COVID-19 vaccine recall campaign falters in the United States | Health, Medicine and Fitness
By MAE ANDERSON – Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The COVID-19 recall campaign in the United States is running out of steam, worrying health experts who have pleaded with Americans to get an extra shot to boost their protection against the highly contagious variant of the omicron.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 40% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose. And the average number of reminders administered per day in the United States has fallen from a peak of 1 million in early December to around 490,000 last week.
Additionally, a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that Americans are more likely to view initial vaccinations — rather than a booster — as essential.
“Clearly the recall effort is insufficient,” said Jason Schwartz, a vaccine policy expert at Yale University.
Overall, the US vaccination campaign has been slow. More than 13 months after its start, only 63% of Americans, or 210 million people, are fully vaccinated with the first rounds of vaccines. Warrants that could increase those numbers have been hampered by legal challenges.
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Vaccination numbers are stagnating in states such as Wyoming, Idaho, Mississippi and Alabama, which hover below 50%.
In Wyoming, 44% are fully vaccinated, up slightly from 41% in September. To boost the numbers, the state aired TV ads with health workers giving grim accounts of unvaccinated people struggling with COVID-19.
“We would definitely like to see higher rates. But it would be wrong for anyone to think that the rates we have are due to a lack of effort,” Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti said Tuesday.
And in neighboring Idaho, which also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, the number of people receiving their first dose of the vaccine has remained below 1,000 almost every day this year and the number of boosters is also down. Still, officials say they won’t give up.
“I don’t like to use the word ‘resigned,'” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator of the Idaho Division of Public Health. “I think we just have to keep saying it over and over again, how important it is.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont is a national leader in the percentage of people who have been fully vaccinated and received a booster shot. About 60% of the population over the age of 18 has received a booster. But that’s not enough, said Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine.
“I would like to see that percentage much closer to 90%,” Levine said.
The United States and many other countries have urged adults to get booster shots because vaccine protection may wane. Additionally, research has shown that while vaccines have been shown to be less effective against omicron, boosters can speed up the body’s defenses against the threat.
As to why the roughly 86 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated and are eligible for a booster have yet to receive one, Schwartz said public confusion is a big reason.
“I think the evidence is now overwhelming that booster is not just an optional supplement, but a fundamental part of protection,” he said. “But it is clear that this message has been lost.”
The need for all Americans to get boosters was first debated by scientists, and at first the government only recommended that certain groups of people, such as the elderly, be given extra doses. The arrival of omicron and further evidence on waning immunity more clearly showed a widespread need for boosters.
But the message “was lost in the sea of recommendations and shifting directions,” Schwartz said.
The AP-NORC Center poll found that 59% of Americans think getting a vaccine is essential to fully participating in public life without feeling at risk of COVID-19 infection. Only 47% say the same about a booster shot.
Keller Anne Ruble, 32, of Denver, received her two doses of the Moderna vaccine but did not receive her booster. She said she had a bad reaction to the second dose and was bedridden for four days with fever and flu-like symptoms.
“I believe in the power of vaccines, and I know it will protect me,” said Ruble, owner of a greeting card sending service. But the vaccine “completely knocked me out and freaked out about getting the booster.”
She said she plans to get the booster in the next few weeks and in the meantime she is wearing an N95 mask and trying to stay home.
“I just don’t want to get COVID in general,” she said. “It scares me.”
Blake Hassler, 26, of Nashville, Tennessee, said he doesn’t plan on getting the recall. He received both doses of Pfizer last year after having a mild case of COVID-19 in 2020. He said he considered himself to be in a low-risk category.
“At this point, we need to focus on preventing serious disease as soon as symptoms appear rather than creating a new vaccine every six weeks and more conflicting mandates,” he said.
writers AP Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, Colorado; Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vermont; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, and Mike Stobbe in New York contributed to this report.
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