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With holiday season ahead, COVID-19 climbs back to early August levels in Fairfax County

An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

Booster COVID-19 shots are now available to all adults in the U.S. — just in time for what promises to be a busy holiday season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded eligibility for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone 18 and older early Friday night (Nov. 19), encouraging people to get the added protection before they gather for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

People 65 and older and those at higher risk of infection due to their job or other factors have been able to get boosters since September. The CDC’s move adds approximately 2.2 million Virginians to that pool of eligibility, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“These vaccines are incredibly safe and effective, but no vaccine prevents 100 percent of illness,” Virginia State Vaccination Liaison Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement. “All vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time, and the data show a tangible benefit to people when they receive a vaccine booster.”

In Fairfax County, all vaccines, including booster shots, are available by appointment at the local health department, the Tysons Community Vaccination Center, and various community sites, which can be located through vaccines.gov.

The Fairfax County Health Department notes that Pfizer and Moderna’s boosters should be administered at least six months after the main two-dose regimen, and people don’t have to get the same brand as their original vaccination.

Coupled with the recent rollout of pediatric vaccines, the push for more booster shots comes at a critical time as the weather cools, and millions of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving on Thursday (Nov. 25), spurring the busiest travel period of the pandemic.

While the availability of vaccinations suggest COVID-19 infections are unlikely to reach the heights seen last winter, cases have already started to rise again in Fairfax County after more than a month of decline.

“As more people spend time indoors and as people get together for the holidays, the risk of spreading COVID-19 is higher,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Ben Schwartz said. “Rates of COVID-19 infection in Fairfax County have actually increased again during the past two weeks emphasizing the importance of vaccination, booster doses, and maintaining other measures to prevent infection.”

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Nov. 22, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 22, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

With 115 cases added today (Monday), the county now has a weekly average of 123.4 new daily cases, just shy of the 125.1 cases it was averaging on Aug. 11 in the middle of the Delta variant surge. For comparison, though, the county had a weekly average of 273.3 cases on Nov. 22, 2020.

The level of community transmission has returned to substantial after dropping to moderate just two weeks ago, according to VDH data. The county saw 72 new cases per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate of 3.3% for the week of Nov. 14-20.

In total, the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has reported 95,798 COVID-19 cases, 4,385 hospitalizations, and 1,225 deaths, including six in the past week.

While COVID-19 cases are trending upwards, so too are vaccinations in the Fairfax Health District, which has seen 1.7 million doses of vaccine administered, FCHD data shows.

867,103 residents — 73.3% of the district’s population — have received at least one dose, including 84.3% of people 18 and older, 86.7% of adolescents aged 12-17, and 21.6% of children between the ages of 5 and 11.

769,721 residents, or 65% of the population, are fully vaccinated, having gotten two Pfizer or Moderna doses or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That includes 77.1% of adults.

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 booster doses administered by age group as of Nov. 22, 2021 (via Fairfax County Health Department)

The popularity of booster shots generally increases with age, with more than 40,000 doses going to people in the 65-74 age group. In terms of percentages, the lead goes to people who are 75 to 84 years old, nearly 47.5% of whom have gotten a booster shot.

In addition to recommending that parents get their children vaccinated, Schwartz urged all community members “to remain vigilant and keep up health and safety measures,” such as wearing masks in public indoor spaces, washing their hands, and staying home when sick.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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