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Are COVID-19 vaccines protecting people against Omicron and keeping them out of hospital?

Immunity from vaccines and the virus
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:16 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Are the current COVID-19 vaccines protecting people against Omicron and keeping them out of hospital?

It’s a question many are asking as new cases of COVID continue to grow in our state.

There was a glimmer of hope just a couple of weeks ago when it looked like the positivity rate in Alabama was coming down.

But there’s still a lot of virus circulating in the community, with the positivity rate in Alabama now at more than 44%.

That’s why doctors are still stressing the importance of getting that shot in the arm to ensure you’re protected.

As Omicron continues to spread across the globe, there’s some indication it’s less severe than previous variants.

But doctors warn there’s no way to know for sure who will and who won’t be hospitalized.

“We have about 247 patients right now who are admitted with COVID-19. This is a peak that is similar to last year when we had Delta and the numbers were so high. So even though there are indications this virus tends to be milder, especially in people who are vaccinated, there are people who are getting very, very sick who are needing ICU level care and intubation,” said UAB Infectious Disease Physician, Dr. Jodie Dionne.

That’s why doctors are still beating drum in favor of vaccines and boosters.

“The efficacy has dropped form 95% to more like 85%, and the efficacy for Omicron for infection is more like 40-50%, so it’s not as good as it was, but remember a vaccine that keeps you out of the hospital, that keeps you from dying, is working very well. I don’t want the message to get muddled that vaccine is a poor vaccine. It’s great,” Dr. Dionne explained.

The virus is constantly mutating, and many Alabamians are relying on natural immunity to protect them from COVID.

But doctors said once your body fights off an infection, the protection you get from it wanes.

“You don’t want your immune system ramped up constantly because then you run the risk that your body will attack itself. So, these are very normal processes in the human body and a lot of viruses and/or bacteria behave in this way where you can get infected, you have some immunity, and then that immunity wanes and you can be reinfected,” said UAB Epidemiologist, Dr. Suzanne Judd.

Because it’s possible to be re-infected with COVID, doctors said the chances are high that we’ll have to be boosted periodically.

However, we still don’t know what the immunity cycle is going to be for COVID, so doctors said we’ll have to wait and see how often those additional doses are needed.

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