NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Biden administration is pushing adults to consider getting a new COVID-19 booster shot, however, experts believe getting Tennesseans to get the vaccine might prove to be a tough sell.
Health experts claim the new vaccine will target the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants that have become dominant in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say more than 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves receive to the updated COVID vaccine.
However, data from Oxford University shows that Tennessee is in the bottom tier of states when it comes to adults who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
States with the lowest fully vaccinated population:
- Wyoming- 51.8%
- Alabama- 52.4%
- Mississippi- 53%
- Louisiana- 54.3%
- Arkansas- 55.9%
Former acting CDC Director Richard Besser, who now runs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the performance of the previous versions of the vaccine could weigh on the minds of Tennesseans who are hesitant about receiving the new booster.
“A part of that challenge is that vaccines were designed to save lives, to keep people out of the hospital and to prevent severe disease. But what we saw with the early vaccines is that they not only did that, but they also reduced and prevented mild infection,” said Besser, “Over time as the virus has changed, the vaccines have not been as good at preventing mild infection. So, yeah, we all know a lot of people who are fully vaccinated and boosted who’ve had COVID. But in general, most of those people aren’t in the hospital.”
Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows that on the week of Sept. 27, 450 people in the state were hospitalized with COVID-19. The number is down from the nearly 800 people who were reportedly hospitalized with the virus just three weeks ago.
The former acting CDC director said his hope with the new booster restores the public’s trust in vaccinations and lowers the politicization surrounding them.
“What really concerns me is over the course of the pandemic is how politicized things have gotten, so there are a lot of people who now question any vaccine,” said Besser, “If the questioning of COVID vaccines spills over to our other vaccines, we’re in real trouble.”
Updated boosters made by Pfizer and Moderna rolled out earlier this month for everyone 12 and older. Pfizer recently asked U.S. regulators to expand its use to children ages 5 to 11.