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Ohio doctors recommend getting COVID boosters now to protect against long-term damage

Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

The Ohio Department of Health said COVID-19 boosters with the new formulation to target Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are now available statewide.

The Pfizer booster is available to Ohioans 12-years-old and older and the Moderna vaccine is available to those 18 years and up.

Doctors are urging Ohioans to get those vaccines now.

They said, while the newer variants of COVID-19 are less severe than previous ones, there is a growing concern about people who are developing "long COVID."

Dr. Anna Goroncy, assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati and geriatric medicine fellowship director at The Christ Hospital and University of Cincinnati, said some people are able to weather COVID-19 itself but are having neurological side effects like brain fog.

"We're basically creating a whole new group that may have long-term disabilities. We don’t know what that’s going to look like 10 years from now. Certainly, we are seeing the importance of inflammation around things like dementia and other brain disorders so it would make a lot of logical and physiological sense that we may see ongoing cognitive impairment or those people more at risk of cognitive impairment in the future,” Goroncy said.

Dr. LaToya Smith, geriatric medicine fellow at The Christ Hospital and University of Cincinnati, said while deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are down from previous levels, there are many who end up suffering from it.

“We’re seeing people that don’t even get hospitalized but have COVID and are in bed for two weeks and that can have profound effects physically, mentally, and emotionally,” Smith said.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the best defense against "long COVID" is getting boosted with the vaccine to prevent contracting the virus.

“In addition to the immunity you get from antibodies it’s increasingly clear our vaccines have done a very good job at stimulating a long-lasting form of immunity called cellular immunity where a variety of immune cells in your body do seem to be activated and retain their ability to respond,” he said. “What remains for us to understand is how durable is that immunity and how durable is it for those whose immune systems may not be functioning at their peak."

Vanderhoff said Ohioans might need to get an annual COVID-19 vaccine, just like some do with flu vaccines, in the future because the virus isn't going away any time soon. Doctors say now is a good time to get the vaccine and remind Ohioans that it will be two to three weeks before the booster takes full effect.

 Ohio Department of Health vaccine data as of September 9, 2022
Ohio Department of Health
Ohio Department of Health
Ohio Department of Health vaccine data as of September 9, 2022

The Ohio Department of Health's dashboard shows more than 63% of Ohioans have started the COVID-19 vaccine and 59.05% have completed it. But when it comes to boosters, only 846,448 Ohioans have had at least two boosters since their initial doses.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.