Florida seniors need COVID-19 boosters | Editorial – Tampa Bay Times

Florida seniors are facing an old threat in the new year. As this weekend’s holiday approaches, about three-fourths of older adults in Florida have not gotten their most recent COVID-19 booster shot, the latest federal figures show. This lagging protection comes as the world faces a new surge of infections in China and as a politically inspired investigation in Florida risks dampening the climate for vaccinations even further.
Vaccines remain safe, readily available and highly protective against severe illness from the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most medical experts agree that it’s far riskier to avoid the shot than to get one. Yet as the Tampa Bay Times’ Hannah Critchfield reported last week, many older adults have expressed uncertainty over whether they need a booster, or confusion over how to get one. Others said they’ve grown distrustful of boosters amid a politicized climate where Republican state leaders have backed away from inoculations. The end result is that the Sunshine State has the fifth lowest booster rate nationwide among people 65 and older. That’s a looming danger as COVID proves particularly deadly for older adults.
The state is utterly failing its most vulnerable residents. A Florida Department of Health spokesperson said the state was not concerned with the low booster rate, dismissing any pro-vaccine messaging as “propaganda.” The department has not released guidance on whether people 65 and older should get updated shots, and the governor’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
This inaction comes as deaths and hospitalizations have been on the rise in recent weeks. In Florida, coronavirus hospitalizations of people 70 and older are up more than 20% from the previous weeklong period, according to most recent CDC data. This month, seniors have accounted for 90% of COVID deaths.
Health officials maintain that vaccination is the best way to protect against severe illness from COVID-19. Newer boosters provide better coverage against the newest strains. That doesn’t mean those immunized won’t get sick or suffer from side effects of a shot. But those risks pale in comparison to the dangers from a serious COVID infection. According to the CDC, serious side effects from any vaccine — including the coronavirus vaccines — are extremely rare. Seniors should consult their doctor or pharmacist, and those eligible should schedule their booster.
It is critical for the Sunshine State to change these trend lines in the coming weeks. The surge of new infections in China after the government reversed its lockdown policy has spawned global fears of a new coronavirus mutant. And in Florida, the state Supreme Court’s approval of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request for a statewide grand jury to investigate alleged wrongdoing with COVID-19 vaccines promises to politicize this public health crisis only further. So schedule that trip to the pharmacy, and spare yourself, your family, your caregiver or whomever the pain and misery of another preventable serious illness.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.
Tampa Bay Times editorial board
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