By Emma Reilly
COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are now available for certain at-risk individuals, including elderly people and people who have severe health risks, who received their first two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster by the United States Food and Drug Administration is a positive step toward a true end to the pandemic in the United States.
The approval of booster shots for elderly people is especially relevant and meaningful to a place like Chestertown. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 26% of Chestertown’s residents are age 65 or older. This makes a quarter of Chestertown’s residents eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot, assuming those residents have received the two initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination shots already.
However, not everyone received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. Locally and nationally, a significant proportion of the population received either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine instead. These vaccines are effective, but elderly and at-risk people who did not get the Pfizer shots are not able to get a booster to increase the efficacy of their vaccine.
While this limitation presents challenges for widespread, complete protection against COVID-19, the availability of boosters will likely increase as time goes on. According to CNN, the FDA is undergoing the approval process for boosters recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These booster shots are intended for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.
Chestertown will greatly benefit from the gradual expansion of booster shot availability that the U.S. is currently undertaking. Many of the town’s residents will have the chance to better protect themselves from serious illness from COVID-19, and Washington College students will feel more secure knowing that the local area has another safeguard against the virus.
According to the CDC, “After getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and be less able to protect against the Delta variant.”
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine works. It protects against severe illness and radically decreases the likelihood of death as a result of the virus. However, that protection does not last at full strength forever. This is why boosters will be vital for at-risk people in areas like Chestertown, where COVID-19 poses a threat to a large portion of the population.
Despite all this, the benefits booster shots provide are nullified when people remain completely unvaccinated. The first step toward eradicating COVID-19 is getting people their initial vaccine doses. Boosters may increase protections for certain individuals, but initial vaccinations can protect entire communities.
According to Voices of America, “The World Health Organization…said…the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 variants such as the Delta strain is to get more initial shots to unvaccinated populations, not booster shots to the fully vaccinated.”
Prioritizing in this way has proven challenging because resistance to vaccination in the U.S. is characterized by suspicion and confusion.
According to a study by Pew Research, many unvaccinated Americans feel that vaccination guidance is unclear or believe that health officials may be withholding information. These feelings lead to stubbornness about one’s refusal to get vaccinated.
According to Maryland.gov, only 60% of eligible Maryland residents are fully vaccinated. It is likely, then, that a significant unvaccinated population exists in Kent County specifically. Unvaccinated individuals may be further deterred by the increased confusion that has surrounded talk of booster shots in the media.
The uncertainties and skepticism regarding COVID-19 vaccines that unvaccinated individuals may have will likely be heightened by booster rollout. In recent weeks, questions about the differences between a third dosage and a booster shot were raised. Discourse about the COVID-19 vaccine has been similarly muddled by talk of mix-and-match boosters.
To counteract uncertainty, local, state, and College organizations should do what they can to spread clear and correct information about vaccines and boosters. This could help reduce people’s causes for concern and suspicion when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The reality of some people’s continued hesitancy towards vaccination may be disheartening, but in the end, booster shots will help protect those people who are more susceptible to COVID-19.
Photo courtesy of mana.md