MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The FDA gave its approval Thursday for booster shots for older teenagers, authorizing booster shots for almost 4 million 16- and 17-year-olds to help slow the spread of COVID, new variants and reduce hospitalizations.

With the Delta variant increasing COVID hospitalizations and the Omicron variant looming, there’s a new sense of urgency to take steps to protect as many people as possible.

Now, the push is on to get as many people in Memphis and nationwide to get booster shots.

“So, what we really need to be doing is paying attention and everyone who hasn’t had their booster, go get your booster and, if you haven’t been vaccinated, go get vaccinated,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, city councilman and member of the COVID-19 task force. “I think if we do that we’ll be able to keep our businesses open and function.”

Only 26 percent of eligible Americans have gotten the booster so far. Just over 24 percent of those who can get the vaccine haven’t gotten a single dose.
           
It’s believed that adding teens could help lagging booster shot rates.

Pfizer says its additional booster shot increases protection 25-fold against the new variant.

“Specifically, if it’s been six months or more with a Pfizer or Merck product, you need to consider getting a booster shot particularly if you’re at high risk,” said Tennessee’s health commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says unless we double down on vaccinations, we could see an increased spike in cases in December and January.

For now, it is the Delta variant that’s causing the most infections, but the new Omicron variant is also a threat many health experts hope to slowdown if more people get vaccinated.

“Right now with Omicron we know we know it’s much more infectious by factor of at least two or three over the Delta. So, that means when this hits town, we’re going to see a lot of people infected quickly,” Warren said.

Four states — Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine — are currently seeing record hospitalizations compared to any point during the pandemic.