U.S. health officials say 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves over COVID-19’s updated booster shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the tally on Thursday as public health experts complained about President Joe Biden’s recent remark that “the pandemic is over.”
The White House said more than 5 million people have received the new boosters according to its own estimate which explains the delays in the states.
Health experts said it is too early to predict whether demand will match the 171 million doses of the new boosters ordered by the US for the fall.
“Nobody would look at our flu vaccine intake at this point and say, ‘Oh, what a disaster,'” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If we start to see a large increase in cases, I think we will see many people receiving the (new COVID vaccine).”
A temporary modern vaccine shortage has led some pharmacies to cancel appointments by encouraging people to reschedule a Pfizer vaccine. The problem had to be solved when government regulators concluded an inspection and authorized the distribution of batches of vaccine doses.
“I expect this to pick up in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator. “We thought and talked about this as an annual vaccine like the flu shot. The flu vaccine season resumes in late September and early October. We are just starting our educational campaign. So we expect to see, despite the fact that this was a good start, we actually expect this to increase stronger ”.
Some Americans who plan to get the injection, designed to target the more common omcron strains, said they are waiting because they recently had COVID-19 or another recall. They are following public health advice to wait several months to get the full benefit of their existing anti-virus antibodies.
Others are planning to shoot closer to holiday reunions and the winter months, when respiratory viruses spread more easily.
Retired hospital chaplain Jeanie Murphy, 69, of Shawnee, Kansas, plans to receive the new recall in a couple of weeks after she underwent minor knee surgery. Her interest is high among her neighbors from what she sees on the Nextdoor app.
“There is a lot of discussion going on among people who are ready to make appointments,” Murphy said. “I found it encouraging. For each opponent there will be 10 or 12 people who jump in and say, ‘You’re crazy. You just have to go get the shot. ‘”
Biden later acknowledged criticisms of his remark about the end of the pandemic and made it clear that the pandemic “is not where it was”. The opening comment didn’t bother Murphy. He believes the disease has entered a steady state when “we get COVID vaccinated in the fall like we do flu shots.”
Experts hope he is right, but they are waiting to see what levels of infection winter will bring. The summer drop in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths could be followed by another increase, Dowdy said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, who was asked Thursday by a group of biodefence experts what still keeps him awake at night, noted that half of vaccinated Americans have never received an initial booster dose.
“We have a vulnerability in our population that will continue to have us in a mode of potentially disrupting our social order,” Fauci said. “I think we have to do better as a nation.”
Some Americans who got the new vaccinations said they were excited about the idea of targeting the vaccine to the variants that are circulating now.
“Give me all the science you can,” said Jeff Westling, 30, a Washington, DC attorney who received the new booster and a flu shot Tuesday, one in each arm. He participates in combat sports jujitsu, so he wants to protect himself from infections that can result from close contact. “I have no problem trusting people whose job it is to look at the evidence.”
Meanwhile, Biden’s statement in a “60-minute” interview broadcast Sunday has echoed through social media.
“We still have a problem with COVID. We are still working hard on it. But the pandemic is over, “Biden said as he walked through the Detroit auto show.” If you notice, nobody wears masks. Everyone seems to be fit enough. And so I think it’s changing. “
On Wednesday on Facebook, when a Kansas health department posted where residents could find the new booster shots, the first commentator scoffed:
“But Biden says the pandemic is over.”
The president’s statement, despite his attempts to clarify it, adds to public confusion, said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
“People are not sure when is the right time to be empowered. ‘Am I eligible?’ People are often confused about which is the right choice for them, even where to look for that information, “Michaud said.
“Anytime you have mixed messages, it’s detrimental to the public health effort,” Michaud said. “Having the conflicting messages from the president’s remarks makes that job much more difficult.”
University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi said he was concerned that the president’s statement has taken on a life of its own and could block prevention efforts.
“That bite has been around for a while now and it will spread like wildfire. And it will give the impression that ‘Oh, there’s nothing else we need to do,’ “Salemi said.
“If we’re happy with 400 or 500 people dying every day from COVID, there’s a problem,” Salemi said. “We can absolutely do better because most, if not all, of those deaths are absolutely preventable with the tools we have.”
New York City photographer Vivienne Gucwa, 44, received the new booster on Monday. She has had COVID twice, once before the vaccines were available and again in May. She was vaccinated with two shots of Moderna, but she never received the original boosters.
“When I saw that the new booster was capable of tackling the omicron variant, I thought, ‘I’m doing it,'” said Gucwa.
“I don’t want to deal with omicron anymore. I was a little thrilled to see the boosters have been updated. “
AP medical writer Lauran Neergaard and AP White House correspondent Zeke Miller contributed. ___
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