COVID-19 Boosters Are Effective, Study Finds

New Omicron boosters now available in America, according to a new study. JAMA Internal MedicineThe importance and effectiveness of boosters is stressed in order to keep people with COVID-19 from being admitted to the hospital.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 192,000 adults in 13 U.S. states who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 between January and April 2022 —when the original Omicron variant was at its peak. Unvaccinated individuals were 10.5% more likely than those who had received the booster and had their vaccines up to date. People who received the booster but were not vaccinated were 2.5 times more likely than people who were.

This “underscores the importance” of boosters in preventing hospitalizations, serious illness, and death, the study authors write. The researchers call on clinicians and public-health practitioners to “continue to promote vaccination with all recommended doses for eligible persons.”

According to data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 48% have had a booster shot. And while 80% of people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the vaccine, this isn’t enough to provide adequate protection against severe infection. Researchers and COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have shown that vaccines do not provide long-term protection. Moderna found that vaccine-induced immune system protection is strongest after the recommended dose of vaccine. It then starts to weaken.

Learn More: You Can Still Get Long COVID If You’re Vaccinated and Boosted

New research found that people aged over 58 were more likely to be hospitalized after being fully immunized. They were also more likely to have at least three underlying medical conditions and to be residents in long-term care facilities—suggesting that people with weaker immune systems do not gain the same amount of protection against COVID-19 as healthy people from vaccines and past infections. They are also at greater risk of severe infections. The booster was effective in improving protection, even for this age group.

The study “gives further support for adults ages 65 years and older to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination,” says the study’s lead author and CDC medical officer Fiona Havers. Other measures are also important to help protect against hospitalization of older or other vulnerable individuals, “such as early access to antiviral medications if eligible, improving ventilation, getting tested, and wearing a mask,” she says.

Researchers also discovered that black and Hispanic patients had lower rates of being vaccinated than those who were white. “Given the racial and ethnic disparities seen throughout the pandemic, the association between race and ethnicity and vaccination status among hospitalized cases should be monitored closely,” the researchers write.

The CDC approved new Omicron-specific shots from Moderna, which are available to people aged 18 and over. Pfizer BioNTech is for children 12 years old and above. Though data in humans have not yet been published, public-health experts believe the new booster—which replaces the old one—will be an important way to confer continued protection. “If you are eligible,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a recent statement, “there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

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