in Rhinelander

Aspirus Health announced that it will offer Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccines for qualifying adults and Pfizer Pediatric vaccines (ages 5-11) in Rhinelander, according to a press release.

Organization officials said appointments will be required for all locations and will be scheduled based on vaccine availability. 

Aspirus already offers the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderns vaccines for adults and Pfizer pediatric doses for eligible children in Wausau, at Aspirus Family Health Specialists. Appointments are required.

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.