The Booster Question – The New York Times
As the Delta variant continues to spread – and groundbreaking infections occur among those vaccinated – momentum is building in some wealthy countries to give additional doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to some fully vaccinated people.
Germany, following Israel’s lead, said this week it would start offering booster shots to some high-risk citizens. France, Russia and Hungary are doing the same. Britain has already purchased an additional 60 million doses of Pfizer vaccine in case vulnerable people need a third injection this fall.
At the same time, billions of people around the world are still waiting for their first dose.
Do we need reminders? Here are some answers, with help from Apoorva Mandavilli of The Times, who covered the pandemic.
The question of immunity
Scientists disagree on whether we need boosters.
For now, the United States is not following the lead of these countries. Instead, it is said that for people who are fully vaccinated, an additional dose is not necessary. Not yet anyway.
Most studies indicate that the immunity of mRNA vaccines, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, is long lasting. Recent data from Israel suggested a decline in the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine against infection after a few months. “I would go tomorrow to get the third shot,” Dr. Gary Simon, an infectious disease expert from George Washington University, told The Atlantic last week.
But the effectiveness of preventing serious illness has remained extremely high, according to the data.
Preventing infections is not the main goal of vaccines, says Apoorva, although they also protect against this. “They were designed to prevent hospitalizations and deaths,” she says, “and they do it very well. “
At the moment, Apoorva told me, the only people who seem to need additional vaccines are those who are immunocompromised. In the United States, this represents 3 to 5 percent of the population, some of whom will not produce a strong immune response from a vaccine.
“They are not fully protected at the moment,” says Apoorva. A third hit might give them the immunity most people get from two hits.
Many scientists believe vaccines should be given to unvaccinated people in poor countries first – including healthcare workers and the elderly – rather than giving boosters to people who are not at risk of getting very sick. . Sending snapshots abroad has humanitarian benefits, says Apoorva, but also scientific ones: if fewer people in the world contract the virus, it makes it more difficult for new variants to evolve.
What the United States is doing
The government, too, is not quite sure about the issue.
Last month, Dr Anthony Fauci said people did not need boosters yet, given that more than 90% of people hospitalized with Covid were not vaccinated.
But officials in the Biden administration increasingly believe that certain vulnerable populations (such as people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems) are likely to need additional doses.
The administration has already purchased enough vaccine to administer the third doses of Pfizer and Moderna if needed, Sharon LaFraniere of The Times reported. He also sent almost 112 million shots to other countries.
A push towards boosters
Pfizer, which is a for-profit company, has made its own case for the booster shots. Last month, the company reported that the potency of its two-dose vaccine wanes slightly over time, but continues to provide long-lasting protection against serious illness. “It’s in their best interests to say that the third doses are needed,” says Apoorva.
It is also more profitable to sell vaccine doses to countries like the United States, which pay more money for injections than poorer countries could. Pfizer and Moderna recently raised the price of their vaccines under new contracts with the EU
There is also anecdotal evidence of people getting a third injection in the United States, although the government does not recommend it at this time. (A San Francisco hospital is offering an additional injection to residents who have received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.)
“I see it all the time on social media: people say, ‘I was worried so I just went to CVS and got a third dose,’ Apoorva told me. But, she added, at the moment it is not necessary – so far “the evidence tells us it is not necessary”.
We will continue to monitor questions about booster injections, and if anything changes, we will keep you updated in a future newsletter.
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