Health experts nationwide say adults 50 years and older and compromised immune individuals should get a second booster shot.
Meanwhile, Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra in a Zoom briefing last week said there is an abundance of vaccines and boosters available for those who haven’t received a vaccine or need a booster.
The health director explained that with health restrictions loosening, and COVID cases down, it’s time for communities to reconnect and gather outside, while still remaining cautious of emerging variants.
“I think it’s healthy for people to reconnect with their communities and their friends especially after so long,” said Vohra. “Rebuild some of our relationships and prepare for more stressful times ahead.”
An End to COVID-19 Boosters Could Be Near
With the approval for a second booster, FDA’s vaccine chief, Dr. Peter Marks, said during a recent panel discussion that the latest booster update was a “stopgap” to help protect vulnerable Americans.
“We simply can’t be boosting people as frequently as we are,” said Marks.
Indeed, a panel of vaccine advisers to the FDA spent hours debating how best to revamp COVID shots and how to best advertise for future booster campaigns last week — ultimately, health experts were unable to decide whether Americans should continue vaccinating.
The questions facing vaccine and health experts varied from how often to update the vaccines against new strains, how effective they should be to warrant approval, and whether updates should be coordinated with global health authorities.
Medical Experts on the Hunt For a Long Lasting COVID Vaccine
With booster efficacy waning every time a new strain emerges, health experts are exploring avenues for a long-lasting vaccine.
Fresno County health officials say studies show COVID-19 vaccines demonstrate waning immunity over time for each of the COVID-19 variants —decreasing by 3-5% a month.
“We know that these vaccines are known to have a little less protection, still good protection, but a little less whenever they are challenged by these newer variants,” said Vohra.
Although, studies do show that the vaccination wanes more slowly for protecting against severe COVID resulting in hospitalizations or death.
“Pharmaceutical companies will have to create vaccines that are going to be long lasting because I can hear a lot of people are being impatient,” said Vohra. “There are plenty of people that want just a one and done, or a once a year shot like influenza.”
A panelist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that the 80% protection from severe disease could become the standard for evaluating the vaccines.
“I think we may have to accept that level of protection and then use other alternative ways to protect individuals with therapeutics and other measures,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, CDC’s chief medical officer.
With more therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies and oral anti-virals being mass produced, these therapeutics could become the number one source of COVID-fighting medicine, said Vohra.
COVID-19 Aid Bill Will Fund COVID Treatments
Interestingly enough, while there is a push to mass-produce more therapeutics treatments, a bipartisan group of senators is pushing for $10 billion in COVID-19 supplemental aid — less than half of what the White House had initially requested.
The U.S. Senate is expected to make a decision on the bill on April 25th. The bill calls for $5 billion in treatment and therapeutics, $4.25 billion for vaccines and testing, and $750 million for variant research.
However, according to a CNN report, the Biden administration warned that a second Covid-19 vaccine booster shot — or a new type of vaccine, if needed — will not be free and readily available to all Americans, if and when they are authorized, without additional funding from Congress.
Natural Immunity Might Be the Best Protection Against COVID-19
Evidence now suggests natural immunity from COVID might be the best protection of all.
“If you have had COVID, that may play a factor on whether you would consider a second booster or not,” said Vohra. “Honestly, the data is pointing to very good protection from natural immunity as it were related to the COVID infection itself.”
In fact, Vohra said folks who have had COVID once seem to fare better and do not require hospitalizations or other critical resources if they get it a second time.
“No one wants to get it a second time, but if you do get it a second time, when it does happen, your natural immunity might protect you a little bit on top of what the vaccines do,” said Vohra.