August 23, 2021

Vaccine Booster Shots

“U.S. health officials Wednesday announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines’ effectiveness is slipping…

“The plan, as outlined by the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top health authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine… Last week, U.S. health officials recommended a third shot for some people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients…

“Top scientists at the World Health Organization bitterly objected to the U.S. plan, noting that poor countries are not getting enough vaccine for their initial rounds of shots.”
AP News

Here’s the CDC information page on vaccine booster shots. CDC

See past issues

From the Left

The left is generally critical of the announcement, arguing that there are more effective policy choices the Biden administration could be making.

Infection isn’t the same as having a life-threatening case of the disease. Hospitalization and death rates among the vaccinated have risen somewhat, but remain exceedingly low. The antibodies from the Pfizer vaccine are very effective against the more contagious Delta variant… at this point, providing third doses to the general population is a lot of bucks for a relatively small bang.”
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

“Although there’s been a slight dip in protection for severe outcomes—whether due to the delta variant, increased exposure during socialization, or waning immunity isn’t clear—the new data suggest vaccines remain 90 percent effective against hospitalization. Data from the U.K., where delta has been circulating for some time, and where hospitalizations among the vaccinated remain low, is also reassuring. Epidemiological data from Israel suggests protection against infection wanes significantly, but some experts are not convinced because of the small number of people in the study…

“The real issue that America is facing with the pandemic right now isn’t breakthrough infections—it’s infections in unvaccinated people. That’s what’s straining hospitals from Kentucky to Texas, and what caused the entire state of Alabama to run out of ICU beds this week. And boosters are definitely not the best strategy to deal with that…

“What could actually help?… First, the FDA could fully approve the vaccine. All vaccines are still on the market under emergency use authorization, and up to 23 million Americans say they’ll get the shot once it’s officially approved. And it’s expected that after full approval, businesses will be more inclined to require vaccination of their employees. Second, the FDA could authorize the vaccine for the 28 million kids aged 5–11 as soon as possible.”
Tim Requarth, Slate

“U.S. health officials ought to heed the warning from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, that the world had fallen into a state of ‘vaccine apartheid.’ High-income countries have used bilateral contracts with vaccine manufacturers to achieve vaccination rates as much as 50 times that of low-income countries…

“A campaign for boosters could lock in that apartheid. This profound global inequity would not only be a humanitarian disaster, but also a significant long-term risk for Americans, as scientists agree that accelerating global vaccination is the only way to prevent the formation of deadly new variants.”
William F. Parker, Washington Post

“So far, less than 0.5 percent of vaccine doses have been dispensed in poor countries, creating an unimaginable deprivation of a life-saving intervention… Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s executive director of Health Emergencies, recently pointed out, ’We're planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we're leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket.’…

“Instead of booster doses, policymakers should focus on advancing global vaccine equity, so that every person has a fair chance of receiving a vaccination. This requires ramping up the production of COVID-19 vaccines, which will require enhancing the local manufacturing capabilities.”
Junaid Nabi, The Hill

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of the announcement, arguing that the US should prioritize its own citizens.

The right is generally supportive of the announcement, arguing that the US should prioritize its own citizens.

“The coronavirus crosses borders, so eventually, people in the United States will suffer, too, as the virus spreads and possibly mutates among the unvaccinated abroad. That’s why the U.S. government has vowed to provide 500 million vaccine doses worldwide, and already has delivered 120 million…

“Still, the first responsibility of the U.S. government is to its own citizens. The simple facts are that the virus is spreading rapidly here as well, that growing evidence suggests the vaccines lose at least some efficacy the more time has elapsed since a person was last inoculated, that the delta variant is infecting far more children than earlier variants, and that the seven-day average for COVID-19 daily deaths just crossed 1,000 for the first time since late March.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

“One important fact that the WHO omits is that Covid is mainly dangerous to older folks and those with medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease—all of which are much less prevalent in developing countries. The obesity rate in the U.S. is 36.2% versus 5% to 10% in most low-income countries in Asia and Africa. Most lower-income countries also have much younger populations than Europe and the U.S. About 16% of the U.S. population is over age 65 versus 2.7% in Nigeria, 3.5% in Ethiopia and 6% in South Africa…

“It’s hard to compare the relative Covid risk of an unvaccinated 20-year-old in, say, Ethiopia with an 80-year-old nursing home resident or 50-year-old diabetic in the U.S. who got vaccinated early this winter… [And] The unfortunate reality is that most Americans have at least one risk factor. Limiting boosters to just those Americans with certain medical conditions would prompt political lobbying and complaints about fairness, as when states designated vaccine priority groups…

“One other important consideration ignored by the WHO is that another surge of mild or moderate illness in wealthier countries—which make up an outsize share of global GDP and trade—could significantly slow the economic recovery in lower-income countries… Poverty and its coinciding miseries will kill far more people in low-income countries this year than Covid. The quicker wealthier countries recover from the pandemic, the better off the world’s poor will be.”
Allysia Finley, Wall Street Journal

“The WHO is presenting a false choice between the U.S. protecting Americans and assisting the billions of unvaccinated folks around the world. And it’s worth noting that the U.S. government’s vaccine purchases are allowing Pfizer and Moderna to invest in expanding their manufacturing capacity to supply the world with more vaccines. The U.S. can protect Americans and help the world at the same time.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Some experts look at the number of vaccinated people who are getting sick after infection and shrug on the theory that, so long as they’re not landing in the ER, the vaccines are doing their job… [But] The vaccinated are the most risk-averse cohort in the U.S. when it comes to COVID; they know they’re unlikely to end up hospitalized if they’re infected but no one wants to spend a week or two feeling ‘like death,’ which is how Breitbart editor Brandon Darby described his recent breakthrough infection.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

A libertarian's take

“As Covid mutates, it is affecting not only tourism and business travel but migration more generally… Biden’s administration is now pushing third booster shots for people who already have been vaccinated. That might be a good idea, but it too creates additional uncertainty for travel and migration — and for social interaction more broadly. If three doses are so important, should people be allowed to travel (or for that matter interact indoors) with only two doses?…

“[On the other hand] If you tell people that three doses are needed for safety, but two doses are enough to get you into a concert or government building, how are they supposed to sort out the mixed messages?… How long before four doses are necessary, or maybe five? Or what if yet another significant Covid variant comes along, and only some people have a booster dose against that strain? What then counts as being ‘sufficiently vaccinated’?…

“The previous vaccine standards were largely workable ones. If they are made tougher, they might break down altogether.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

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