Vaccine makers seek OK for 4th shot as fears rise about another surge

cvax4thshot-150x150Moderna and Pfizer have given a boost to the idea that Americans should get another dose of coronavirus vaccines.

Pfizer is seeking federal approval for another dose for patients 65 and older and Moderna is calling for another shot for all adults, notably those who already have gotten three inoculations of its vaccine.

The drug makers say their vaccines wane in potency to protect people over time. They have, at the same time, proven to be remarkably safe and effective in keeping giant numbers of patients around the globe from getting sick, falling so ill they must be hospitalized, or even from dying of the coronavirus and its prevalent variants.

Experts have argued for months now about the need for boosters. They proved important in dealing with the contagious, fast-spreading, and lethal, recent Omicron variant spike, as well as in battling the earlier Delta variant.

Concern, though, is growing that the pandemic is sliding into another of its seemingly lesser phases, leading officials in this country to ease public health measures, including testing, vaccination, face covering, distancing, and getting people to prove they are fully vaccinated before being active indoors, especially in crowded, less ventilated spaces like bars, restaurants, and sporting and cultural facilities or events.

Even as the measures to quell the pandemic are easing, though, bellwether areas like Europe and elsewhere are seeing worrisome increases anew in coronavirus infection. Experts are warning that this country, where too many may be lulled by current circumstance and weary of months of efforts to deal with the coronavirus, is unprepared for another pandemic surge, the New York Times reported:

“Scarcely two months after the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case numbers to frightening heights in the United States, scientists and health officials are bracing for another swell in the pandemic and, with it, the first major test of the country’s strategy of living with the virus while limiting its impact. At local, state, and federal levels, the nation has been relaxing restrictions and trying to restore a semblance of normalcy … scientists are warning that the United States isn’t doing enough to prevent a new surge from endangering vulnerable Americans and potentially upending life again. New pills can treat infections, but federal efforts to buy more of them are in limbo. An aid package in Congress is stalled, even as agencies run out of money for tests and therapeutics. Though less than one-third of the population has the booster shots needed for high levels of protection, the daily vaccination rate has fallen to a low. While some Americans may never be persuaded to roll up their sleeves, experts said that health officials could be doing a lot more, for example, to get booster shots to the doorsteps of older people who have proved willing to take the initial doses.”

The rising worry has been fueled by other nations’ experiences, which have, tragically, proven to be spot on predictors of U.S. pandemic challenges, the newspaper reported:

“The clearest warnings that the brief period of quiet may soon be over have come, as they often have in the past two years, from Western Europe. In a number of countries, including Britain, France, and Germany, case numbers are climbing as an even more contagious subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, takes hold. In interviews, 10 epidemiologists and infectious disease experts said that many of the ingredients were in place for the same to happen in the United States, though it was unclear if or when a wave might hit or how severe it might be. Case numbers are still dropping nationally, but BA.2 accounts for a growing proportion of those infections, rising to almost one-quarter of new cases last week. The subvariant is estimated to be 30% to 50% more contagious than the previous version of Omicron, BA.1.”

In this country, of course, many people may think they have moved on from the pandemic, with the Omicron surge fading hard. But this reality also persists, the New York Times reported:

“Fewer than half of Americans who have received primary vaccine doses have taken booster shots, putting the United States in a more precarious position [than other Western European nations]. Even though case numbers are so low, nearly 1,200 Americans on average are dying each day from Covid — a rate far higher than in Western Europe, where older people tend to have received vaccines and boosters in higher numbers. As time passes, two doses become less effective at preventing Omicron-related hospitalizations, British estimates suggest, whereas a booster dose restores protection to considerably higher levels. Adding to the alarm in the United States … a number of wastewater testing sites had showed drastic increases in viral levels on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map.”

Just a reminder: The coronavirus has been blamed in more than 1 million Americans’ deaths and the virus has infected 80 million of us. As of March 18, federal officials say that 254.9 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 217 million people who had been fully vaccinated by the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or the two-dose series made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Authorities say 96.4 million fully vaccinated people have received an additional vaccine dose or a booster dose, the highest level of protection against the virus.

We are not done with pandemic. Regular folks appear to be having varied reactions to health officials easing coronavirus measures. But those with heightened vulnerability to the virus — those who are older, immunocompromised, overweight, and with underlying conditions, or individuals from hard-hit communities of color — still may be staying careful, including by keeping on their masks. Those using public transportation also must keep their masks on for a while longer.

The (responsible) unvaccinated in many areas that ease pandemic measures will be required to cover their faces and more as they cannot show proof that they have gotten their coronavirus shots and boosters.

The vaccines remain life changers and life savers. If you have not gotten yours, please do so, boosters and all, pronto. Let’s see what medical scientists recommend about a fourth shot, though consult with your own doctor if you think your health is weakened and you benefit sooner from an additional dose and you qualify for it. If you have been exposed or think you have gotten infected, please get tested — and quarantine or isolate to protect yourself and others.

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