Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — August 10, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

581.  A dramatic new plan for booster shots is being planned.

         QWhen can I get a booster shot that is designed to address the Omicron BA-5?

         A:  Two weeks ago, the White House announced a planned change was being considered to prevent more people from being infected with Covid-19 starting this fall.  The following explanation was drawn from several publications including the New York Times, Bloomberg News, and The Atlantic.

Up until now, all second booster shots have been limited to people who are over the age of 50 or who have compromised immunity.  The 4 manufactured mRNA-approved vaccines and the booster shots that were developed by these companies to reinforce waning protection have not been taken by a sufficient number of people to prevent an extended number of new infections.  For the past several weeks in Connecticut, vaccinations have remained steadily low with 80.4% of the residents have received just the initial two shots, and only 42.8% just one booster shot.  This low number of people who are vaccinated is not unusual.  It reflects the general national “anti-vax” attitude.  The consequence has been a series of mutations that have made the current Omicron BA-5 subvariant highly resistant to natural and vaccine immunity.  Many people who are vaccinated are now contracting the disease.  Many more are being infected who are partially vaccinated including those who have not received their booster shots.

Pfizer and Moderna have been working for months to re-engineer their booster shots to have a greater effect on the BA-5 subvariant, and clinical trials have shown the success of that effort.  A decision has been reached to not introduce these re-engineered shots as the next in a series, but to move faster to make these new shots available for all people who have been vaccinated to receive them when they are available in enough quantity.  For example, the slow pace of people taking booster shots has now reached a point that now exceeds the number of people over age 70 who are hospitalized than the peak for those over the same age when the Delta variant was at its peak.

The Department of Health and Human Services, using existing and available Covid funds, has ordered 171 million doses of the modified booster from Moderna and Pfizer.  Congress has been asked to provide additional funding to provide doses for every citizen, but so far has not responded.

Sometime early in September, the White House plans to announce the first annual booster campaign where everyone who has been vaccinated (probably including children) can receive the modified booster shot.  This will be ahead of the anticipated surge of cases in the coming cold weather.  Then, like the seasonal flu vaccines, each future year’s booster shots, modified for any new mutations, can be made available.  The experts point out that currently more patients are now hospitalized with Covid than with the seasonal flu.  And the death rate for Covid-19 is far greater than with the flu.  This new approach is designed to bring the risks of Covid infections on par with those of the flu.

Opinion 4:  More long-covid cases than previously reported raise the current risk.

Katherine J. Wu, Scientific Writer for The Atlantic recently reported that things are not great right now.  “It is true that hospitalization and death rates are down, but the more people you have infected, even a very small percentage can turn into an untenable number of hospitalizations and deaths. And every infection carries the risk of long COVID, or taking people away from school or work or their family.”  Data from Great Britain is now showing the number of people with long Covid is much larger than previously identified.  Previous independently reported chronic conditions are now being shown to actually be caused by Covid-19.