Do the Vaccines Still Work?

Oregon fishing boats tied to the dock.
Don't let COVID-19 keep you tied to the dock!

You are no doubt aware that the new Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has spread rapidly from South Africa, through Europe, and into the United States over the past five weeks. The news has been practically unavoidable.

Omicron is even more highly transmissible than the Delta variant and is now the dominant variant in the US. It has also evolved mutations that allow it to evade the protections against infection provided by COVID-19 vaccines.

Now that Christmas Day has passed and the new year is almost upon us, many commercial fishermen will be getting back to work shortly. Unless, they're sick with COVID-19, in which case the boat may stay tied to the dock.

So, with this new Omicron variant going around, is it still worth getting vaccinated or boosted? Absolutely!

The latest CDC data show that people who are unvaccinated are becoming infected at a rate of 450 per 100,000 population. The vaccinated are getting infected at a rate of about 133 per 100,000 population. If you are fully vaccinated with a booster, the rate of infection drops to 48 per 100,000 population.

Now that's as of November 20 and Omicron cases have exploded since then. We may well see the rate of infection for those who are vaccinated go up. However, full vaccination continues to offer significant protections from serious disease and hospitalization. Moreover, a new study out of the UK demonstrates that a booster restores protection against infection to 70% to 75% effectiveness, even against the Omicron variant. So, perhaps the case rate for two shots, plus a booster will stay about the same. We'll know more when the data is updated after the holidays.

If you have already had a COVID infection, you really want to get vaccinated, too. First off, a recent study from South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, shows that people with a previous COVID infection are being infected at 2.4x the re-infection rate of previous waves. The protections offered by infection-induced immunity are highly variable compared to vaccine-induced immunity. But, there is evidence that post-infection vaccination results in even stronger immunity to infection and disease than prior infection or vaccination alone.

Vaccination has been a game-changer when it comes to COVID-19. However, as we've seen with the Delta variant and now Omicron, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can rapidly adapt to changes in the immunity of its host population. However, the science continues to show that vaccination is still your most important tool, when it comes to staying healthy and fishing. Use our Vaccine Finder to locate a vaccination or booster near you, so that you can Catch Fish. Not COVID.