RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The boom in COVID-19 booster shots across North Carolina may be going bust.
The number of booster doses given each week has dropped steadily since late December, according to a CBS17.com analysis of state Department of Health and Human Services data.
“I do think that the booster push is running out of steam a little bit,” said Dr. Emily O’Brien, an epidemiologist at the Duke Clinical Research Institute.
It wasn’t long ago that boosters were booming in North Carolina, making up about two-thirds of all the doses given during the first week NCDHHS disclosed those totals.
Nearly 200,000 booster doses were given during the week ending Dec. 31. That total has gone down every week since then, with just over 97,000 going out last week.
That trend is on pace to continue this week, with only about 70,000 going out so far.
The quick drop mirrors what’s happening nationally, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying the average number of shots given per day has dropped to about half of what it was at the peak in early December.
But why? O’Brien points to a few reasons. Chiefly, people who wanted booster shots have probably already gotten them by now.
And health officials pushed for boosters as the best way to stay safe from the omicron variant. It’s possible that surge may have peaked already in North Carolina and across the nation.
“People who were very eager to receive the vaccine, very eager to get boosted, did that early on,” O’Brien said. “And over time, it slowed down a little bit. This is also happening in parallel with declines in case rates following peaks in some of the cities and regions that saw really major surges with omicron.
“And so I think there’s probably also a perception that we may be moving past this peak,” she added. “And so the urgency to go get boosted right away has diminished a bit for sure.”
Boosters are also making up a smaller share of the total number of shots given in North Carolina each day.
They accounted for at least 70 percent of daily total every day from Dec. 14 through Jan. 11, after which that percentage dropped into the 60s. Just 59 percent of the shots added to the NCDHHS total Wednesday were boosters.
That share was just 19 percent Thursday — but there’s a logical reason for that: NCDHHS says it added more than 100,000 previously given first and second doses from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
NCDHHS says 49 percent of adults in the state, and 46 percent of the entire population of 10.4 million, have received a booster dose.
The drop-off looks much like the ones that have appeared every time the initial vaccine series opened up to a different group of people — from the group system during the rollout last spring, to the approval for both 12-to-17-year-olds last May and for younger children in the fall.
North Carolina’s overall vaccination percentages have also been in neutral: The rate of adults with at least one dose jumped by a point to 75 percent Thursday, buoyed by those additions to the running totals after being stuck at 74 percent for nearly a full month.
How do public health leaders speed the pace back up? O’Brien wonders if revisiting the vaccination incentives from Summer 2021 would help. But she doubts that booster mandates would be effective.
“I think it just sort of reflects broader, you might call, complacency,” she said. “You might call it acceptance of COVID being here to stay. So, certainly, it’s a mindset shift that I think a lot of people are going through.”
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.