COVID-19 Booster Uptake Has Been a Success But First Doses Must Remain The Priority

Since booster doses became available to select groups in the US, news outlets including NPR have reported that “The number of people getting COVID-19 vaccine boosters in the U.S. is now far outpacing the number getting their first shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” With booster eligibility soon to be opened up to all groups over the age of 18, overall booster uptake rates will likely skyrocket ahead of the holidays. 

In bolstering the case for booster shots, a Yale Medicine article noted that, “It is normal for virus-fighting antibodies, such as those that are stimulated by a COVID-19 vaccine, to wane over time…research has found that protection remains high for six months after the second shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.” 

Since research has shown that individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19 will need a booster shot, it has become apparent that more people are receiving the booster vaccine daily, than individuals receiving their first or second dose of the vaccine. Data shows that over 21 million fully vaccinated individuals have received a booster vaccine since they became available. On average, over 786,000 people receive a booster vaccine daily; This is nearly triple the number of individuals who are receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. NPR noted that, “this isn’t a big surprise: The same people who rushed to get their first jabs are apparently just as eager for their third, and with the booster recommendations announced late October, two out of every three vaccinated people are eligible, according to some estimates.”

The successful rollout and large numbers of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots administered across the country is a win for the Biden administration as they released an “aggressive booster campaign” to further protect Americans from severe illness and hospitalization. However, this success somewhat overshadows the fact that a large amount of individuals across the US remain unvaccinated; This is the main reason why every day over 70,000 individuals are still becoming infected with the virus. A senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Jennifer Nuzzo, worries, “that the push for boosters just made it harder to convince the unvaccinated to finally roll up their sleeves.” Additionally, Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine and infectious disease researcher at the University of Pennsylvania stated, “If you look at the people over 12 who come into the intensive care unit at the hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, or the Children’s Hospital, they’re not in the intensive care unit because they didn’t get their third dose, they’re in the intensive care unit because haven’t gotten any doses…We need to vaccinate the unvaccinated, not boost the vaccinated.”

Although the availability of booster vaccines is a positive step towards ending the pandemic, it is important that we still prioritize individuals to receive their first and second doses of the vaccine. The unvaccinated population remains so for various reasons. The unvaccinated should not be left behind. Federal, state and local governments would be wise to increase the amount of resources available to facilitate and encourage the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. People still have very valid concerns over the vaccines as well as accessibility challenges, but opportunities do exist, and with every new vaccination, a life is potentially saved and a vaccine advocate recruited.

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