Slow Uptake of Bivalent COVID Booster
Three weeks in, only 4.4 million Americans have gotten the shot.
Reuters (“U.S. rollout of new COVID boosters off to slow start“):
Updated COVID-19 boosters have gone into 4.4 million arms in the United States since a new revaccination campaign began three weeks ago, government data shows, a slower pace for the shots targeting the Omicron variant of the coronavirus than the rollout of the first boosters last year.
Last year, when the United States initially authorized COVID boosters just for older and immunocompromised people, nearly 10 million received their third shot in the first three weeks.
The latest data, released late on Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), did show increased interest in the Omicron shots over demand for the older boosters during the previous three weeks.
In those three weeks, about 930,000 people received booster shots of the old vaccines available to those aged 50 and older or at risk for severe disease, according to CDC data.
I got mine Thursday morning, along with a first round of Shingrix. Oddly, while I had mild flu-like symptoms roughly 26 hours after my second dose of Moderna last March and my Moderna booster last November, I had no side effects from the Moderna bivalent. The Shingrix sent me to bed shivering uncontrollably at about the 10-hour mark.
As I’ve noted before, even though I’m over 50, I did not get the authorized second booster of the original vaccine, judging the side effects worse than the minimal gain. I’d have probably gone ahead and gotten it at the one-year mark, along with a flu shot, if the bivalent hadn’t come out. I figured that targeted protection against the newer variants was worth risking side effects.
Regardless, I can certainly see why people would be reluctant to get boosted if they’re not in a high-risk category. Shots kind of suck and the benefits of the vaccine are considerably less than initially hoped. Combined with a sense, communicated even by President Biden, that the pandemic is over there’s just not much urgency.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said he expects demand for the updated shots to be low, “as has been the case with boosters from the very beginning.”
“I think that stems from kind of the poor messaging in the way this booster campaign and prior booster campaigns have been managed, as political issues rather than focusing on where boosters are going to beneficial,” he said.
That focus should be on high-risk populations and those aged 65 and over, Adalja added.
The politicization of the virus, most notably by former President Trump and other Republican leaders but to some extent by public health officials as well, has considerably lowered the public’s trust in messaging on this. I agree that high-risk patients should be highly encouraged to get boosted (and flu shots!). Otherwise, it makes sense to me to communicate the benefits of the bivalent dose and let those who want it get it. I’ll likely get my kids boosted soon.