COVID-19 boosters fight virus variants

By Jennifer Dunlay

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, so do the number of virus variants providing a much larger serving of Greek alphabet soup than any of us would like.

Whether it’s Alpha, Delta or Omicron that we are trying to fight off, the prevention measures are all the same: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask, distance when possible, wash hands and get tested for COVID-19 if you’re experiencing signs of illness.

“We must continue to practice all the mitigation measures if we want to limit the spread of the virus in our community,” says Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The emergence of the Omicron variant in November caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen its recommendation for booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone age 16 and older either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after the initial J&J vaccine.

Studies show after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time. The CDC says data from clinical trials showed that a booster shot increased a person’s immune response.

According to Areola, it’s especially important for those who are over age 65 and those who are immunocompromised to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get their booster shot as soon as possible, as these individuals are most at risk for severe complications, hospitalization and death after being infected with the virus.

Areola says that as people spend more time indoors during the colder months, the virus spreads easier, which is why he recommends people continue to wear masks in indoor public places, like grocery stores, shopping malls and sporting events. Regular handwashing, avoiding crowds and places with poor ventilation and staying home when sick will also help to stop the spread of the virus.

If you do become ill, Areola says to get tested for COVID-19. Testing can give you information about your risk of spreading COVID-19 and is the only way health officials will know what variants are spreading in the community. Tests are free and widely available at pharmacies, healthcare provider offices and at JCDHE’s Olathe drive-thru clinic by appointment. Visit to find a testing site near you.

Areola says older adults should make sure they get a flu shot too as flu activity typically increases right after the holidays through February. The flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine can be given safely at the same time.

For more information about COVID-19 or to schedule a vaccination or test, visit or call 913-715-2819, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Jennifer Dunlay is risk communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but is subject to change as new data become available.