Santa Rosa, CA – December 17, 2021 – Public health agencies across the Bay Area on Friday urged everyone eligible to get vaccinated and, if eligible, get a booster shot right away to protect against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
Widely available via appointment or drop-in sites, boosters maintain the power of vaccines to strongly protect against severe illness and death from COVID-19. Everyone should get one when eligible, but particularly those over 50 or those with significant underlying health conditions.
Get one if you are at least 16 years old and:
- 6 months have passed since your second dose of Moderna (18+)
- 6 months have passed since your second dose of Pfizer (16+)
- 2 months have passed since your Johnson & Johnson dose (18+)
Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties as well as the City of Berkeley encourage anyone eligible who needs a booster dose to get one as soon as possible.
Currently, just 30 percent of eligible Sonoma County residents have received a booster. Approximately 122,000 residents who are 50 years and over, or 57 percent of this segment of our community, have yet to get their booster shot.
The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in Sonoma County was detected Thursday by the Sonoma County Public Health Lab. The patient was fully vaccinated, had received a booster shot earlier this month and recently traveled domestically within the continental United States. The person was boosted but only very recently, and was not yet two weeks out from the final shot, a time period during which antibodies develop.
Many more cases of Omicron are expected to be reported in the coming days and weeks, and, based on the exponential growth in cases being seen in Europe, there is a significant risk of exponential growth in COVID-19 cases in our region. The United Kingdom currently has more COVID-19 cases than at any time during the 2-year pandemic. Other highly vaccinated countries that mirror the Bay Area’s high vaccination rates, such as Denmark and Norway, are predicting Omicron will become the dominant variant in a matter of days.
Evidence suggests that Omicron spreads more rapidly than other variants, and more is being learned every day. Although some evidence suggests that a lower percentage of people infected with Omicron may be hospitalized and die, if a surge causes many thousands of new cases per day, even a small percentage of that total entering our hospitals will overwhelm healthcare delivery systems.
“Even if you were fully vaccinated earlier this year, two shots are no longer enough. We know protection from the vaccines declines over time, so booster doses are critical for everyone 16 and older who was vaccinated at least 6 months ago,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s health officer. “The vaccine helps prevent infection and transmission of COVID-19. But more importantly, it significantly reduces the severity of illness if you become infected. It could save your life, and it will certainly save the lives of others in our community by slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
Local data collected over the past three months show that Sonoma County residents who are unvaccinated are 4 times more likely to become ill, 15 times more likely to become hospitalized and, as of January 2021, 13 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who have been immunized.
In addition to vaccinations and boosters, masking, testing, ventilation and distancing remain an effective multi-layered defense against COVID-19. As the holiday season is upon us, people should stay mindful of risks and take steps to decrease them.
If people must travel or gather for the holidays:
- Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate themselves and get tested as soon as possible.
- Get tested before gathering or traveling, upon return, and again 3-5 days later.
- Have everyone ages 5+ get their COVID-19 vaccine and booster if eligible.
- Take advantage of quick and easy home test kits available in pharmacies and stores.
- Wear a mask indoors and in crowded settings.
- Keep group gatherings small. Gather with close family units.
- Outside gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings.
- Be particularly cautious around elderly or immunocompromised individuals and consider COVID-19 testing before such interactions.
Parents of very young children and those who have not been vaccinated should make sure to take all advised precautions. Avoid large gatherings. Always wear a mask in indoor public settings (unless under age 2).
Vaccinations are available at no cost to the public, insurance is not required, and there are no immigration requirements. For more information, including how to receive a vaccine, visit SoCoEmergency.org/vaccine, or call 2-1-1.