It is understandable that some individuals who are eligible for their second booster shot may not have bothered. It feels like the pandemic is over – US President Joe Biden said this week it is – and most of us are well past the fear.
However, as the HSE braces for what may be what may be its worst winter in years with a predicted ‘twindemy’ of Covid and flu, those eligible for another shot should move on with a booster up their sleeves.
We’ve protected each other during the pandemic, but today mask wearers are a small minority – if I see one I assume they have Covid – and the ‘stay at home if sick’ approach during the peak will not return.
Maybe two weeks ago I finally had Covid. I wasn’t too sick and wore a good quality mask. In an ideal world, anyone with a contagious respiratory infection would stay away from everyone else, but that’s difficult.
Parents will be reluctant to ground their children every time they cough as they are more concerned about their children’s well-being now than they were pre-Covid. A recent poll conducted by St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services found that 71 percent are concerned about the problem, compared to 57 percent in 2019.
I will not be alone with this feeling. Everyone should assume that there will be more infections this year. So if you want to avoid one, wear a quality mask, and if you need a refresher, it’s up to you to help yourself and avoid serious illness.
dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), summed it up well before a conference at University College Cork this week when he said: “Everyone needs to be smart about their own risks, smart about their own exposure and smart to get vaccinated to let.”
There are those who need to be reminded of this. Late last month, HSE data showed only 70 per cent of older age groups were eligible for a second booster shot and the immunocompromised had taken up the offer, while hospital data last Friday showed 25 per cent of Covid patients were not fully vaccinated.
Why wouldn’t you go and get empowered? Well many have caught Covid in the past year and believe this will protect them – and it’s literally a pain in the arm. It’s not realistic to expect people to trot in for a jab every few months.
There are competing concerns. The Bank of Ireland’s latest savings index showed just 3 per cent had Covid on their minds amid an ocean of worries about inflation, war, climate change and a global recession. It’s time to move on but it amazes me how people forgot about the Covid panic and fear when we didn’t have vaccines.
Anyone over 50 is now eligible for another refresher, but many have chosen not to. One nurse I heard from said you couldn’t pay her for the second booster shot, even though she’s qualified as a health worker – the first hurt her arm for days.
Adapted bivalent vaccines targeting the newer variants will be available from next month and could give those eligible for a booster shot an excuse to wait. And so it is human nature to avoid what we don’t want to do, they might avoid it entirely.
However, studies in several countries show a clear benefit of a fourth injection. Professor Peter Openshaw, mucosal immunologist and respiratory doctor at Imperial College London, said the important message is that infections are expected to rise this autumn/winter season and booster shots are now needed – and any type will do.
“If you are susceptible you need a booster even if you are fully vaccinated and have already had Covid. Immunity drops over time and a booster now will give you maximum protection for the next few months,” he said, adding that there is currently no clinical evidence that it matters which booster you get.
“There is evidence from experiments in mice and from antibody levels that the updated vaccines are better, but the original versions of the vaccines give a good boost in immune response and improved protection,” said Prof Openshaw.
“I would accept whatever is offered but look forward to further clinical evidence that the updated vaccines are better. The only vaccine that works is one that goes in your arm.”
The HSE says you should wait four months after you’ve had Covid before getting the booster, although Prof Openshaw suggests a three-month break.
“My view is waiting 12 weeks after Covid is optimal. That’s the official advice in the US,” he said.
I’m 45 but if I’m told I can get a booster shot I will get it, although I’m not keen on doing so a few times a year.
But the good news is that Prof Openshaw reckons there will eventually only be one annual vaccine available – a flu and Covid combo.
President Biden is right that Covid is over, but with the pressure on hospitals remaining just as great this year, no one has the luxury of refusing to be reinforced when called up.
Nobody wants to talk about Covid anymore, but everyone needs to hear this.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/it-feels-like-the-covid-pandemic-is-over-but-we-should-all-move-forward-with-a-booster-in-our-arms-42008117.html It feels like the Covid pandemic is over but we should all move forward with a booster in our arms