One of the most difficult aspects of COVID-19, we have maintained since the name first came into our vocabulary more than 18 months ago, is sorting through the torrent of information about the virus and choosing what to keep and what to reject.
You know what we mean: Is the virus 1918 flu bad or Legionnaires disease bad? Are masks our enemy or our friend? Will this be over by Christmas or linger for years? Are vaccines helpful or unsafe? And on and on.
Too much information and not knowing what's true is why some people have avoided the preventive measures and vaccines that would help them.
But 1) Didn't the Biden administration get its hand slapped by FDA officials recently by trying to unveil a plan for boosters? and 2) Aren't people already getting the boosters anyway?
Yes and yes.
However, 1) Does this mean the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the boosters? 2) Does this mean I still need to wait eight months after my last vaccination for a booster, as the Biden administration said? and 3) Does this mean I can schedule boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines?
No, no and no.
The FDA's panel of advisors rejected the administration's broad boosters plan last week but on Wednesday approved the more limited distribution to senior citizens, younger adults with underlying conditions and people in jobs that put them at high risk for the virus. But the panel said those who are eligible could get their booster within six months of their second vaccination, not eight months as was in the administration plan.
The CDC also was meeting this week to hammer out its own booster recommendations, but it was thought the agency may not make an immediate pronouncement.
Meanwhile, people already are getting the boosters. Maybe you have gotten one, or you certainly know somebody who has. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were previously authorized for certain people with weakened immune systems. And, just to be truthful, some doctors are giving them to healthy Americans if they merely request them.
Nevertheless, FDA and CDC regulators have not approved the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters for the group the FDA sanctioned Wednesday and are not planning to do so until a later date.
But they did say, as they did for mixing the initial vaccines, that people who got the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should not get the Pfizer booster (and likely vice versa when they are approved).
"As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner.
"Learn more?" "Safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines?" "Evaluate the rapidly changing science?"
Hers is the kind of weaselly statement that makes anti-vaxxers scream, "See, even she's not sure about the vaccines."
Yes, we know, we know. She was just making a safe statement, covering her, uh, bases.
We're sure Woodcock is a 100% vaccine advocate, as we are. It remains the best way to practically assure yourself that you will not become seriously sick, be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
But her comments occurred on the same day Project Veritas released a video of an FDA economist talking about using a "blow dart" to vaccinate Black Americans, comparing the U.S. ability to force vaccines to that of Nazi Germany and rounding up anti-vaxxers, putting them in Texas and closing "off Texas from the rest of the world."
We don't imagine Taylor Lee, the economist secretly videoed by the nonprofit investigative organization, is anywhere close to the medical decision-making on COVID-19, but such ridiculous talk doesn't make the case for getting shots into arms any easier.
To date, though the numbers only seem to creep up, about 64% of Americans (180 million), 44.3% of Tennesseans and 47.28% of Hamilton County residents are fully vaccinated, and that does not include boosters.
It is our belief, just as it was with the original vaccines, that people who have questions about their health, their eligibility for a vaccine booster or their concerns about any side- or long-term effects should talk to their doctor and make an informed decision about a third shot.