Vaccines, variants, boosters, say what??

Michelle Gerst, Ph.D.
Nov 23 · 3 min read

September 17th, the FDA advisory panel approved COVID boosters for age 65+ but rejected the use of COVID booster for younger populations. This recommendation was recently updated to include all people 18+. The main stated reason is to remove confusion regarding who can and cannot get a booster shot. The data used to make both decisions can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/media/152239/download

The FDA says that they also considered “real-world data” on COVID cases and myocarditis since the original decision. As no links are present on the FDA decision page, I am unclear how to link the data to here. The data I have listed here may be incomplete.

To follow the decision path, the original FDA announcement on September 22, 2021 regarding boosters can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-booster-dose-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-certain-populations

This announcement was updated on October 20, 2021 to include other COVID vaccine manufacturers: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-takes-additional-actions-use-booster-dose-covid-19-vaccines

The latest announcement on November 19, 2021 can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-expands-eligibility-covid-19-vaccine-boosters

Until I took the time to look into the data, my initial reaction to the news that boosters were opened up to all 18+ was pure confusion. The original decision on September 17, 2021 made sense to me. Some people do get myocarditis from the vaccine. Side effects are more common after the second dose than the first dose (Pfizer, Moderna). The vaccines were more effective before Delta variant, yet they still protect against hospitalization and death from COVID. Age 65+ is the most vulnerable age group. A third shot did increase immunity to SARS-CoV-2 but the sample size was significantly smaller than the original clinical trials.

My first step to cut through the confusion was to determine if the original COVID vaccine series was effective against death and hospitalization. Per this research article and data from Washington State Department of Health, the COVID vaccines are effective against hospitalization and death. More vaccinated people are getting COVID, but they are not hospitalized or dying at near the rate of unvaccinated people. My second step was to determine if the booster shot resulted in more side effects than the original vaccine series. Swollen lymph nodes were more common following the booster than the original vaccine.

Should I get a booster shot?

I am learning that we all have politics in us at some level. With that said, I think the booster shot is a very personal decision that is now up to you. As best as I can tell, the recent judgement was made to allow individuals choice about what they want to do. The data isn’t that different between the first and recent decisions. I personally do not plan to get a booster until much more data is collected. This is especially true since my daughter has had COVID for a week, I was most likely exposed to the same source she was, and I have yet to get COVID. My vaccine is over six months old. I also am aware of several others whose vaccines were over six months old who tested positive for COVID, yet none became severely ill. The new decision only affects healthy people between the ages of 18–64 with vaccine >6 months ago. If you fall into this category, want the vaccine, and don’t want to be under the weather for a few days to a week, the vaccine may help you stay healthy. The data used to make the decision looked at immune response factors in <500 people, not population data on the frequency of COVID positive after boosters in a large sample size.

Hopefully this article helps you find the data you need to help you make your own personal decision with your health.

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