Florida has one of the worst updated COVID-19 refreshment rates in the country * Florida

Florida has the 4thth the lowest rate in the country for adults receiving the updated COVID-19 booster shot, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prices for children and young people are also well below the national average. Some health experts say that’s a concern, especially as the holidays near.

As of Nov. 16, just over 20% of Florida seniors had received a bivalent booster shot from Pfizer or Moderna, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved in late August.

Almost 30% of the entire US population has received one, and only Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have lower rates than Florida. Georgia narrowly eclipses the state but is essentially level with it.

The term “bivalent” refers to the fact that these vaccines target both the original coronavirus variant and the Omicron variant, which caused a surge in hospitalizations and deaths last winter and continues to circulate in different strains.

Seniors, who are most vulnerable to severe COVID-19, are most likely to benefit from the updated protection, which is why Florida’s low rates worry Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health.

“We haven’t convinced enough people yet that it’s worth going out and getting that booster shot to protect not only themselves but the people they’ll be interacting with around the holiday season,” he said.

The state also ranks in the bottom five for working-age adults, with about 4.5% having received the updated vaccination, compared to 9% nationally.

Salemi suspects part of the low uptake has to do with some state officials expressing skepticism about the vaccines. Other people may be waiting because they had a recent infection or a previous booster shot.

Salemi says if it’s been more than two months people should get the new shot, and that goes for children too.

Only 1.5% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have received the booster shot in Florida, compared to just 0.5% of children between the ages of 5 and 11. COVID vaccination rates are generally low for younger children in the state.

Infectious disease doctor Linette Sande of Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando says now is the time to change that.

“We really want families to enjoy the holidays,” she said. “The last thing we want is for people to get sick just before the trip and even if you’re not traveling on holiday but have family visiting , parents, grandparents, young children – we really don’t want COVID to get caught up in disseminated at these events.

For parents wondering if they can start their kids on the updated booster, Sande says everyone needs to complete the primary series first. She says these shots are still safe and effective in preventing serious illnesses.

Sande is also encouraging families to get flu vaccines as they are currently spreading in the community along with the respiratory virus known as RSV.

There’s no RSV vaccine available yet, so Sande says washing hands and keeping surfaces clean and avoiding contact with sick people will be important to prevent the spread of all of these viruses this holiday season.