As COVID-19 started to hit the daily news cycle in early 2020, several questions started filling Americans’ minds.
A few included, what is it, how dangerous, is there a vaccine, what do we do next? As it became clear COVID was not going to kill the estimated two million Americans in 6 months, some in the population changed the questioning to, when can we go back to normal life?
As we enter 2022, more Americans are still asking the question but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, keeps moving the goalposts, never locking into a straightforward answer.
So what does “fully vaccinated” mean?
Most recently it meant two shots of a Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or just one from Johnson & Johnson. With the arrival of Omicron, a third shot, a “booster” was required to reach fully vaccinated, but now there is talk of a fourth shot possibly being necessary some time down the road.
Fauci said in September that he thinks three doses Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s mRNA vaccines will likely be the primary series. He made his remarks about new terminology in response to whether the U.S. will start to offer fourth doses the way Israel has.
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“We need to find out what the durability of protection of the third shot is before we start thinking about the fourth shot,” he said.
On Tuesday, Fauci finally gave his definition when asked what “fully vaccinated” means
“We’re using the terminology now ‘keeping your vaccinations up to date,’ rather than what ‘fully vaccinated’ means,” Fauci said during a National Institutes of Health lecture Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News. “Right now, optimal protection is with a third shot of an mRNA or a second shot of a J&J.”
Fauci’s comments followed word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday that third shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine should be administered within five months after completing the initial two-shot series. That shortened the time frame by a month.
In a conflicting statement, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House press briefing Wednesday, “Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if they’ve received their primary series. That definition is not changing,”
The federal government has no plans to change the definition of fully vaccinated for travel guidelines, Medicare rules or any other federal requirements, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said during the same briefing.
At the same time, the CDC has updated its guidelines to include language on staying up to date with vaccines, based on the type of vaccine and age group, Walensky said.
“Consistent with how public health has historically viewed or even talked about how we recommend vaccines, we are now recommending that individuals stay up to date with additional doses that they are eligible for,” she said.
“Early studies have indicated a booster of Pfizer Inc.‘s vaccine provides a 25-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies that fight the variant, Moderna Inc.‘s booster produces a 37-fold increase in antibodies, and two doses of Johnson & Johnson‘s vaccine cut hospitalizations in South Africa by 85%,” Bloomberg wrote.
The quickly spreading Omicron variant is better at slipping past the immunity delivered by vaccines than the Delta variant, according to a recent report.
“Investigating nearly 12,000 Danish households in mid-December, the scientists found that Omicron was 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than the Delta variant among vaccinated Danes,” Reuters reported, citing a Danish study published last week.
The study, conducted by researchers at University of Copenhagen, Statistics Denmark and Statens Serum Institut (SSI), suggested that the Omicron variant spreads more quickly because it can evade immunity delivered by vaccines.
“Our findings confirm that the rapid spread of the Omicron (variant) primarily can be ascribed to the immune evasiveness rather than an inherent increase in the basic transmissibility,” the study said.
The study also found that “booster-vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus, regardless of the variant, than the unvaccinated,” Reuters reported.
Tyra Grove Krause, Denmark’s chief epidemiologist, and SSI’s technical director said that a new study from Denmark’s State Serum Institute found that the risk of winding up in the hospital with Omicron is half that seen with the previous Delta variant. She also said that like the emergence of the variant in South Africa, cases will rise, then quickly fall.
“I think we will have that in the next two months, and then I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back,” she said on Monday, according to the Daily Mail.
Well, America we finally got an answer to our main question. The problem is, it’s open-ended and for those who take the COVID vaccine pokes, you may never be fully vaccinated for more than a few months, requiring periodic booster shots, for years to come.
Written By: Eric Thompson, host of the Eric Thompson Show.