Local 12: COVID-19 booster shots: The controversy behind a third shot for all

UC infectious disease expert says more information is needed

Health advisors to President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that COVID-19 booster shots will soon be offered to many Americans. Starting Sept. 20, pending approval from the FDA, third vaccine shots will be available for those who got either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least eight months ago. The decision is creating some controversy. 

WKRC-TV, Local 12, interviewed Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine about this and he told them that more information is needed. 

“I think they’re choosing to say everybody should get an extra shot to increase our immunity, and maybe that will help,” said Fichtenbaum. “But I think that the data is limited as to whether that’s going to make a big difference or not.”

Carl Fichtenbaum of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine works in a lab

Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

The recommendation for the third shot came from data reviewed by the CDC. Three separate studies showed reduced protection from infection over time.

“The complicated part to this story is that, even though the antibody levels are going down, even though people are getting infected, are the boosters really going to make a difference in preventing illness in people who have already been vaccinated?” added Fichtenbaum, who was one of the principal investigators for the Moderna trial at the University of Cincinnati.

“We also don’t know if we give this extra shot, will it prevent further transmission of infection from people who are vaccinated to others?” he said.

Then, there’s the ethical question: Will giving a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine to healthy Americans help end a pandemic where variants are coming from places where people have very little access to vaccines?

“The longer that this pandemic continues in other places, the more likely that new variants will arise beyond the Delta variant and potentially cause more problems for us as this virus continues to circle around the globe,” he added.

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