Grand Strand, Pee Dee officials push for booster shots amid holidays, Omicron concerns


MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Leaders from the federal level, all the way to the local level are encouraging COVID-19 booster shots.

That’s as scientists closely watch the new Omicron variant out of South Africa.

Leaders at Tidelands Health say they hope demand for the booster shots increases.

“Science tells us that a booster dose has a substantial increase in your antibody level,” VP of Medical Affairs for the hospital Dr. Gerald Harmon said. “Hence your resistance to being infected with the COVID virus.”

Tidelands Health has administered more than 100,000 single doses of the COVID vaccine since the beginning of the rollout. According to the latest information from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, there have been nearly 500,000 third doses administered in the state. That figure includes both booster shots and third doses for people who are immunocompromised. DHEC could not provide specific figures on a county level for third doses.

Harmon said booster shots are a good idea amid the holidays and new concerns about the Omicron variant.

“The U.S. does not currently have the Omicron in it,” Dr. Harmon said. “But we’re hoping that any variants, the Omicron or the Delta or any new variants, would be protected being fully vaccinated and or getting booster dose.”

Right now, everyone 18 or older can get a booster. You can get one six months after the final Moderna or Pfizer dose, and two months after the J&J vaccine. President Biden urged people to get a booster during a news conference on Monday. DHEC also encouraged boosters, as it closely monitors the new variant.

“I think there’s been some confusion or lack of clarity rather in terms of when someone needs to get their booster shot,” Florence City Councilman George Jebaily said.

Jebaily said health care leaders and Pee Dee officials have been working together to get the word out about the booster to the public.

“The city of Florence, Florence County, we’re working together in a combined effort to get the messaging out there,” Jebaily said. “If it’s been six months since you’ve had your vaccine, please, it’s time for you to go get your booster.”

DHEC monitors for variants like Omicron during its random sequencing of positive samples. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not identified any cases here.

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