Are COVID-19 Booster Shots Distracting From Real Issue of Getting the Unvaccinated Vaccinated?

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As more adults get their booster shots, questions are being raised about whether the policy of "boosters for all" is hurting or helping the goal of ending the pandemic.

Does the attention being paid to boosters distract from the real issue of getting the unvaccinated vaccinated? And are boosters necessary for healthy young people?

Those are among the questions raised in an editorial in the Washington Post written by three health experts. Philip Krause and Marion Gruber co-authored an article summarizing all the available data on boosting, and concluded widespread boosting was not necessary.

Paul Offit is a member of the FDA advisory panel that voted last month to authorize boosters for adults 18 and over. Offit voted against the authorization.

The scientists believe not every healthy adult should get a booster. They write that the campaign takes away the focus of getting the unvaccinated their shots, and that “exaggerated descriptions of waning efficacy undermines public confidence in them."

They say the MRNA vaccines are “extraordinarily effective, even over time,” against severe disease and hospitalizations and effective against “any symptomatic disease” or mostly mild disease. 

Kaiser San Diego’s Doctor William Tseng read the article and said the scientists are “amazing… Paul Offit is one of the great scientists doing this research,” but he had a different perspective.

Tseng is the vaccine lead at Kaiser San Diego, an executive committee member of the San Diego County Medical Society and on the board of trustees at the California Medical Association.

He said there is no disagreement that those at risk, including the elderly, should get a booster to prevent hospitalization and death, but he said the booster will prevent infection. So, when it comes to young healthy people getting a booster, he said it is preventing infection, stopping the spread, and lessening the chance for the virus to mutate.

“We're now looking at two different vaccine efficacies -- against hospitalizations versus vaccine efficacy against infection -- and for the younger people it's vaccine efficacy against infection, and if you’re not vaccinated at all, we’re also worried about infection and hospitalization. They are the primary people we should be targeting," he said.

Doctor Tseng agreed vaccinating the unvaccinated is a priority, but he said you can do both.

“That’s what we should be doing, focusing on the people who aren’t vaccinated but also making sure the booster is available for anybody who wants it."

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