This deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that what happens in Europe tends not to stay in Europe.

Rising infections there often serve as an advance warning of another COVID-19 surge in the United States. Unfortunately, the still-evolving virus is once again spreading on the other side of the Atlantic, with sharp case increases reported in Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain.

Pandemic fatigue is no excuse not to prepare for rising cases here. One of the most important steps to take is getting a COVID-19 booster if you haven’t already. The number of people who haven’t yet done so is alarming.

It’s critical to get a booster before another surge happens. Doing so protects your health and will help prevent another wave of hospitalizations from overwhelming an already-exhausted health care workforce.

The booster is generally recommended for those ages 12 and up who completed the primary two-shot Pfizer series. It’s also recommended for adults ages 18 and older who have already received two shots of the Moderna vaccination or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

About 30 percent of the U.S. population (and 43 percent of the Maine population) has received a COVID-19 booster, according to The New York Times COVID tracker. Minnesotans, thankfully, are doing better than the national average, data from the state Department of Health show.


About 49 percent of the state’s total population is considered “up to date” on COVID-19 vaccines, a definition that means they’ve received all doses (including boosters) recommended by health officials. Beating the national booster shot average by 20 percentage points is commendable. But clearly, that still leaves much room for improvement.

A deeper dive into state statistics offers more clarity on who still needs to step up for the shot. An impressive 82 percent of Minnesotans age 65 and older are considered “up to date” on COVID-19 vaccines. But that figure drops to 56 percent for those ages 50-64, with the decline continuing in younger groups.

Just 40 percent of Minnesotans ages 18-49 have all recommended COVID-19 shots. Only 31 percent of those ages 16 and 17 do. The number is even lower for those ages 12-15: 26 percent.

Context is important in considering these percentages. Mandated protections against COVID-19 have largely ebbed. Instead, there’s a reliance on individuals to take responsibility – staying home if sick, for example, or masking voluntarily in areas where transmission is increasing.

Against this backdrop, vaccination remains vitally important. The shots remain one of medicine’s most potent weapons against COVID-19, but their effectiveness can wane over time. Timely boosters counter that, even when new, more transmissible variants are circulating, as a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.

“In January 2022, unvaccinated adults and those vaccinated with a primary series, but no booster or additional dose, were 12 and three times as likely to be hospitalized, respectively, as were adults who received booster or additional doses,” the March 18 report concluded.

For those who have already gotten a booster, thanks are in order as well as a reminder to be patient. Federal officials are considering whether an additional booster is warranted for some or all who’ve already taken this conscientious step.

Hopefully, the European surge won’t translate to one in the United States. But there are no guarantees with a wily, still dangerous virus that has claimed close to 1 million American lives. If you’ve neglected getting a booster, now’s the time to do so. It’s the responsible thing to do.

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