But healthy, fully vaccinated people in “high-risk” jobs, meaning they are more likely to be exposed to the virus, do not necessarily have a higher risk of getting sick even if they do contract the virus. That’s the whole point of getting vaccinated, so you won’t get seriously ill even if you’re exposed to the virus.
But “high risk” work is a fluid definition. There is now a federal requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, and more schools are requiring eligible staff and students to be vaccinated. So here’s the irony: If you are already fully vaccinated, you are in a “high risk” job primarily because your colleagues or other people who walk through your door are not or cannot be vaccinated. Get them vaccinated and you will no longer be in a high-risk job!
So it’s complicated for the CDC. The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) did not believe that healthy people, regardless of where they work, would still need the booster dose to protect themselves. Vaccine protection against serious illness and hospitalization has remained high in all age groups. And while a booster dose can further increase antibody levels, it is unclear if it is necessary to protect against severe COVID-19 and if that would reduce viral transmission.
We know that some people have not yet had access to an initial course of vaccination. Does it make sense to offer boosters, when we haven’t even fully vaccinated everyone who wants a shot in the US?
Booster doses won’t do much good if we still have large groups of unvaccinated people. These people should be our urgent focus. Community outreach resources are needed to bring vaccines to those who cannot take time off from work, or live in more rural or low-income neighborhoods where they do not have access to reliable scientific information or news.
There is already a shortage of nurses, pharmacists and community health workers right now. Would we have the resources to plan booster doses and still reach the unvaccinated?
Can you tell us how the ethical landscape has changed since we last spoke in January? Does the Biden administration pledge to donate 500 million more vaccines change the calculation?
It is disheartening that more than 18 months after the pandemic was declared, we still have not reached what I call relational solidarityLet the global community work together to promote the common good, to make sure no one is left behind. Donation is better than nothing, but the poorest countries are left at the mercy of the rich countries. Many of these 500 million doses from Pfizer won’t arrive until next year. If it is urgent that Americans who have better access to health care get vaccinated as soon as possible, or even get the booster dose, how would next year be considered acceptable? This means that many people in the poorest countries will not receive their first injection until more than 18 months after the US distributed their first doses.
The disparity that we create and allow is simply appalling. And the Pfizer vaccine requires special refrigeration, so poorer countries that don’t have the storage and handling capacity may not benefit. To solve supply chain problems, we must develop capacity and have manufacturing plants for different vaccines around the world. Pharmaceutical companies should partner with pharmaceutical companies in the global south To do that. This can also help ensure that shots can be adapted more quickly to local variants.