Federal officials — even as the Delta-variant surge is easing — have dominated the news by approving yet more boosters for those who have gotten the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots and announcing preparations to vaccinate kids ages 5 to 12.
Experts now have endorsed boosters for the millions who have gotten Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J shots. They also approved proposals to mix and match vaccines, an approach especially advised two months after those 18 and older receive the one-shot J&J product.
Research has shown that J&J recipients may benefit from getting not only a second dose of the vaccine they originally got (with officials suggesting J&J perhaps should have been a two-dose product at the outset). They may receive even more protection from illness, hospitalization, or death due to the coronavirus by taking a second dose — of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, whichever they didn’t take on the first round.
For now, officials have recommended more limited third doses for those who got the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, advising that patients should get them at least six months after their first two shots. These mRNA-based vaccines wane in the protective capacities and boosters are appropriate for those 65 and older, individuals who have serious pre-existing health conditions or who are immunocompromised, and workers with high-risk of infection due to their employment.
The FDA soon may push for wider administration of boosters for all those age 40 and older.
The Biden Administration also announced that it is awaiting approval from federal experts but is ready for a major roll-out of lower-dose Pfizer vaccines for youngsters ages 5 to 12. As the Washington Post reported:
“White House officials said they have already acquired enough doses to vaccinate every child in that age group. They plan to make the specially packaged vaccine available at more than 25,000 pediatricians’ and doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers, and school- and community-based clinics. They also will undertake a campaign to educate parents more fully about the vaccines. That strategy is key to reducing the impact of the virus across the United States, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, said at a White House briefing. The delta variant has changed the game, he said, describing a recent study showing children are getting infected and transmitting the virus as readily as adults, even though 50% of them are asymptomatic.”
While experts have debated how significantly the existing vaccines wane in shielding patients from coronavirus harms, federal experts presented information to independent experts weighing evidence on the safety and effectiveness of shots that “being vaccinated reduces hospitalization from Covid-19 by nine times for those over 65 and 14-15 times for those 18-64,” Dr. Leana Wen, a media medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner, reported on social media.
Pfizer has told federal regulators that its tests show that its vaccine, in a lower dose, “had a 90.7% efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in a clinical trial of children ages 5 to 11,” the New York Times reported. This and other data led a key, first group of U.S. regulators to advance a recommendation to allow the emergency use of the vaccine for youngsters. Final approval of this plan is expected soon.
Federal experts reported that, as of Oct. 22, more than 219 million Americans or 66% of the nation’s population are now fully vaccinated, with almost 12 million patients eligible for boosters having gotten them.
The coronavirus has killed more than 733,000 Americans and infected more than 45 million, leaving large numbers of patients with longer-term health challenges due to “long” covid. The Delta-variant surge, which savaged health systems across the country, appears to be easing, with daily average deaths now declining to 1,500+, hospitalizations dipping to a 7-day average just above 60,000, and newly reported cases falling to a 7-day average just a bit more than 79,000.
Those figures are unacceptable still, even though the various measures of the pandemic’s toll are falling. The disease is posing big challenges in the Rocky Mountain west and, increasingly as the seasonal temperatures shift, from the hard-hit South and Southwest to colder-weather states like Minnesota.
We are not done with the coronavirus and the huge trauma it has inflicted on us all. Please get tested, if appropriate, and get vaccinated. Officials are trying to make it as easy and convenient, as possible — and it’s free. All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms. If you’re uncertain about getting a booster or optimizing your mixing and matching of coronavirus shots, talk to your doctor, pronto. And, while you’re at it, ask about and get your annual flu shot. We cannot ignore disease and death and embrace nihilism and fatalism. We can quell the coronavirus and we must do so before it mutates again in ways that can be even more disastrous.