Virus Experts Just Gave This Pressing New Warning to Boosted People
The U.S. could be on the verge of another major COVID surge.
More than two years into the pandemic, there is still so much uncertainty for what the future holds. For a while, it felt like a safe bet that 2022 would be our last year with rampant COVID, as most mask mandates and vaccine requirements were lifted across the U.S. But many of these decisions were made when COVID numbers were rapidly declining earlier this year. Now, they're back on the rise once again. In just the last week alone, infections increased by more than 21 percent and hospitalizations went up by over 16 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During an April 26 interview with PBS NewsHour, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said that the U.S. was exiting out of the pandemic phase. But he quickly clarified his comments in a follow-up interview with The Washington Post, explaining that while the country is certainly not out of the pandemic, we are "out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase."
"We're really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity," Fauci told the newspaper on April 27. According to the infectious disease expert, this means that while the U.S. could still see new waves of infections, experts are hopeful that there is now enough immunity from previous infections and vaccinations to avoid another major COVID surge in the country.
But not all experts are so convinced. In fact, one White House official—who asked to remain anonymous—told The Washington Post on May 6 that the Biden administration is currently preparing for another potential surge in the fall, likely driven by new Omicron subvariants that will spread through the U.S. at a time in which many people will have waning immunity against infection. According to the official, they are projecting that 100 million Americans could get infected with COVID this fall or winter.
"After all, COVID-19 transmission over the past two years has tended to be lower in warmer months before increasing later in the year, and waning immunity in the population may also exacerbate the possibility of another wave of transmission," the experts at GlobalData Healthcare said.
To avoid this, some experts are warning that boosted individuals already up-to-date on their shots may need a fourth COVID vaccine dose. Some of us are already eligible, in fact. In the U.S., the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have already approved a second booster for adults 50 and older. "With cases increasing, if you are eligible, now is the time to get that second booster dose," Sarah Moyer, MD, a public health expert and director of Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said in a statement.
According to GlobalData Healthcare, preliminary data from a study of more than 2,600 patients hospitalized with severe COVID across 14 medical centers in Israel during Omicron's surge shows that those given a fourth shot had a 49 percent lower chance of having a poorer outcome than those who had last gotten their third shot five months before they were diagnosed with COVID.
"While the study design made it difficult to determine if the additional booster dose reduces the severity of COVID-19, it does suggest that a fourth dose may improve clinical outcomes and subsequently have the potential to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths," the experts said. "As such, an additional round of booster vaccinations may be an appropriate response to uphold the current trends that have sparked assertions of an end to the pandemic phase of COVID-19."
Another recent study out of the U.K. had positive findings for a second booster dose as well. Nearly 200 participants for this study were given either a fourth shot of Pfizer or Moderna, and the researchers found that the booster generated an immune response two weeks after that was higher than the response generated 28 days after a third dose. "Fourth-dose COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccines are well tolerated and boost cellular and humoral immunity," the study says. "Peak responses after the fourth dose were similar to, and possibly better than, peak responses after the third dose."