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EDITORIAL: Decision time on latest shot vs. coronavirus

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It's decision time for many South Carolinians on further COVID-19 vaccinations.

So many people have been affected by the surge in cases involving the Omicron variants with people generally thankful the cases are not as severe as when COVID began and evolved with the deadly Delta variant.

COVID conversations today center around who's tested positive and who has not, with lots of vaccinated people reporting having contracted one of the variants.

So is there reason to rush out and get the latest vaccine? The experts say there is, contending that your best protection against a serious illness from COVID is getting the shots when available.

On Sept. 1, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially approved and recommended the first updated COVID-19 booster vaccinations to better protect against the Omicron variants, which have been the dominant strain of the virus in the United States since late 2021.

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The federal recommendation for the updated COVID-19 boosters, which is supported by public health officials at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, is for:

• The Pfizer-BioNTech updated booster for people ages 12 years and older

• The Moderna updated booster vaccine for people ages 18 years and older

The updated COVID-19 boosters contain a component that is the original vaccine formulation and have added Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components that help restore protection and make the vaccines more effective against the Omicron variant and other variants and subvariants, according to DHEC.

Adapting the COVID-19 vaccine to be most effective against the latest variants is very similar to how the flu vaccine is changed every year to match the most common strains of influenza for that year, DHEC says.

Prior to issuance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of an emergency-use authorization for the updated booster, DHEC worked with vaccine providers statewide to be ready to order the new vaccine as soon as it was authorized and approved.

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In South Carolina, vaccines are expected to be available late this week -- and despite any and all discussion, for the majority of people, getting the new booster appears to be prudent.

As Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC public health director, states: "The authorization of these updated booster shots is another example of how science evolves, just as viruses do, to equip us with the most effective means possible for protecting human health. I encourage all South Carolinians to stay current on their recommended COVID-19 vaccinations and for those who are eligible to receive this safe and effective booster to do so once they're available in the coming days."

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To find a vaccine provider, visit DHEC's Vaccine Locator at vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov or visit vaccines.gov.

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