As more and more indoor venues require the proof of vaccination before entry and with winter — as well as the omicron variant, a brand new covid variant that is in the near future, scientists and public health officials are pondering when it will be time to change the definition of “fully vaccine-free” to include the booster shot.
It’s been more than six months since most Americans finished their vaccination course against covid; statistically their immunity is declining.
In the same vein cases of infections involving the Omicron variant have been identified in at least five states, as of Friday. Omicron is distinguished by at fifty mutations, many of which are associated with increased transmission. The World Health Organization dubbed it a variant of concern on Nov. 26.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that all people aged 18 and older receive a booster shot, rethinking its previous guidance that those over 50 “should” get shots, while younger adults could choose whether or not to do so. Scientists assume the additional shots will provide a significant amount of protection from the new version, though they do not know exactly how much.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, during a White House press briefing Wednesday was clear in advising the public. “Get boost immediately,” Fauci said, adding urgency to the current federal guidance. About 25 percent of U.S. adults received additional vaccine doses.
“The definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ has not changed. That’s after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or after a single dose of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, during Tuesday’s White House briefing on covid. “We are incredibly encouraging those who qualify to receive a boost six-months after those mRNA doses to get your boost. However, we’re not changing the definition of ‘fully vaccinations’ as of right now.” A booster is recommended 2 months after receiving the J&J shot.
She said that this could change. “As technology advances, we will examine whether we should change our definition of ‘fully vaccined’.”
The Democratic governors of Connecticut, New Mexico, and Arizona are sending a different message to their states. Some countries, including Israel, are sending a different message. Israel is arguably the most aggressive country in its approach. Researchers have pointed out that vaccines are often administered in three doses over a period of six month to provide long-term protection. This is the case with shots against Hepatitis. Shot No. 3 is a possibility for those who are “fully vaccination-free”. 3 to be considered a complete course.
“In my view, if you were vaccinated for more than six months ago, then you’re not fully vaccinated,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Nov. 18 during a press briefing. He encouraged everyone to boost their dose at the time, even before the federal government had authorized additional shots for everyone.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had a similar reply in mid-November. She said she defined “fully vaccine-free” as having received three shots of the mRNA type. She also opened up the possibility of boosters to all the residents of her state before the CDC and Food and Drug Administration did.
What does the evolving science mean for vaccine requirements that are imposed on travelers, schools as well as workplaces? What do businesses have to say about requiring customers to show proof of vaccination?
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, said the CDC’s stronger recommendation for everyone to get boosters signals to him that a booster is now part of the vaccine regimen. Yet Offit, who is also a member of the FDA’s advisory committee on vaccines, wrote a joint op-ed this week, in which he and two other scientists argued that boosters were not required for everyone, and healthy children should wait to see whether an omicron-specific booster might be needed.
“I think that when the CDC stated that they were recommending a third dose, they just made the statement that this is a three dose vaccine series,” Offit told KHN. “And honestly, I think it’s going throw a wrench into mandates.”
To be determined is whether restaurants or other types of business will be looking more closely at the vaccine cards for booster.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, the American Public Health Association’s executive director, said it was too for too early to make a decision. Benjamin said that businesses must keep an eye on the current guidelines.
Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the question of whether you are completely vaccinated after only two doses or require boosters is a matter of semantics. The most important issue is the degree of covid immunity.
Siegel said that he believes it’s more appropriate to refer to an individual as “appropriately” or”adequately” vaccined against covid instead of “fully” because it’s possible for more boosters to be required in the future. This makes “full vaccination” an uncertain goal.
But, as with many aspects of the pandemic ambiguity prevails — both in federal guidelines on the definition of “fully vaccine-free” and in entrance policies, which vary by state and school, as well as business.
Businesses don’t seem to be testing for boosters right now, but that could change in the near future. It is wise to check the requirements first, lest patrons apply for a two-shot vaccine passport only to be denied.
This article was republished by khn.org, with permission from Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an independent news source is a part of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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