There are new coronavirus variants bringing more illnesses and cases. Will the U.S have to administer booster shots for the general population?
by Sriya Gundlapally
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues past the one-year mark, people are concerned with vaccinations and their effectiveness. Uncertainty rises with the idea of “breakthrough” cases, where vaccinated people are still affected by the virus, even though this only occurred with about 0.08 percent of vaccinated people according to NBC news. However, the majority of severe COVID cases correlate with being unvaccinated, which means that the vaccines are proven to work.
Booster shots are added into the mix since this is one way through which people can be safer in public areas with several people aside from having to wear a mask. The CDC and FDA are now allowing for immunocompromised people to receive a booster shot.
And that’s where the Trilemma lies. Should the government expand booster shot availability to the general public or wait until everyone has at least had their round of vaccinations? If we give booster shots now, there is the need for more supply of vaccinations to be available for unvaccinated people and other countries with a severe need.
The Booster Shots Should Be Given:
Booster shots would allow for extra safety, especially for those who need it, including Albert Bourla, the chairman for Pfizer, who has data saying that the booster vaccine is allowing for a higher antibody response than just having the one or two-dose schedules. Due to this boosted response, it is beneficial for Americans to have access to this option as necessary. Furthermore, the Biden Administration has had discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about plans for how to roll out the booster shots to everyone. This process may begin in September with vulnerable populations and healthcare professionals, just as the actual vaccination was administered back in 2020.
Much more recently, there is the delta variant spreading through the US population, bringing the COVID-19 cases to over 150,000 new cases per week. Because of these, the need for masks, social distancing, and recent vaccines is growing.
The Booster Shots Can Wait:
On the other hand, people such as Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, are looking to wait for more evidence that the vaccines are becoming ineffective. If the vaccines are already given are proving to be ineffective, then there is more of a demonstrated need for booster shots. Through this method, it would be more economical to give booster shots. However, this would entail seeing surges in breakthrough infections and deaths rather than unvaccinated cases. Since such data has not been thoroughly investigated and revealed, there is still hesitation on whether booster shots for everyone is an efficient choice. For one, there are still several people unable or unwilling to get vaccinated. According to the Washington Post, only about 49 percent of all Americans in the U.S are fully vaccinated.
The thought of booster shots being necessary was furthered when information about how people vaccinated earlier in Israel were getting more infected than those who recently took their doses reached the U.S, according to a Times article. However, this was found to not be because of the dwindling immunity from the vaccine. Rather, there is the possibility that the earlier group started taking more risks, as it was found that they were more affluent in society. Though there is not much clear research on this topic yet, one thing is for sure: the pandemic is continuing to affect peoples’ lives.
Booster shots being made available to everyone depends upon two main factors: one, that there is a noticeable need, and two, that there are enough supplies available to still give the minimum doses to those who need it. The immunocompromised populations, including the elderly, will definitely need attention. Therefore, it is a good idea that the CDC has arranged for this to happen. However, as more and more people are returning to pre-pandemic lifestyles and the Delta variant spreads rapidly, there is a desire for booster shots. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly one million people already took a third dose through other means, such as faking vaccine records, according to a WebMD article.
There is a current need for recovery from the coronavirus even in the U.S, a highly developed country with a fully-funded healthcare system. If our present situation continues or, even worse, is exacerbated, new variants like the Delta variant will continue to be a factor affecting the lives of many families.