Virus Expert Warns These Boosted People Will Be "Under-Protected" Soon
A change might need to be made before we hit the fall season.
The COVID pandemic has been up and down these past six months, making it hard to know exactly where we're headed. In April, top COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, declared that the U.S. was "out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase," but for the past few weeks, the virus has been on the rise—pushing up COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Now this week, things have switched up once again. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID infections actually dropped by more than 5 percent this week compared to last, and deaths were also down by 10 percent.
Despite this positive news, virus experts have previously warned that things could get worse later this year. In May, White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, warned that the U.S. is likely to see a "pretty sizable wave" of COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths this fall and into the winter.
"You know, if you take a step back and look at the last two winters, we've had relatively large surges of infections," Jha explained during an interview with ABC News, adding that current models show that waning immunity and continued evolution of the virus could bring about the same this year, with as many as 100 million people estimated to be infected by the potential upcoming surge.
But for some, the fall surge might be even more troublesome due to a lack of protection. Paul Burton, the chief medical officer for Moderna, has voiced concern about what the second half of the year might look like for people not eligible for a second booster, like the general public under 50 in the U.S. During an interview with the County Times in the U.K., where current guidance for another booster rollout in fall 2022 already excludes those younger than 65, Burton said that this restriction will leave "a lot of vulnerable people unprotected."
"I think what we're going to be looking at come the autumn is a lot of under-vaccinated, under-protected people because maybe they got boosted last November, December, for the holidays, but they're now going to have a long interval where they haven't had a booster," he explained to the newspaper.
In the U.S., the CDC is already offering and recommending a second booster shot to anyone 50 or older who got their first booster at least four months ago, which is a greater expansion than the currently planned U.K. guidance. But Burton has indicated that the recommendation should be even more expansive than this now. For adults under the age of 50, the CDC has only made an additional booster eligible for those 12 and older that are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
"Clearly governments will have to make their own public health decisions but my sense is that actually for this upcoming booster season, a broader opportunity to vaccinate everybody, including children, is probably warranted to for consideration," Burton said.
But during a White House press briefing on June 2, Jha gave no indication that the U.S. is strongly considering expanding second booster eligibility to people under the age of 50 any time soon. "You know, so that's a decision of the FDA and CDC," he said when asked about additional boosters for younger adults. "They're always guided by evidence and data on that. All the data that I have seen—or most of the data I have seen is in people over 50—really, in people over 60. That's where the strongest data are."