The Biden administration has largely responded to the almost vertical rise in coronavirus cases by pushing more people to receive not only their initial doses of the vaccine, but booster shots as well.
This week, federal health officials approved boosters for 12 to 17-year-olds who had originally received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The government has also changed the definition of “up to date” Covid vaccination to include boosters.
But even as the United States has moved quickly to increase the number of people eligible for boosters, progress in persuading Covid-weary Americans to get them has stopped.
About 62% of Americans – about 206 million people – are fully immunized, according to federal data. But according to a CDC database, only about 35% of Americans have received a booster since mid-August, when additional injections were first authorized, even as eligibility has broadened significantly.
On November 19, the FDA cleared the recalls for all people 18 years of age and over who had received two doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and on December 9, it cleared the boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for 16 and 17 year olds.
These changes led to more Americans getting boosters, according to the Federal Database, but it has since leveled off.
After the discovery of the Omicron variant in late November, the pace of all vaccinations picked up, but peaked in early December and then stabilized. (Reporting delays around the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years holidays affected daily numbers throughout this time frame.)
Omicron, which is highly transmissible, has been shown to be better at evading vaccines than other variants. But scientists say booster shots can offer substantial protection, especially against serious illness.
The United States averages 585,000 cases per day, a record high and a 247% increase from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are increasing more slowly, up 53% over the past two weeks, and a lower percentage of patients landing in intensive care units or requiring mechanical ventilation, compared to those in previous waves. Deaths are down 3%.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went even further by encouraging booster shots on Wednesday, when health officials recommended that to stay up to date, people should receive three doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The agency also recommended that recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine receive a second dose, preferably from Moderna or Pfizer.
“There’s really no debate here about what people should do,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in an interview on Tuesday. “If they’re eligible for a boost, they should be boosted. “
Yet the extension of eligibility for booster injections has not been met with an equal amount of demand. Former Louisiana Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee explained resistance to pandemic fatigue boosters.
Referring to the many problems with the pandemic, Dr Gee said some people “just don’t want it to be here” and are trying to “make it go away”.