Omicron Variant Is on the Rise Globally and in the U.S.; Two Shots Are Not Enough Anymore and Getting a Booster Right Away Is Critical

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2021

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – With the Omicron variant rapidly spreading throughout the world and the effectiveness of the initial COVID-19 vaccine series diminishing over time, the County of Santa Clara is strongly urging everyone eligible to obtain a booster shot right away.

Booster shots are available, through both appointments and drop-in availability, at many pharmacies, clinics, and mass vaccination locations throughout the County. Everyone 16 and older who is six months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months out from their Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot. This is particularly urgent and critical for persons age 50 and older, and those with significant underlying health conditions. To find a booster shot appointment or drop-in booster location, please go to sccfreevax.org.

Currently, just 40% of eligible County residents have received a booster, and approximately 250,000 residents who are 50 years and over have yet to get their booster shot.

There have now been 10 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant reported to the County’s Public Health Department and the Omicron variant has been detected in all four wastewater treatment facilities in Santa Clara County. Many more cases of Omicron are expected to be reported in the coming days and weeks, 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 our region in the coming weeks.

The United Kingdom currently has more COVID-19 cases than at any time during the 2-year pandemic. Other highly vaccinated countries that mirror Santa Clara County’s high vaccination rates, such as Denmark and Norway, are predicting Omicron will become the dominant variant in a matter of days. Evidence suggests that Omicron spreads more rapidly than other variants, and more is being learned every day. Although some evidence suggests that a lower percentage of people infected with Omicron may be hospitalized and die, if a surge causes many thousands of new cases per day, even a small percentage of that total entering our hospitals will overwhelm healthcare delivery systems.

“The Omicron variant is causing a rapid, massive spike in cases in other parts of the world, and booster vaccines are our best defense against that happening here too,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director of Public Health. “The quicker our community is vaccinated with the booster, the more likely we can avoid the worse-case scenarios related to the spread of Omicron.”

“Two shots are not enough anymore,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 Vaccine Officer, referring to the initial two-dose series for Pfizer and Moderna. “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.”

In addition to vaccinations and boosters, masking, testing, ventilation, and distancing remain an effective multi-layered defense against COVID-19. Officials noted that as the holiday season is upon us, people should stay mindful of risks and take steps to decrease them.

If people must travel or gather for the holidays:

  • Get tested before travel, upon return, and again 3-5 days later. 
  • Have everyone ages 5+ get their COVID vaccine and boosted if eligible. 
  • Wear a mask indoors and in crowded settings. 
  • Keep group gatherings small. Gather with close family units. 
  • Take advantage of quick and easy home test kits available in pharmacies and stores. 
  • Outside gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings. 
  • Be particularly cautious around elderly or immunocompromised individuals and consider COVID-19 testing before such interactions. 

Parents of very young children and those who have not been vaccinated should make sure to take all advised precautions. Avoid large gatherings. Always wear a mask in indoor public settings (unless under age 2). 
 
Vaccinations are no-cost to the public, insurance is not required, and there are no immigration requirements.

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County of Santa Clara Website: http://www.sccgov.org/coronavirus  
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