RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — We’re seeing a boom in COVID-19 booster shots across the state.

Nearly 40 percent of North Carolinians who can get a booster have already gotten one.

In the week since the state Department of Health and Human Services began posting its count of booster doses, they’ve made up about two-thirds of the total number of vaccine doses given.

And of the over 86,000 total doses added to the NCDHHS total Friday, more than 63,000 of them were boosters.

(Source: NCDHHS)

“We’re certainly seeing a lot of demand for boosters, which is great,” said Dr. Erica Pettigrew, a family practice physician and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “People have enthusiasm, they understand that it’s important to get boosted.”

And while state leaders point to the threat of the omicron variant as a reason to get boosted, Pettigrew says the primary motivation is simpler.

“I think that people really just want this pandemic to end and so are willing to do what needs to be done to get us there,” she said.

About 4.6 million people across the state are eligible to get a booster — they either had their second dose of a two-shot vaccine on or before June 3, or had the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or before Oct. 3.

Of them, about 1.6 million have already gotten that booster — leaving about 2.6 million who have not.

President Joe Biden says he wants every American who can get a booster — in all, about 100 million — to get one.

(Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found roughly 4 in 5 fully vaccinated adults saying they probably would get a booster, if they hadn’t already done so.

Which makes sense.

“Those people who have already been vaccinated are at higher interest, higher likelihood to go back to the booster,” said Dr. Meira Epplein, an epidemiologist and professor at the Duke University School of Medicine. “So I absolutely think it’s possible.”

Leaders — from Biden to Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen — are using omicron as a reason to push people to get boosted. Cohen earlier this week said that with “this potential of a new variant approaching, you should not put off getting your booster.”

But why? When we don’t know how effective the vaccines will be against it?

While freely acknowledging the level of effectiveness is not fully known yet, the best answer might be a sports metaphor: At this point, vaccines and booster shots shape up as the best play in the playbook that gives you the highest chances of scoring.

“What we really need is for people to protect themselves with all the tools we have,” Pettigrew said.

One thing that concerns Pettigrew, though: That the focus on boosters could overshadow the push to get the first shots to the people who are still unvaccinated.

“I do want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the importance of anybody who has not yet gotten their first shot, to go ahead and get it,” she said. “Because those are the people who really have no protection and may end up in the hospital, ICU or even worse. 

“And so that’s where we’re still focusing in public health is, how to get to those 25 percent in certain counties, and a lot higher in other counties,” she added.


CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.