Opinion: Vaccine supporters highlight FDA’s mirroring of Israeli policy on the need for booster shots while opponents highlight questions of safety, especially for younger populations; government must concede vaccines alone cannot end surge
The U.S. Food and Drug Authority’s (FDA’s) decision on Friday to approve a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 65 or to those at high risk from the virus has given ammunition for both vaccine supporters and opponents.
Supporters highlight the fact that the FDA mirrored in its decision the policy adopted by the Israeli government late in July, and agreed that the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines wanes over time. It also indicated that booster shots will be offered to more Americans down the road.
Vaccine opponents, on the other hand, chose to highlight the fact that the FDA expert panel voted almost unanimously against administering the booster shot to younger populations, including children, claiming that there was no evidence to support the need for booster shots or conclusive proof of their safety.
The truth, as always, lies in the middle. American medical experts were not convinced of the need to roll out the third dose of vaccines and the question of their safety has not yet been determined.
But the situation in the U.S. is different from that in Israel, both in terms of morbidity and the number of vaccines administered.
Americans received their COVID-19 vaccines months after their Israeli counterparts did and therefore many have not yet experienced the decline in vaccine protection, negating the immediate need for a booster shot.
In Israel, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a record-breaking surge in morbidity and the time that had elapsed since most Israelis received their second vaccine dose has placed them in greater danger.
Had there not been more than 3 million who had already been given the third dose Israel’s fourth wave of the pandemic would have been much worse.
Health officials took a certain gamble when they provided a booster shot to all age groups, but it paid off. A nationwide lockdown was averted and the number of seriously ill patients, which doubled every week at the start of the fourth wave, appears to have stabilized.
After months of surging infections and one month since the rollout of the third jab, the positive trend that was observed shows that renewed immunity may offset the spread of the disease caused by school re-openings and holiday celebrations.
But the fact that nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases were detected among children augurs ill for the days and weeks after kids return to school next month following the High Holidays break.
The government must stop pretending that all is well and that it has succeeded in its policies promoting “living alongside the pandemic.” It must admit publicly that the fourth coronavirus wave will be a long and hard one.
Vaccines alone are not the solution to surging cases and more restrictions on mass gatherings must be imposed, along with more rapid testing including in schools to identify infections where they begin.
The government must also tighten health measures at the airport and border crossings where the next new variants of COVID-19 are sure to appear and make their way into the country.