People lying to get booster shots against COVID

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

The vast majority of stories involving vaccinations that we’ve covered here over the summer seemed to revolve around either vaccine hesitancy and rejection or unused vials being disposed of when they reach their expiration dates. But a new trend showing up in Massachusetts (and probably many other areas) is breaking that pattern and finding people moving in the opposite direction. Panic and confusion caused by the CDC’s shifting and conflicting guidelines in response to the delta variant have some people anxious to get yet another shot as a booster. But booster shots haven’t been authorized by the FDA yet, so vaccination sites in the Bay State aren’t offering them. That’s not deterring everyone, however. The Boston Globe spoke to a number of people who have been attempting to sidestep the rules by traveling out of state, lying about forgetting to bring their ID, or simply lying about the fact that they have already been vaccinated.

With the Delta variant surging, and breakthrough cases in Massachusetts nearing 8,000, people are already deciding they do not have time to wait. Some are crossing state lines in hopes of evading detection. Others are darting into pharmacies where they’ve heard no questions will be asked or falsely declaring that they have not already gotten a jab…

People who got J&J may be particularly eager to get an extra shot (even though a new study, out of South Africa, shows it is effective against Delta), but as cases mount, and COVID closes in again, many who got Moderna or Pfizer are also interested, according to observers, as are those with compromised immune systems.

“People are trying to get that third shot by hook or by crook,” said Peter Grinspoon, an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital who’s been bombarded with “can you help me’s” from patients and friends.

It seems that at least in the Boston area, people who received the J&J vaccine are particularly antsy and looking to jump the gun on a booster. This is obviously yet another case of both the CDC and the mainstream media teaming up to cram frequently conflicting reports into the pipeline and causing a panic. As recently as June we were informed that the Johnson & Johnson dose wasn’t very effective against the Delta variant. But now, only a handful of weeks later, a second study out of South Africa rates the J&J dose as being “highly effective” against Delta. Both of these things can’t be simultaneously true. Does anyone know what’s really going on? No wonder people are going to these extents to scam their way into getting a booster.

And those extents are not insignificant in some cases. One woman who spoke to the Globe on condition of anonymity complained that her doctor’s office isn’t offering any explanations and the CDC “keeps changing what we’re supposed to do.” Another woman from Jamaica Plain described how she first went to a CVS without mentioning that she’d already been vaccinated at a local Walgreens. They ran her insurance information, found out about the previous jab, and turned her away. She then drove to New Hampshire to try a pharmacy whose website said neither insurance nor identification were required. But when she arrived, they demanded her ID anyway and rejected her when she objected to providing it. She later tried a mobile pod where people were being vaccinated in their cars but bailed after her daughter ratted her out in front of the person taking patients’ information. (“But mommy, you already had a shot.”)

Many people claim to be confused by those who are delaying getting vaccinated or refusing entirely, even when the FDA has still only granted emergency approval for the vaccines. For my part, I’m even more confused by people rushing to break the rules and get a booster when the boosters don’t even have emergency approval yet. (Though it’s expected to be issued soon.) Only a comparative handful of people have had a third shot and been monitored for any potential side effects. This new mRNA technology is still in its infancy compared to traditional vaccines.

Seriously… what are you people doing? Nobody saw the blood clots, heart problems, and other issues related to these vaccines coming until a significant portion of the population had received them. (Each is, admittedly, still quite rare.) We still have only a fraction of the data regarding how children handle these vaccines as compared to what we know about adults. Are you really going to allow yourself to be stampeded into being a guinea pig?

In related news, yet another study released this week claims to show that people who survived COVID can develop “a dramatic boost in virus-fighting immune cells” after being vaccinated. So now, even if you shrugged off the virus and built your own antibodies, they’re going to be telling you to go get vaccinated anyway. But what is that going to do to the immunity passport debacle? Most existing systems give you a green checkmark if you provide proof from your doctor that you already had COVID and survived. Will that exception be canceled now?

I still give Operation Warpspeed full credit for developing and rolling out some vaccines at lightning speed. But the CDC’s handling of collecting and disseminating information about both the virus and the vaccines has been a total disgrace. And the majority of news outlets have been playing along, generating more fear, panic, and uncertainty among the public in the name of having more eye-popping headlines and frightening people into continuing to tune in or read their reports.