Covid booster shots, news and opinion

Sure, but there’s internet reading on someone’s Facebook page and internet reading of PubMed or medRxiv. From what I’ve seen on the latter, it certainly appears low-risk/high-probable-advantage when it comes to mRNA boosters.

I’m far more concerned with taking it from the hands of third world countries than I am with Gramdma getting a booster under false pretenses, but apparently the doses are going to land here whether I want a booster or not.

Of course. But just because I can pick better sources and am generally a fairly science literate person, doesn’t mean I’m qualified to make medical decisions that are jumping ahead of, or are at odds with, what experts in the field are saying. It’s Dunning-Kruger. People read some scholarly papers and think they know the lay of the land without the vast context of actually being a doctor and specialist in the field. People even call experts with access to vastly more information idiots for not doing what the well-read lay person has concluded is best.

Experts in the field are saying that it’s safe to get a booster. Some are saying you should wait longer so it’s even more effective, but I’m not finding any experts who are telling me that it’s somehow more dangerous than the first two or that it’s not actually effective.

I’m personally waiting until I officially qualify, but if my local pharmacy called me tomorrow and asked if I’d take one, I’d certainly have no concerns with doing so.

You realize that experts disagree, though. It’s not just “some article I read in pubmed”. The nation of Israel, which has pretty good medical experts, has decided to give everyone a third dose of Pfizer.

And I’ve read some of the medical debate in this country. There are various issues around Moderna (how much) and j&j (lack of data) but the only real concern around Pfizer boosters is that there’s still an international shortage of vaccine, and it detracts public energy from getting first doses to as many people as possible.

I expect a lot of doctors to be prescribing it off label in the near future, if they aren’t already doing so

For this discussion we should probably differentiate between a third shot, which is meant for those who didn’t get the necessary immunity from the first two doses, and a booster, which is meant to give a boost when the existing immunity wanes over time. Typically, the third dose in an identical dose to the first two. The booster may or may not be the same dosage, when all is said and done.

I don’t believe there is much argument to the third dose (but go to town if I’m wrong), so it’s probably not a big discussion topic, but that means that the immunocompromised are probably not relevant to this conversation.

FWIW, this appeared in Asimov’s article in Newsweek, 21 January 1980. A .pdf of the article is available here, or you can use the direct link to scan.

I strongly believe that this won’t be over until the world had reached herd immunity and I think that the US should be doing more to see that everyone is vaccinated, not just Americans. Boosters when most of the world is still waiting for their first shot seems to be an arrogant embarrassment of riches.

I also know that none of the vaccinations that are in the American supply system will be used or wasted in America, they won’t leave the country. Getting my booster when its time will not stop someone out of country from getting their first shot, so I will do so when its time.

My understanding on how timed boosters work is that if you get the booster too early, your body will think its part of the original shot/s and won’t respond strongly. If you wait too long, your body will have “forgotten” some of things it learned from the first shot/s and will need to start over.

This is the third question on CVS’s website:

So, I mean, you’d have to choose option 3 despite it saying that it’s for people with weakened immune systems only.

ETA: And when you select the third option, it says this:

Remember, you’re eligible if you’ve received a complete vaccine and have a weakened immune system. By selecting this, you’re confirming this applies to you.

Well, except there’s not currently a booster available here in the US, but people are getting the third dose shot as a way to get a “booster” and treating them as the same thing. So, good distinction, and good point that we don’t know yet what the dose or timing should be for a booster.

I’m only pointing out that people have decided to make this decision for themselves, based on their own assessment.

There hasn’t been a decision by the experts yet about dosage or timing. Those can be very important, and people just jumping in and getting a third dose whenever they decide they need a booster is essentially just an unqualified person conducting their own medical experiment.

Israel is making informed decisions and administering Pfizer doses as part of a vaccination program that is monitored and approved by the government. Of course I have no problem with that. But I hope you’re not comparing ineligible people getting doses here by lying about being immunocompromised to that.

I fully support the idea of boosters, and will get one when it’s recommended for me.

Others pointed out that the experts don’t actually all agree about when to get the shot. But I’d also note that they do agree that it would just as safe as it was before. And, generally, if it’s safe to make the decision, that decision is left up to the patient.

At the end of the day, it’s always been the patient (or their designated representative) who makes the actual choice. The doctor may limit their choices based on what may do more harm than good, but they don’t dictate what the patient does.

For anything even remotely controversial, I have been fact checking my doctors since one or two screwed me over (i.e. the reason why I became housebound for so long). Doctors aren’t gods, after all. My health is worth that extra diligence. And I have actually given my doctor ideas he hadn’t considered, which he was okay with. I’ve also researched something and saw that my doctor was out of date on the latest research. I don’t see this as a problem.

Now there is the broader issue of whether the supplies we have should be spent on boosters or providing global access to those who haven’t had their first doses. However, I would argue that’s not a decision at the individual level. That decision has to be made by those in charge of the supply.

I’m not saying I would lie to get a third shot. I don’t see any particular need to do so at this time. But I get why some might. There is data saying it may help, and even the potential complications with “mild COVID-19” are of the sort that I want to do everything to avoid it. It’s why, despite being vaccinated, I’m still nearly as isolated as I was before, due to the ridiculous infection rates in my area. The only exception is that I’ll hang out with other vaccinated folk.

These two statements contradict each other. The experts in Israel HAVE made decisions about dosage and timing (for Pfizer).

The experts in the US have not, yet. But ineligible people lying, at least those who would be eligible in Israel, are not guilty of making rash and irresponsible health decisions. They are not exhibiting

They are guilty of lying, which is a completely different thing.

There is also the issue of conflating experts and doctors. Quite frankly, I think I’m better informed than many doctors, but not of the actual experts (bar the idiots like Sunetra Gupta, where I would argue that listening to little ol’ me is safer).

If you’re in Ohio and your doctor’s name is Fred Wagshul or Sherri Tenpenny, for instance, send me a DM and I’ll happily give you some papers to help you make an actual informed decision.

And it’s not even a very good experiment, because they’re only tracking one data point. Maybe Israel has it right and maybe they don’t, but they’re keeping track of what they’re doing, and that makes a huge difference. When the experts do decide how best to handle boosters, they’ll do it in part based on data from Israel. Data which actually exists. Meanwhile, if you’re getting a third shot by saying that you haven’t had any shots yet, that data definitely doesn’t exist for you.

And the people in charge of the supply are making their decisions based on how quickly the US pharmacies are going through their stock. If lots and lots of people get a third shot from CVS, then CVS’s supply of vaccine will dwindle, and so the distributors will send them more. If nobody gets any from CVS, then the distributors won’t send them any more, and send it somewhere else instead.

And you are potentially muddying the collective US data, as well.

I actually never said it was rash and irresponsible. And I do think it’s an example of Dunning-Kruger.

I seriously doubt that people here who are lying to get their version of a booster shot are making sure to follow the exact protocols followed in Israel. I mean, people have gotten a third dose of Moderna, so that puts it right out of that argument.

And what has been the timing and dosage in Israel? Does anybody know? Do you think the people getting their “booster” by lying have checked? Do you think they are aware that the timing could be very important to make it work as desired? Or are people just hearing that Israel is doing this, so they decide to get a third shot, possibly as soon as they can.

I’m definitely not saying people should blindly follow whatever their individual doctor says. I’m saying I think it’s a net negative, in important ways, to have people individually deciding to take a medication for an unapproved use, without getting a doctor to prescribe it off-label, but instead lying to get access to it, and not as part of any study or monitored program. The lying is part of what’s bad about that, but there’s a lot more to it than just the lying.

I had my annual checkup last Wednesday, and my doctor and I discussed the timing of the Dtap shot he wanted me to get (it had been 10 years), versus other shots.

Basically he said something to the effect of the timing’s right to get the Dtap now, as the COVID boosters will probably be approved in a couple of weeks or so, and he thought I should wait a couple of weeks before getting any other vaccinations.

So there’s that; it’s totally anecdotal, but interesting that the timing of the COVID booster was a consideration with regard to when I get my tetanus/diptheria/pertussis booster shot.

He also opined that I could wait on the flu shot, because the suspicion is that continued COVID mitigation efforts are going to be even more effective for the flu like they were last year.

I’ve known plenty of health professionals who are ignorant and not good at what they do. I think each individual has not only the right but also the responsibility to consume information for their own benefit and decide for themselves what is in their own best interests. In most situations, I generally don’t support lying and breaking the law to get a third booster, but the CDC and FDA have been slowed by bureaucracy and have not always done a particularly good job of monitoring the pandemic situation in real time. I’d consider it if I felt like I had no other choice to protect myself.

I’ll link to the actual review (PDF) as it’s really annoying when news blurbs put their own spin on what it really says without us being able to see for ourselves.

Some choice nuggets which explain where they’re coming from:

The limited supply of these vaccines will save the most lives if made available to people who are at appreciable risk of serious disease and have not yet received any vaccine. Even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated. If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants. Indeed, WHO has called for a moratorium on boosting until the benefits of primary vaccination have been made available to more people around the world.

Since the lead author is from the WHO, that is a very understandable stance. They aren’t looking at this from a US-centric point of view. I take no issue with that, but that doesn’t really speak to the unused vaccines that we have in this country that no one seems to want a first or second dose of and that appears to be unable to be shipped elsewhere. So sure, everyone gets a second dose before we start sending more doses to rich countries. Cool.

Boosting might ultimately be needed in the general population because of waning immunity to the primary vaccination or because variants expressing new antigens have evolved to the point at which immune responses to the original vaccine antigens no longer protect adequately against currently circulating viruses.

Even if humoral immunity appears to wane, reductions in neutralising antibody titre do not necessarily predict reductions in vaccine efficacy over time, and reductions in vaccine efficacy against mild disease do not necessarily predict reductions in the (typically higher) efficacy against severe disease.

That sounds a lot more like “We don’t know for sure yet, so we’re going to ask for caution.” Again, I have no issue with that statement, although it’s telling that they say:

Some of this literature involves peer-reviewed publications; however, some does not, and it is likely that some details are importantly wrong and that there has been unduly selective emphasis on particular results

“It is likely that some details are importantly wrong”? I’m certainly willing to entertain the possibility that the studies are wrong, but I’m not seeing a good reason in this review to call that “likely.” This is what leads me to believe that they started from a place of “Let’s put it in everyone’s hands before giving it to rich fuckers.” and worked backwards from there. I don’t really have a problem with that, even if I disagree with their approach.