SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Dr. Stephen Thacker, of Memorial Health, says Chatham County has essentially made it through the delta variant surge.

He says that’s thanks, in part, to local vaccination efforts and safety measures — but the county is still not where it needs to be when it comes to vaccine rates.

“Fifty percent is a great milestone to be proud of for our community. We’re certainly, though, lagging behind where I think many in public health and health care providers in our region would want us to be,” says Dr. Thacker. “A goal closer to 75 percent or higher certainly would be our target.”

Dr. Thacker says booster shots are part of the continued fight against COVID-19.

A National Institutes of Health study on “mixing and matching” vaccines was released yesterday and found the approach to be safe and effective. It hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, but Dr. Thacker says he’s optimistic about the results.

“What’s been made available so far suggests that if I’m someone who had a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I can significantly increase the amount of protective antibody if I get a booster shot with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when they compare it to a booster shot with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

Regardless of this information, Dr. Thacker says if you’re not vaccinated yet, you should get whichever vaccine is available. He says the main goal is to prevent severe illness, which they are all effective at.

“The reason we need to keep talking about variants is because we have too many people that are unvaccinated that allow this virus to move from one person to another and create that risk of creating a new version or new variant that’s more infectious and potentially more harmful,” explains Dr. Thacker.

With flu season beginning and the holidays coming up, Dr. Thacker says it’s important to maintain COVID safety measures.

“I think we’re done with this resurgence,” he says. “My next point in time where I think there may be challenges to some of our local health systems are going to probably be in early December and throughout the months of December and January.”

Dr. Thacker says frequent hand washing, masking, social distancing when possible and getting vaccinated if you are eligible can help protect you and your community.