The booster battle still isn't over

(AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro)

Yesterday, Allahpundit covered the ongoing battle inside the administration over when to begin administering booster shots against COVID. By this point, it seems clear that one of two things happened. Either Joe Biden picked an arbitrary date of September 20 out of thin air before getting all of the scientists on board with it or some subset of experts told him that would be the soonest they could do it. If it’s the latter case, either they walked back that decision and threw Joe under the bus or they stood by it, but other experts disagreed and took the argument public. Given the nature of the next story breaking on this topic last night, I’m leaning toward the second explanation. Dr. Fauci is still pretty excited about starting booster shots this month, but an international coalition of medical professionals – including two current members of the CDC – have signed on to a letter saying that the original vaccinations are still offering sufficient protection and it’s too early to start boosters for all but a few people who began clinical trials last December. (Associated Press)

The average person doesn’t need a COVID-19 booster yet, an international group of scientists — including two top U.S. regulators — wrote Monday in a scientific journal.

The experts reviewed studies of the vaccines’ performance and concluded the shots are working well despite the extra-contagious delta variant, especially against severe disease.

“Even in populations with fairly high vaccination rates, the unvaccinated are still the major drivers of transmission” at this stage of the pandemic, they concluded.

The group’s opinion was published in the medical journal The Lancet. I’ll confess that trying to sort through their conclusions as a layman was challenging, as the assumptions they use rely on factors that may be readily understood by virologists, but not so much for many of the rest of us.

For one thing, the paper appears to acknowledge previous reports stating that tests have shown waning levels of antibodies in some of the earlier recipients of the vaccines, particularly in older patients. But even if those levels are lower, these medical authorities argue that “none of these studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease.”

We should carefully note the use of the word “severe” in that sentence. The paper goes on to explain that your body builds “layers” of immunity, so gradual drops in antibody levels don’t necessarily mean overall effectiveness is dropping. If you think that sounds counterintuitive, you’re not alone. But the bottoms line seems to be that as antibody levels decline, you may be more susceptible to a milder form of the disease, but the “layers” mentioned above indicate that you still have the same, considerably higher protection against the more serious forms of the disease that would otherwise lead to hospitalization or even death.

Of course, none of the experts from this group are arguing that you’re never going to need a booster. All vaccinations against viral infections need to be replenished at some point. Nor are they saying that there might be anything particularly dangerous about getting a booster sooner than the guidelines suggest. (Whenever we actually get those guidelines, anyway.)

So that leaves us with a question of potential ulterior motives. We already know that the World Health Organization at the UN doesn’t want boosters being administered until more of the third world is vaccinated. Many of the signatories on this letter are from Europe. So are they pushing to hold off on the boosters because they’re really not needed or are they feeding into the push to have us ship our vials to underdeveloped nations for the rest of the year?

I’m sorry to just toss that last question into the mix like a grenade here. But between the Biden administration seeming to pick politically-driven deadlines on one side and the UN pushing for delays on the other, it’s hard to avoid feeling as if everyone is politicizing this question about booster shots to the point where there’s not much science left to “follow.” As things stand now, I’m not going to be in any rush to go out and get a booster until there’s a lot more consensus.