Booster Shot Drive Falters in the US

Ralph Ellis

January 26, 2022

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Americans are much less accepting of booster shots than initial COVID-19 vaccinations, despite a steady flow of information showing boosters improve a person's protection against the virus, including the Omicron variant.

A poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 59% of Americans think it's important to be vaccinated to take part in public life without feeling at risk of COVID infection. But only 47% said the same thing about booster shots.

That feeling is reflected in the latest vaccination data from the CDC, which shows only 40% of all Americans and only 43.4% of Americans over 18 have gotten a booster shot. 

The initial vaccinations are much more popular, with 63.5% of the total population and 73.9% of the population over 18 being fully vaccinated.

The Associated Press reported that only about 490,000 Americans got a booster shot last week, compared to a peak of about 1 million in early December.

"It's clear that the booster effort is falling short," Jason Schwartz, PhD, a vaccine policy expert at Yale University, told the AP.

He said he thinks the booster campaign has been slowed down by public confusion. 

"I think the evidence is now overwhelming that the booster is not simply an optional supplement, but it is a foundational part of protection," Schwartz said. "But clearly that message has been lost."

Blake Hassler, 26, of Nashville said he's not getting a booster because he considers himself in a low-risk category. He got a mild dose of COVID-19 in 2020 and had two vaccine doses last year.

"At this point, we need to focus on prevention of serious illness at the onset of symptoms rather than creating a new shot every 6 weeks and more divisive mandates," he told the news outlet.

CDC: Boosters Increase Protection

The CDC says a new study of real-life medical data shows boosters provide more protection against the Delta and Omicron variants.

The study found that the two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna lost some of their effectiveness 180 days after a second dose.

For example, two doses were only 57% effective in reducing hospitalization for Omicron 6 months after the second dose. Two doses were only 38% effective in preventing emergency room visits for Omicron 6  months after a second dose.

With a booster, the effectiveness for keeping people from being hospitalized rose to 94% for Delta and 90% for Omicron, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

After a booster shot, the vaccines' effectiveness in keeping people out of the emergency room rose to 94% for Delta and 82% for Omicron.

Researchers collected information about people 18 and over from 383 emergency departments and urgent care clinics and 259 hospitals in 10 states from Aug. 26 to Jan. 5. 

"These findings underscore the importance of receiving a third dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to prevent both moderately severe and severe COVID-19, especially while the Omicron variant is the predominant circulating variant and when the effectiveness of 2 doses of mRNA vaccines is significantly reduced against this variant," the CDC said.

"All unvaccinated persons should get vaccinated as soon as possible," according to the federal agency. "All adults who have received mRNA vaccines during their primary COVID-19 vaccination series should receive a third dose when eligible, and eligible persons should stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations."


The Associated Press: "COVID-19 vaccine booster drive is faltering in the US."

CDC: "COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States," "Effectiveness of a Third Dose of mRNA Vaccines Against COVID-19–Associated Emergency Department and Urgent Care Encounters and Hospitalizations Among Adults During Periods of Delta and Omicron Variant Predominance — VISION Network, 10 States, August 2021-January 2022."


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