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Do Americans Need a Third Booster Shot? 

Across the United States, COVID-19 vaccines have been available and accessible to anyone 12 years old and over. According to the NPR COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 49.2% of the US population is fully vaccinated, while 56.9% have taken at least one dose of the vaccine. However, as of July 25, the pace has significantly slowed down with 778,000 new doses administered compared with three million doses per day at the peak in April. With the significant drop in the demand for the vaccine, there is now an emerging concern about a booster shot among vaccinated individuals. Many are wondering if it will give them added protection against the delta variant.

Research has shown that two doses of the mRNA vaccines provide significantly more protection against severe COVID-19, compared to a single dose. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that a third dose could potentially provide even more protection. In July, an article published in the Daily Mail outlined some of the challenges that the Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennet, has been facing in vaccinating his population since the delta variant emerged. He stated that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is weaker than originally anticipated against the Delta variant, leading to less protection. 

Similarly, the United States is beginning to see significant impacts from the delta variant spreading across the country. Approximately every US state has seen a rise in cases due to the delta variant. As of July 20, CNN stated that the delta variant, which is found to be more infectious than the original variant, contributes to 83% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States. 

With barely 50% of the US population fully vaccinated, and a rampant variant spreading across the nation, those who are fully vaccinated may feel that they need a booster shot more than ever. 

On July 8, CDC and the FDA released a joint statement about vaccine boosters. They stated that “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.”

While the FDA, CDC, and NIH are currently collecting evidence to consider whether a booster shot will be required now or in the future, Pfizer released research on July 28 with evidence that “a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can “strongly” boost protection against the delta variant — beyond the protection afforded by the standard two doses.” This same study showed that in individuals aged 18 to 55 antibody levels after a third dose were greater than five-fold, compared to two doses. In individuals 65 to 85, the antibody levels after a third dose were 11-fold, compared to two doses. However, the research released has not yet been published or peer-reviewed. 

With all of the new information highlighting the benefits of a booster shot and the number of available vaccines, it might be difficult to ensure that those who are fully vaccinated do not abuse the system to get an unauthorized third dose, or mix and match vaccines, especially as the CDC and WHO advise against mixing and matching vaccines due to the lack of research and data on the effects of doing so.

Currently, the United States is not advising or preparing to administer a booster vaccine to anyone who feels they need additional protection. The immediate focus for the U.S. should remain on prioritizing efforts and resources on addressing vaccine hesitancy and increasing the number of individuals who are fully vaccinated. 

Although the concept of a Pfizer/BioNTech booster vaccine has shown effective properties, it has not yet been approved or recommended by the CDC, NIH, FDA or WHO. Therefore, it would be unwise for individuals to self-determine that they would benefit from receiving a third dose without considering all of the wider health implications that may be involved.  

AM LLC is currently working nationwide with multiple states and public health agencies on testing, contact tracing, and vaccination programs. Counties, states, or K-12 partners that are interested in partnering with AM for COVID-19 mitigation support should contact Dr. Christopher K Orlea at c.orlea@amllc.co.

 

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