Iowa health leaders stress importance of COVID vaccine booster shots with omicron variant looming

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is making inroads into middle America, and Iowa’s health leaders believe people need to act now to slow its spread.

“It’s probably already here, we just don’t know it yet,” said Dr. Ravi Vemuri, who is MercyOne’s infectious disease specialist.

The omicron variant has been detected in both Nebraska and Minnesota, and health professionals such as UnityPoint nurse practitioner Janae Brown worry the strain could intensify through the Christmas season.

“This virus is going to continue to change and mutate. We knew it was coming since people are not immunized,” Brown said.

Both Brown and Vemuri say COVID-19 vaccine booster shots could temper the impact of the omicron strain, because the protection from the initial round of vaccinations is starting to wane.

“Most of us in the field feel that to be considered truly fully vaccinated, you need to get that booster shot six months after your second shot of Pfizer or Moderna,” said Vemuri. “Otherwise, you’re likely undervaccinated.”

“Even if you did your part and got the initial vaccine, get the booster so we don’t have more mutation,” Brown said.

Their recommendation came the same day Gov. Kim Reynolds and her husband received the vaccine booster shot.

They say it’s hard to predict what the omicron variant could do but are hoping Iowans do what they can based on what has been learned about COVID-19 in the past year and a half.

“It’s going to sweep through the unvaccinated population at a very fast clip, and that’s what we worry about,” Vemuri said.

“It’s a challenge, but as healthcare providers, we signed up for this, and we will take care of each patient that’s in front of us,” said Brown.

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