'It's pretty confusing': Doctors, pharmacists clear up COVID-19 vaccine confusion

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee County crossed over into the high category of community spread for COVID-19, according to CDC metrics.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 1,750 new cases on Thursday, July 14, bringing the 7-day average to 1,556 cases.

Medical Director for Infection Prevention at UW Health Dr. Dan Shirley told CBS 58 BA.5, a subvariant of omicron, seems to be the dominant strain.

"It has a little bit better capacity to overcome our immunity," Shirley said.

As cases and hospitalizations rise, doctors are encouraging people to review their vaccination status.

"Either to get their first dose ever or to get the booster," Dr. Hashim Zaibak said.

For the past two years, the owner of Hayat Pharmacy has stayed up-to-date with the latest CDC COVID-19 vaccine recommendations so his customers don't have to.

"It's pretty confusing," Zaibak said. "It's not easy for the average person to know all these details, and that's why you just come to the pharmacy and ask."

Current CDC recommendations allow for nearly everyone, six months and older, to get vaccinated. People older than five can get a booster. People 50 years or older and those who are immunocompromised are encouraged to get two boosters.

"If it's been four months since they got their first booster, they need to come now and get their second booster," Zaibak said.

Pharmaceutical companies are working on vaccines that better prevent infection from Omicron and its subvariants, but experts said the timeline of when it will hit the shelves is unpredictable.

Shirley said people who are eligible now should get boosted now.

"I think sooner the better is the answer, and not waiting for sort of more specific boosters," Shirley said.

While the new wave of BA.5 can make it feel like things are moving backwards, Zaibak is confident this is the right road out of the pandemic.

"We're definitely, definitely in a better position today versus where we were a year ago," Zaibak said.

Both Zaibak and Shirley expect recommendations to continue to change as the case load goes up and down.

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