Booster shots are instrumental in protecting against Omicron, new C.D.C. data suggest.


By Apoorva Mandavilli

Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines aren’t just preventing infections with the contagious Omicron variant — they’re also keeping infected Americans from ending up in the hospital, according to data published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The extra doses are 90 percent effective against hospitalization with the variant, the agency reported. Booster shots also reduced the likelihood of a visit to an emergency department or urgent care clinic. The extra doses were most effective against infection and death among Americans aged 50 and older, the data showed.

Over all, the new data show that the vaccines were more protective against the Delta variant than against Omicron, which lab studies have found is partially able to sidestep the body’s immune response.

It is generally accepted that booster shots keep people from becoming infected, at least for a while. Data from Israel and other countries have also suggested that boosters can help prevent severe illness and hospitalization, especially in older adults.

“Data from other countries have also shown significant benefit of getting the booster, but this is really showing it in the U.S.,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, said of the figures released on Friday. “These numbers should be very convincing.”

On Thursday night, the C.D.C. published additional data showing that in December, unvaccinated Americans 50 years and older were about 45 times more likely to be hospitalized than those were vaccinated and got a third shot.

Yet less than 40 percent of fully vaccinated Americans who are eligible for a booster shot have received one.

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