As COVID-19 boosters lag in Arizona, health agency urges getting the shot

Nov 6, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: 6:48 am

FILE - Pfizer, left, and Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are readied for use at a clinic, Nov. 1...

FILE - Pfizer, left, and Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are readied for use at a clinic, Nov. 17, 2022, in Richmond, Va. The Biden administration will end most of the last remaining federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements next week when the national public health emergency for the coronavirus ends, the White House said Monday, May 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

PHOENIX — Nearly 4% of Arizonans have gotten the latest COVID-19 vaccine booster, putting the state nearly in line with national numbers, since the new boosters became available in September.

Dr. Kiran Raman, division medical director for public health preparedness with the Arizona Department of Health Services, said there’s definitely room to grow but we’re on par with the rest of the country.

She explained there is no set benchmark in Arizona for the amount of people the department aims to get vaccinated, but the goal is to get the number as high as possible. In 2022, boosters were taken by about 17% of people in the nation, according to AZDHS.

The risk of getting long COVID remains

It also remains important for some specific populations to get the shot since they face higher potential risks when they get sick, but there’s still a general risk to anybody regardless of age or health condition.

“It’s really important for all age ranges. But especially for those 65 and older who are immunocompromised and perhaps at greater risk for serious illness and disease,” Raman said.

And like the flu shot, it needs to be updated yearly as each booster rules out. It acts as a reminder to tell your body how to fight the infection, even if you’ve had it in the past.

Raman expressed that any lingering vaccine anxiety should be put to rest.

“These vaccines have been well studied…and so are safe and effective,” she said.

There’s also an increased risk to all people of getting “long COVID” symptoms from an infection.

“Long COVID unfortunately affects all types of members of the community. And you don’t necessarily be high-risk or have serious medical problems to all the sudden have this,” Raman said.

What are the symptoms of long COVID?

Symptoms for long COVID-19 include, according to AZDHS:

  • Fatigue.
  • Brain fog.
  • Cardiovascular issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there’s even more risk that can be associated with long COVID. Those can be found here.

Raman said dealing with those long-term symptoms can cause many difficulties in navigating everyday life.

“It’s every single day. And some days are worse, and some days are better, but overall, just struggling to do day-to-day activities,” she explained.

It’s also an area where scientists and researchers are still trying to find their footing. It’s not totally understood how the long-term symptoms result from a typical COVID-19 infection.

“It seems like monthly there are more research articles coming out of what it could possibly be. But there’s nothing definitive that says, ‘this is what’s causing it for the majority of people,’” Raman said.

But there is one thing that she is certain about with long COVID: Being updated on vaccinations reduces the chance of getting both typical and long COVID.

COVID-19 is here for years to come

If you’re not convinced that you need to get an updated shot, the department is also spreading awareness about boosters because the more people who have it, the safer the entire community is.

Raman said more people need to make getting their COVID-19 shot part of their routine, like many already with flu shots.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 is going to be with us for years to come, and the way to protect yourself is through vaccination,” Raman said.

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As COVID-19 boosters lag in Arizona, health agency urges getting the shot