Gwyneth Paige did not want to get the vaccine. Covid-19 at first. With her health issues — high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, asthma — she wanted to see how other people were doing after the shot. Then her mother got colon cancer.

“At that point, I didn’t care if the vaccine killed me,” she said. “To be with my mother throughout her journey, I had to take the vaccine.”

Page, 56, who lives in Detroit, received three doses. That leaves her with one incentive. Federal health recommendations.

While Page said she doesn’t currently have plans to get another boost, some Americans seem comfortable with the three-shot protection. But others may be wondering what to do: jump in with one of the first vaccines now, or wait months for the promised new formulations modified with the latest, most infectious Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5?

of A fast-changing virus It has created confusion for the public and a communication challenge for health authorities.

“What we’re seeing right now is a small data vacuum that doesn’t help people make the right decisions,” said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine.

Although they don’t stop all infections, the public isn’t hearing enough about the vaccine’s importance in preventing serious disease, Del Rio said. Each new variant of Covid forces health officials to adjust their messaging, Del Rio said, adding to public distrust.

About 70% of Americans age 50 and older who received the first booster shot — and nearly 65% ​​of those 65 and older — did not receive the second Covid booster dose. According to the information From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency currently recommends two booster shots after a series of primary vaccinations for adults 50 and older and young adults with weakened immune systems. a lot of News outlets Recently, the Biden administration reported that it is working on a plan to give all adults access to second covid boosters.

The authorities are concerned Addition of BA.4 and BA.5It spreads easily and can escape vaccination or early immunity. A recent study published in Nature The resulting BA.5 was four times more resistant to mRNA inoculations than early Omicron subunits.


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Serial messaging has been complicated by the divergent views of mainstream vaccine scientists. While doctors like Del Rio and Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine see the benefit of getting a second booster, Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, doubts it’s needed in anyone except the elderly. Immune system.

“Why are we surprised that it’s so confusing to get the message right when experts based on the same science have different opinions?” Dr. Bruce Galin, head of global public health strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation and a fellow of the FDA panel, said.

Janet Perrin, a 70-year-old resident of Houston, has not been second-guessed for the program and convenience reasons, and said she seeks out information about alternative-targeted doses from sources she trusts on social media. “I haven’t had a consistent policy voice from the CDC,” she said, adding that the agency’s statements sound like “political word salad.”

On July 12, the Biden administration was released His plan To administer the BA.5 sub-alternative administration, which he warned would have the greatest impact in parts of the country with low immunization coverage. The strategy includes facilitating people’s access to testing, vaccinations and incentives and anti-viral treatments.

During the first White House Covid briefing in three weeks, the message from top federal health officials was clear: Don’t expect an Omicron-tailored shot. “There are a lot of people who are at high risk right now and waiting until October for their support — in fact, their risk is now — is not a good plan,” said Dr. Rochelle Walnsky, director of the CDC. .

With concern about the development of the BA.5 sub-variant, The FDA recommended on June 30 Drugmakers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have begun producing new, binary vaccines that combine the existing version with a formulation targeting the new strains.

The companies both said they could supply millions of modified vaccines to the U.S. by October. Experts believe the deadline could slip by a few months, given the unexpected hurdles to vaccine production.

“I think we’re all asking the same question,” said Dr. Catherine Edwards, scientific director of Vanderbilt’s vaccine research program. “What’s the point of getting another booster now when it’s a bivalent vaccine that’s coming out in the fall and you’re taking the BA.4/5 that’s being rolled out now? Whether it’s going to be rolled out in the fall is another question, though.”

On July 13, the FDA approved a fourth covid vaccine, Novax, but only for people who have not yet been vaccinated. Many scientists think the Novavax shot could be an effective booster for people previously vaccinated with mRNA shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna because its unique design could boost the immune response to the coronavirus. Unfortunately, Gelin of the Rockefeller Foundation has reviewed few studies of mix-and-match vaccine approaches.

Edwards and her husband got COVID in January. She received a second boost last month, but only on the grounds that it was needed for a business trip to Canada. Otherwise, she said the fourth shot felt like a waste, even if it wasn’t particularly dangerous. She told her husband – a healthy septuagenarian – to wait for the BA.4/5 version.

People at very high risk for Covid complications can go ahead and take a fourth dose, Edwards said, “while waiting for BA.4/5” in the hope that it will temporarily prevent severe disease.

The original vaccine formulations were known to prevent severe disease and death even in people infected with Omicron, so the Omicron vaccines contain components that target the original strain of the virus.

Dr. David Brett-Major, an infectious disease specialist at the Nebraska Medical Center, said those bodies help control preexisting strains of the virus. This is important, because tailoring many vaccines to fight new variants could allow older strains of the coronavirus to resurface, he said.

Brett-Major said that if messages about the cost of modified vaccines are to be believed, they need to come from local sources — not just top federal health officials.

“Access happens locally,” he said. “If your local systems aren’t messaging and promoting and enabling access, there’s definitely a problem.”

Although some Americans are pondering whether or not they can get their second stimulus, experts say many people are risking the pandemic long before the current wave.

Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said he doesn’t expect the public’s interest in the vaccine to change much as new incentives are released and eligibility expands. Parts of the country with high vaccination coverage will remain relatively insulated from the new strains, while regions with low vaccination coverage could be set for a “rude awakening,” he said.

Even scientists are at a bit of a loss as to how exactly to adapt to the ever-changing virus.

“Nothing is easy with Covid, right? It’s just Vic-a-Mole,” Edwards said. “This morning I read about a new variant in India. Maybe it’s just a burger, but – who knows? – maybe it’s something big, and then ‘Why did we change the vaccine strain to BA.4. 5?’

KN (Kaiser Health News) is a national news division that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the three major work programs on the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides information to the nation on health issues.



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