Officials urge Americans over 50 to get a Covid-19 booster immediately, but younger adults will have to wait – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – The White House Covid-19 response team this week sent a clear message to the nation about the spread of the Omicron subvariant BA.5 and the importance of two vaccine booster doses for adults over 50.

“If you didn’t get a shot in 2022, if you didn’t get a shot this year, please get another shot,” said response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha on Tuesday. “It could save your life.”

Second boosters have been approved for US adults 50 and older and certain immune-compromised individuals since March. But only one refresher is allowed for those under the age of 50.

For younger adults, officials had less to offer at the briefing than to say that the US Food and Drug Administration is considering second booster shots for this age group.

At the end of June, adults under the age of 50 had the highest rates of Covid-19 cases compared to other age groups, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I know the FDA is considering this and looking at this,” Jha said Tuesday of second booster shots for younger adults. “And I know CDC scientists are thinking about it and looking at the data too. The decision is theirs alone.”

dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an appearance on CNN on Wednesday that the idea was “actively under consideration.” But beyond that, he made no promises, saying the OK to expand eligibility would have to come from the FDA.

Meanwhile, Americans under 50 are watching the lightning-fast spread of the BA.5 subvariant and wondering about their own protection.

“Frustrating and Scary”
“It’s frustrating and, frankly, scary,” said Jennifer O’Neill, 42, who lives in Boston with her 74-year-old mother. O’Neill says she’s been waiting for the government to extend eligibility for booster shots to younger adults and doesn’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

Both O’Neill and her mother had all the boosters they could possibly need, but O’Neill’s last shot was around Thanksgiving. She believes the refresher protected her during her first family dinner in two years. Four of the 10 guests at Thanksgiving dinner fell ill with Covid-19, but O’Neill and her mum did not fall ill.

“I know it’s not the same variant. I know in my head it won’t completely prevent transmission, but I’m so concerned she doesn’t get sick that I’ll do whatever I can,” O’Neill said of her mother, whose age she is high risk exposes to more severe disease. “And it frustrates me that I can’t because of eight years.”

According to census data, approximately 139 million adults in the United States are between the ages of 18 and 50. Many of them followed public health guidelines and received booster shots as soon as they were admitted last fall when the original Omicron strain was spread across the country.

Data from the UK show that the effectiveness of booster vaccinations against symptomatic diseases caused by the Omicron variant is over 60%, starting around four weeks after a third dose. However, after eight weeks it starts to decrease, and five months after the booster vaccination people have almost no protection from symptomatic infections.

So the protection young adults had from infection from last fall’s booster shot is probably long gone.

That might be discouraging, but it’s also not really what the vaccines were designed for, says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Other ways to protect yourself
If your goal is protection from Covid-19, you may be better served using a combination of other tools, such as the luxury of being selective about your social connections.

“These vaccines don’t prevent easy infection,” Shaffner said, and they don’t stop you from infecting others. “These are personal protective vaccines and not vaccines that prevent transmission in any significant way.”

Vaccines and boosters continue to provide stronger protection against Covid-19 infections that are severe enough to require hospital or intensive care treatment, or that can be fatal.

However, this protection also slips over time.

In adults aged 18 to 64, the effectiveness of a booster shot against Covid-19 hospitalization peaks at around 82.4% but falls to around 53.6 around four months after the third vaccination, according to data from the UK %. For adults over 65 years of age, booster shots are initially about 86% effective at keeping people out of hospital, but this protection drops to 77% after about four months.

Protection from death from Covid-19 drops to about 48% about six months after a second dose of vaccination in adults aged 50 and over. Boosters initially restore this protection to around 94%, but this drops to 88% after around 10 weeks, according to UK data. Comparable data were available for younger adults.

In the US, CDC data presented at Tuesday’s White House Covid-19 briefing shows that adults over 50 who received a booster shot were four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those who who had at least two booster doses.

According to Schaffner, when it comes to severe consequences of Covid-19, people are under 50 and generally healthy.

But, he says, if you’re under 50 and have an underlying health condition like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, you should ask for a second booster even if you’re not officially eligible.

“People don’t usually get questioned too thoroughly,” Shaffner said. “I would just come up and say ‘Hi, I have bad diabetes,’ or ‘I have an underlying heart disease,’ and stuff like that, and at least in our corner of the woods, you’re going to be able to get a vaccine.”

How do you feel safe?
O’Neill tried to get a fourth shot. She didn’t lie; She has asthma and pleaded her case at two pharmacies, but they pointed her to a narrow list of conditions that qualify people under 50 for extra doses.

“I’m in Massachusetts but the two pharmacists were very adamant like I could get in trouble if I didn’t follow the guidelines,” she said.

Her friends have told her to lie, but she’s not comfortable with it. “I want to stick to protocol,” she said.

She is frustrated by what she sees as mixed messages from the Biden administration on Covid-19.

“It’s like, ‘Get out! Back to normal!’ OK. But I only really get out when I feel like I’m fully protected and I know the refresher won’t stop transmission, it would just make me feel a lot more confident,” she said. So she will continue to restrict her activities until she can get a refresher.

With or without vaccines, Jha said there are things people can do to protect themselves if they do get sick, including seeking treatment.

“We have highly effective treatments that work against BA.5, including Paxlovid. This is an oral antiviral that reduces the risk of hospitalizations and death by 90%,” he said.

He added that the US has bought more of these pills than any other country and they are now available at 41,000 locations nationwide.

“If you test positive in the coming days and weeks, please see your doctor to see if you qualify for treatment,” Jha said.

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Nate Jones

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