116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As their hospitals experience a concerning increase in COVID-19 admissions, officials with both Cedar Rapids hospitals are urging all vaccinated residents to get their COVID-19 booster shots.
Top medical officers at Mercy Medical Center and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital say an increase in the number of people with boosted immune systems would help reverse the rising trend of COVID-19 hospital admissions locally.
The hospitals’ joint statement comes as hospitalizations as a result of the virus statewide are at the highest level since last December, according to the state’s latest coronavirus data.
“We clearly noticed an initial benefit once the booster shot became available,” said Dr. Tony Myers, chief medical officer at Mercy. “The booster is highly effective in keeping people out of the hospital and reducing their chances of having severe illness. We are strongly urging people to get the booster.”
Booster shots are recommended to anyone 18 and older six months after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, and two months after the single Johnson & Johnson dose.
“With the holidays fast approaching, this is a critical point in time for individuals to boost their defenses against COVID-19,” said Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer at St. Luke’s.
Booster shots are available at hospital-affiliated clinics as well as pharmacies that offer the COVID-19 vaccine. To find an appointment, visit vaccinate.iowa.gov.
In mid-November, federal health officials expanded eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to include all Americans, an adjustment from previous guidance that only certain at-risk adults should receive the extra dose.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration also authorized booster shots of Pfizer’s vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, a move that was endorsed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Local hospitals began administering booster shots to qualified individuals in late September, officials said.
So far, around 47 million people in the United States have received a booster shot, according to the CDC. As of Wednesday, 619,459 booster shots have been administered in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The majority of recent COVID-19 admissions at Cedar Rapids hospitals are those who are unvaccinated, medical officials say.
As of Thursday, Mercy has 32 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19. Of those, 27 are unvaccinated and five are vaccinated — but only one received the booster shot.
St. Luke’s has 49 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 12 who are vaccinated. Three of those patients received the booster shot.
“People who have received the booster shot do not appear to be having the breakthrough infections requiring hospitalization we are seeing with those who are not boosted,” Arnold said.
St. Luke’s and Mercy officials say they continue to have measures in place to preserve capacity and keep the public safe, including limits on visitors, screening at entrances and mask requirements.
Both hospitals have plans in place to allow for expanded capacity. Arnold previously told The Gazette he anticipates the current surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations will continue.
“I think it’s going to be like this all winter,” Arnold said.
In addition to getting vaccinated and receiving a booster shot, hospital officials are asking the public to “continue to take measures to protect the community and health care workers.” That includes wearing a mask in group settings with individuals who are unvaccinated, social distancing, staying home when sick and getting a flu shot.
Both hospitals still are open and ready to provide care, officials say, and urge people not to wait in the event of a medical emergency. For non-urgent needs, walk-in clinics and primary care clinics are safe and open, they said.
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