18 Dec Omicron Variant Prompts Officials to Urge Vaccinations & Boosters
By Michael J. Fitzgerald
Public health officials around the Bay Area urge all eligible persons to get vaccinated — or get a booster shot — as soon as possible.
The urgency is to help protect against the rapidly spreading COVID-19 variant called omicron.
The vaccination advice was announced this week by officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties as well as the city of Berkeley.
In Contra Costa County, no confirmed cases of the omicron variant have been reported. But evidence of this variant has been detected in a county wastewater sample.
Currently, 31.9% of eligible Contra Costa residents have received a booster, and approximately 246,000 residents who are 50 years and over have yet to get their booster shot.
“Now more than ever, receiving a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible is an urgent, healthy choice to protect yourself and your family,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County.
“Even if you were fully vaccinated earlier this year, two shots are no longer enough. We know protection against infection from the vaccines declines over time, so booster doses are critical for everyone who was vaccinated at least 6 months ago.”
More cases of the omicron variant are expected to be reported in the coming days and weeks, health officials said. And based on the exponential growth in cases being seen in Europe, there is a significant risk of exponential growth in COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area.
Evidence suggests that omicron spreads more rapidly than other variants, they added.
The officials also suggest that anyone who must travel or gather during the holidays should remember the following:
- Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate and get tested as soon as possible.
- Get tested before gathering or traveling, upon return and again 3-5 days later.
- Have everyone ages 5 and up get their COVID-19 vaccine and booster, if eligible.
- Take advantage of quick and easy home test kits available in pharmacies and stores.
- Wear a mask indoors and in crowded settings.
- Keep group gatherings small. Gather with close family units.
- Outside gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings.
- Be particularly cautious around elderly or immunocompromised individuals, and consider COVID-19 testing before such interactions.
Appointments at Contra Costa Health Services’ no-cost vaccination clinics can be made online or by calling 833-829-2626.
To find a booster shot appointment or drop-in booster location in Contra Costa County, go to coronavirus.cchealth.org/get-vaccinated. Vaccinations are available at no cost to the public. Insurance is not required, and there are no immigration requirements.
Health officials said that in addition to vaccinations and boosters, masking, testing, ventilation and distancing are effective against COVID-19.