More Americans are getting Covid vaccine boosters than initial doses

Germaine T. Leftwich, 67, will receive a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine booster from Dr. Tiffany Taliaferro on the Safeway on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

More Americans are getting third Covid shots than first doses because people who completed their two-dose therapy with Pfizer or Moderna six or more months ago are now eligible and line up for an additional shot.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 362,000 people per day received boosters for the past week, about 57% more than the 231,000 people per day who started their first dose.

“It’s a bit like the early days when over 65 qualified in a priority group and we saw people flood websites and pharmacies and clinics,” said Dr. Kavita Patel, a Washington family doctor who worked on health initiatives in the Obama administration, said about the high demand for boosters on CNBCs “Squawk Box” on Tuesday.

U.S. regulators approved a booster of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine in late September for a wide variety of Americans, including the elderly, adults with pre-existing medical conditions, and those who work or live in high-risk environments such as health and food workers. The move put some 60 million Americans in question for a third shot, President Joe Biden said in a speech following the CDC’s endorsement.

According to CDC data, a total of about 8.9 million boosters had been administered as of Wednesday, covering 4.7% of all fully vaccinated Americans and more than 12% of the immunized population 65 and over.

“Those who received the booster are very satisfied with the vaccine, understand the benefits, and have seen the benefits,” said Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson, who practices at the Memorial Hermann Medical System, a group of 17 Houston hospitals.

A surge in cases this summer fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant is convincing some people to receive the vaccine for the first time, she said. “Those just getting in and starting would have hesitated for various reasons and maybe finally consulted a doctor to understand that vaccination outweighs any risk and far outweighs the risk of Covid infection,” she said.

The rush for additional doses in fully vaccinated individuals underscores the gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated, according to Rupali Limaye, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Limaye is researching vaccine decision making and has worked with state health officials during the vaccine’s launch.

Since many of those receiving the third dose are the same people who were most eager for an injection earlier this year, boosters offer these people even more protection, while the unvaccinated remain largely unprotected and at a significantly higher risk of getting ins To be hospitalized or to die if they get Covid.

“We want to spread protection across a community,” Limaye said. “We will have part of the population that is well protected and part of the population that has not had any gunfire.”

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation published last month showed that Pfizer’s emergency approval of booster vaccinations did little to improve disparities over Covid-19 vaccines for some people.

Among respondents, nearly 80% of those who were vaccinated said the news of the third dose showed scientists were trying to make the vaccinations more effective, but 71% of those who were not vaccinated said boosters were evidence that the vaccines weren’t works.

Limaye said this third dose misunderstanding echoes conversations in town halls and community groups across the country. Because U.S. health officials were not clear enough beforehand that booster vaccination is an expected part of an immunization process, it has raised questions about why further vaccination is needed.

“We have to do a better job, I think, and say that it is just like any other virus,” Limaye said, “and that we have to get boosters because the immunity wears off over time.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 20, 2021 in July.

J. Scott Applewhite | Swimming pool | Reuters

Dr. Aaron Clark, a family doctor at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, said interest in boosters far outweighs demand for initial syringes.

The average daily Covid cases in the US fell below 100,000 last week as the pandemic shows signs of weakening, with more than 56% of the US population fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University. Still, despite having declined from recent highs, the country reports an average of more than 1,600 daily Covid deaths.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said that the vast majority of people currently hospitalized and dying from Covid are unvaccinated.

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory body will meet Thursday and Friday to discuss the effectiveness and safety of additional doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Of the 188 million Americans fully vaccinated, 55% received Pfizer vaccination, 37% received Moderna vaccination, and 8% received Johnson & Johnson vaccination, according to the CDC.

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