Virus Experts Just Gave This New Warning to Fully Vaccinated People
This is emerging as a big problem in the U.S., and there could be major consequences.
Over the last week, states across the U.S. have started loosening COVID restrictions in response to a rapidly improving COVID situation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new coronavirus cases have dropped by 42.8 percent in the last week, while new virus-related hospitalizations are down by 35.4 percent. But while mask requirements are ending and vaccine mandates are being removed in certain places, the federal government and the CDC have not yet given their blessing on the end of COVID precautions. As we've seen time and again throughout the pandemic, the end of one variant's surge does not mean that another is not on its way. Both the agency and other virus experts have recently warned that even fully vaccinated people are not in the clear.
On Feb. 14, Eric Topol, MD, a public health expert who works with the nonprofit Scripps Research, told ABC-affiliate The Denver Channel that there is an emerging booster problem in the U.S. among vaccinated individuals. According to the virus expert, the number of fully vaccinated people in the country following through with their booster shot is "woefully low."
The CDC's latest data shows that more than 53 percent of people eligible for an additional shot have not yet received it. And as of Feb, 10, the number of administered vaccine doses in the U.S. from one week to the next had fallen by 19.3 percent. "The boosting problem is a very serious issue," Topol said.
The virus expert said that while the number of unvaccinated people in the U.S. has been an ongoing problem, it is becoming clearer and clearer as the weeks go by that many fully vaccinated people are now opting not to get a booster shot despite a strong push from health experts.
A CDC study of nearly 300 hospitals and 400 emergency departments from Aug. 2021 to early Jan. 2022 found that a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine reduced the odds of a visit by 82 percent during Omicron's spread. In comparison, the effectiveness of two shots of either vaccine during this timeframe fell to just 38 percent six months after the second dose.
"The vaccines hold up really well and then lose their effectiveness," Topol explained. "It's a three-shot vaccine and we should be classifying it as such."
Without more people getting optimally protected with booster shots, Topol said it's possible that another variant could emerge in the coming months and ruin any progress that has been made in the U.S. "We are set up for trouble," he warned.
Some experts say much of the problem lies within the confusing debate over the need for boosters that took up much of the latter half of 2021. The rollout was rocky to say the least, with government agencies only recommending additional doses to certain people at first after months of back-and-forth, and then widening eligibility requirements as the arrival or Omicron and additional evidence on falling immunity showed the need for boosters, ABC News reported.
"It's clear that the booster effort is falling short … I think the evidence is now overwhelming that the booster is not simply an optional supplement, but it is a foundational part of protection," Jason Schwartz, PhD, a vaccine policy expert at Yale University, told the news outlet. "But clearly that message has been lost."