Florida health experts emphasize boosters as COVID-19 cases rise again

'The problem with 'fully vaccinated' is it gives the impression that you're done,' USF Epidemiologist Jason Salemi says
Posted at 6:06 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 18:06:42-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's turnout for COVID-19 boosters remains low as shot efficacy wains and cases start ticking back up.

The latest state report from Florida Health officials showed 13,530 new cases for the week of Dec. 3. That's more than 2,500 cases above the week prior.

The Centers for Disease Control ranks Florida 35th for boosted adults nationally. Only about a quarter (27.3%) have gotten one.

The stats are worse for seniors.

Florida ranked 40th for those 65 and older. Less than half of them (48.2%) are boosted, despite 90% being "fully vaccinated."

Jason Salemi, University of South Florida epidemiolgist
University of South Florida Epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi speaks about his study on COVID-19 vacccine booster shots.

Epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi is pushing for more attention on boosting. The University of South Florida expert helped pen a recent paper, currently under peer review, looking at waning efficacy and how many have all their shots, boosters included.

"The problem with 'fully vaccinated' is it gives the impression that you're done," Salemi said.

His research shows optimal immunization fell in the U.S. from a high of 45.3% in July to 29.4% in November. The downturn was a result of overdue boosters.

"During November, the majority of states experienced a worsening trend in the percent of the total population who were overdue for a booster dose, including the four largest states, with percentage point increases of 3.5 in New York, 3.4 in California, 2.3 in Texas and 1.7 in Florida," according to the study.

Quote from COVID-19 vaccine booster study
According to a recent study, optimal immunization against COVID-19 sharply fell in the U.S. from a high of 45.3% in July to 29.4% in November.

"I just want to underscore the importance of those booster doses," Salemi said. "And one of the ways to do that is to change the way that we are classifying people based on their vaccination status."

Florida Health officials continue to advocate vaccination but, in a recent statement, said shots were just one way to fight COVID-19.

"Rather than focusing on one solution, the State of Florida will continue to adapt as necessary to protect public health as we have done with previous variants of concern and throughout the COVID-19 response," said Weesam Khoury, communications director for the Florida Department of Health.

The department's latest advertising campaign, the "Healthier You" initiative, pushes healthy lifestyles, monoclonal treatments and some methods still being studied.

Vaccinations, however, remain one of the best ways to prevent severe COVID-19 infection. They are free for all patients, regardless of insurance status. That includes booster doses.