A couple of weeks ago I expressed uncertainty about COVID booster shots and said I’d wait before I got one.
Now real-world data is starting to roll in and it’s becoming clear that they’re quite effective. Israel, for example, found that both new infections and severe illness were “substantially lower” among all age groups who received a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
That’s “substantially” as in roughly a nine-tenths reduction in new cases and 95 percent reduction in serious cases in people over 60, with one-third reduction for those 40 to 60. Not bad.
Boosters have been available for a while now but I don’t know of any data about how many people in the state have gotten them, mostly through private pharmacies. I queried CVS and a spokesperson responded: “We don’t break out the number of booster shots we’ve administered by state or generally speaking.”
The Centers for Disease Control says more than six million fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and as of last week more people (an average of 390,444) are getting a booster shot each day than are starting or finishing the regular vaccination series.
It may be that the Pfizer vaccine, and possibly others, will turn out to require multiple shots spaced out over months or years to be truly effective. That’s already the case with vaccines for things like tetanus and diphtheria, which are recommended to be “boosted” every decade. Or the vaccines may require annual boosters, like the flu vaccine.
It’s still pretty early in the pandemic from an epidemiology point of view, so this uncertainty is no surprise.
But since I’m in the 65-and-over age group and new cases can occur in vaccinated people, although it’s very rare, I will be trotting into a local pharmacy to get a COVID booster once it’s six months after my second jab. I’ll get a flu vaccine, too, although my shoulder hopes I won’t do both on the same day.
I admit that this data doesn’t answer whether boosters are a good use of resources. On a global scale a better strategy to dampen COVID-19 and prevent the evolution of more variants is to give first and second shots to unvaccinated people rather than booster shots to fully vaccinated folks like me. That’s why I support using my tax dollars to send vaccines overseas to underserved countries.
And speaking of reconsidering opinions, here’s one I’ll stick with.
Last week I expressed doubt about the effectiveness of air filtration in homes and businesses for stopping the spread of COVID-19. Then this week a study in Britain was released that found a sharp decrease in airborne SARS-CoV2 particles, as well as many other pathogens, when HEPA filter-equipped systems were used in a hospital ward. The journal Nature had an article about it.
This is good news for hospitals but it doesn’t mean you can stick a system in your living room and then invite all and sundry to visit maskless. While it’s clear that air filtration can capture virus-carrying aerosol particles before you might inhale them, it provides protection only if it’s actually filtering all the air in the room. But that’s hard to accomplish and harder still to confirm.
So my concern remains: Don’t count on air filtration keeping you safe from the indoor spread of COVID-19 unless it’s professionally installed.
How are we doing on vaccinations?A: No obvious improvement.
Recent weeks have seen a slight uptick in the state’s tally of New Hampshire residents who are fully vaccinated but the numbers, from around 150 a day in late September to around 300 a day last week. That’s a big jump in percentage but is such a small change in absolute terms that it has little effect on the statewide total, which won’t get to 60 percent of the population at this rate.
I am surprised at this, to be honest. I’ve been waiting for an increase in vaccination numbers prodded by employers mandating coverage. Perhaps there is less of that happening than it seems.
What’s the trend on spread?A: Stable, maybe improving slightly.
The good news is that the number of people in New Hampshire hospitals with COVID-19 has declined from around 150 to around 130 this month. We have largely avoided the problem of overwhelmed health-care facilities during this surge, although perhaps not overworked health-care workers.
Otherwise, however, there’s no sign that things are getting better in New Hampshire. The number of new cases reported daily is still rising a bit, nearing 500 compared to 450 two weeks ago, and the number of deaths hasn’t really changed since early September, staying at or slightly over two people each day.
By the time you read this, the total number of people killed by COVID-19 in this state may have passed 1,500. That’s more than the population of Salisbury or Danbury or Hill or Wilmot, just to name towns in Merrimack County.