- Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness is “waning” in preventing severe illness or death, says CDC.
- A third shot is needed about 8 months after the second, according to CDC.
- Without boosters, CDC's director says there will be “worsening infections over time” among the vaccinated.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, finally addressed the masked elephant in the room at a recent news conference: the disappointing, decreasing effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines.
The phenomenon had been well noted by many scientists, and in other countries, in recent months.
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Walensky told reporters that a third shot is necessary to boost the immunity of vaccinated patients, in well less than one year from the first two injections.
Walensky tried to put a positive face on her announcement, saying that the Covid-19 vaccines are still holding up well in preventing a lot of severe illness or death. However, she acknowledged that even that protection is "waning."
Mixed and contradictory public health messaging has been the order for much of the pandemic. This time, CDC has done an about-face on its declaration just weeks ago that people do not need a third Covid-19 shot. At the time, the agency contradicted recommendations from Pfizer, which said the boosters are needed. Now, CDC is in the position of saying a third shot isn't just necessary, but is also good news. Many in public health and media have greeted the news with the spin that the need for boosters somehow proves how effective the Covid-19 vaccines are.
In reality, the promise of Covid-19 vaccines has dramatically evolved during their short existence. Many health officials initially claimed the vaccines were remarkably effective at preventing infection. They also claimed vaccinated people do not spread infection.
Data quickly showed that many vaccinated people were getting infected, after all.
Then, the public narrative about the purpose of the vaccines shifted. Vaccines were never supposed to prevent infection, many said, but they were 100%, or nearly 100%, effective at preventing serious cases requiring hospitalization.
Instead, data showed that vaccinated people are increasingly among those hospitalized with Covid-19. The public narrative shifted again: the vaccines were never supposed to prevent Covid-19, said experts, and maybe they don't prevent hospitalization after all, they conceded, but Covid-19 illness in vaccinated people is not as serious as it might have otherwise been.
Meantime, the claim that vaccinated people can't spread Covid-19 also fell apart.
Walensky infamously stated that vaccinated people cannot spread Covid-19, long after the opposite had been well established. More recently, CDC admitted that it found "viral load," one measure of how infectious a patient is, appears to be about the same in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
At a news conference this week, Walensky told reporters: “Even though our vaccines are currently working well to prevent hospitalizations, we are seeing concerning evidence of waning vaccine effectiveness over time and against the Delta variant."
In Israel, health officials said several weeks ago that effectiveness for the Pfizer vaccine had dropped to 39%, below all normal thresholds for approving a vaccine.
Walensky said that studies in the U.S. do not show that precipitous of a drop yet.
CDC is now recommending additional booster shots for patients eight months after the second Moderna or Pfizer jab.
Still conspicuously absent from CDC's public calculations today is natural immunity.
To date, a growing body of scientific studies shows that the 120 million+ Americans who have successfully recovered from Covid, or been exposed without developing any symptoms, generally develop a robust and long lasting immunity that -- so far -- appears to be superior to vaccination.
Even as the vaccines' ability to protect people form getting and spreading Covid is falling, the push has grown louder to get more people vaccinated-- even those who already have better immunity from fighting the virus.