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COVID-19 booster shots ‘are a bit of a distraction,’ expert says

The government continues to promote COVID-19 booster shots, even though millions remain unvaccinated

Davis County community health nurse Bruno Gonzalez prepares a J&J COVID-19 vaccine booster.
Davis County community health nurse Bruno Gonzalez prepares a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster vaccine at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The United States might be focusing on the wrong target when it comes to COVID-19, according to Dr. Anand Swaminathan, a New Jersey-based emergency medicine physician.

Swaminathan recently told Yahoo! Finance that the United States has shifted heavily toward promoting booster shots instead of first doses.

  • “Honestly, I think that boosters right now are a bit of a distraction away from where we should be focused, which is getting first doses, especially since we know that even now, even with Delta surging, the primary doses of the vaccines are highly protective against serious infection, against hospitalization,” Swaminathan said.

Swaminathan added that the booster shots are a temporary measure to improve antibodies and immunity against COVID-19. It doesn’t necessarily stop long-term infection.

  • “These boosters will temporarily increase the antibodies that are circulating which then temporarily will improve our effectiveness against fighting COVID in any form,” Swaminathan said. “But it doesn’t really give us the long-term immunity that we’re looking for, doesn’t really boost that as much, or at least we don’t know that it does.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved COVID-19 booster shots for anyone over the age of 65, those who have underlying health conditions and anyone working in high-risk occupations.

  • Some doctors suggest the U.S. hasn’t done enough to spread proper messages about the boosters.

For example, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, said over the weekend that the U.S. has done a poor job getting the right messages out about boosters.

  • “I think the confusing message around the boosters may end up being one of the biggest missed opportunities in this pandemic. We now see very clear evidence of declining vaccine effectiveness over time,” he said. “There’s different reasons why that may be the case, but the trend is unmistakable.”